Lessons in Style from
The Talented Mr Ripley
Anthony Minghella’s 1999 psychological thriller ‘The Talented Mr Ripley’ has one of the best gentlemen’s wardrobes in cinematographic history. Here’s how to replicate it.
From its opening scene, The Talented Mr Ripley sets the stage for the great deception that unfolds throughout the film, in which clothes are not merely cladding the characters but are characters in themselves. In fact, 20 years on, the show’s wardrobe is still lauded as one of the best from a movie… But let’s take a better look at how the clothes work their magic in the film.
The movie starts with Tom Ripley finishing a piano recital and leaving the stage donning a navy blazer with the Princeton crest emblazoned on the outbreast pocket. He then goes back to his job as a bathroom attendant by putting on a white jacket with a red collar and gold buttons. The juxtaposition of roles and clothes could not be any clearer, but Tom’s life is about to change when a man pays him to track down his son, Dickie Greenleaf, in Italy and bring him home.
Throughout the whole sequence of events, it is his wardrobe that ties everything together. Undoubtedly, Academy Award-winning costume designer Ann Roth’s choices for the characters’ clothes tell a story as much as the script: They are used to contrast Tom’s Americanness and humble upbringing with Dickie’s Europeanisation and wealthy background; to show the growing bond of friendship between Tom, Dickie and the latter’s fiancée, Marge; and are key in Tom’s deceitful plan to take over the identity of Dickie.
It’s not all darkness, however. The clothes also symbolise the luxurious enchantment of the Italian Riviera, the bold sartorial tradition of Rome, and the shift in fashion that happened in the mid-1950s as Europe shed the memories and restrictions of the war, and clothes and lifestyles became ephemeral and risqué. In fact, the effortless style showcased at the fictional Mongibello resort and on the streets of majestic Rome has since become legendary; a template for the style-conscious gentleman as he jet-sets to his next destination.
Yet, while the wardrobe for the film took a lot of contemplation to put together, its gist goes down to three simple key points:
The stunning cinematography captured everyone’s imagination by placing the beautiful colours of the Riviera and Rome as the backdrop to the unfolding drama. So, to capture the same spirit, go for colours that remind you of the dolce far niente-attitude, as we did with our colourful Oxford shirts: cornflour blue for the crystal-clear skies, peach for the rosy sunsets, and teal for the glimmering Mediterranean Sea.
One of the most iconic moments in The Talented Mr Ripley is when Dickie takes Tom to a sartoria in Rome to have him fitted for a new jacket. This is a pivotal moment for both the storyline and the wardrobe, as Tom’s poorly-fitting clothes are replaced with bespoke ones. The moral of the story here – at least style-wise – is that better-fitting clothes, whether they are shirts, jackets or suits, will make you stand out from the crowd. As can be seen from our picks (the Gagliardi cream, blue and red dogtooth, the Gagliardi mid-blue overcheck, the Cerruti blue check, and the Cerruti mid-navy tonal pique jacket), the signature colours of the film and the magic of sartorial work come together to create effortless-yet-striking combinations.
Whether in his dressing gown or in shorts and a shirt, Dickie’s style is unmistakably him; a feat that was mastered thanks to a myriad of accessories that ranged from gold rings to pocket squares. That, in fact, is what can be used to elevate your holiday and/or summer look, and to take your outfit to a completely new level whether you’re enjoying a coffee in a Roman piazza or cruising the Med.