The costume designer dishes on how it was to transform Natalie Portman into the iconic First Lady
When you first glance at Natalie Portman dressed as Jacqueline Kennedy for the movie Jackie, you might do a double take – that’s how closely she resembles the late First Lady. And while a large part of that is due to their petite statures, fine bones and brunette bouffants, much of it also depends on the costume design, created by Madeline Fontaine, who recreated Kennedy’s iconic styles in the days after her husband’s assassination faithfully – but with many surprising elements in consideration as well.
In this exclusive video, above, Portman discusses how important style was, not just to the film, but to Kennedy herself. “We know Jackie as an icon; she had this very particular style,” the actress says. “It’s one of the things she’s really remembered for. The hair, the clothes, the grace.” The attention to detail extended to fabric for the drapes that came straight from the same French factories Kennedy shopped at to buttons for the suit sent directly from Chanel. As Portman says, “The clothes are obviously very much a part of the facade that we know about Jackie. Madeline, our costume designer, did an incredible job recreating the wardrobe she was wearing in particular scenes.”
Says Fontaine, “For me, she was more than an icon of fashion. She was an ambassador of elegance.” And though in some respects, it was easier to have such specific reference points, in other ways, it made it more challenging. “There’s a lot of credit about this period … there was so much to choose from. We just had to make an idea of it and to go make it from there.”
That’s not to say that certain things didn’t require precision. “The one where we’d know if we were right or not to make Natalie Portman become Jackie was, of course, the pink one. We had to be convinced at the first minute and I think it worked – you must accept from the first minute that she is a representation of Jackie.”
Fontaine made many of the outfits herself with her team, but she did have some assistance from the designers Jackie herself loved. Chanel offered to help make the iconic pink suit from the assassination scenes (they ended up sending buttons, the label and the chains to stitch into the jacket for the proper weight), and Piaget loaned a watch that belonged to Jackie herself, as well as jewelry from their current collection that felt period-appropriate, including pearls and diamond earrings.
And as a costume designer, Fontaine could appreciate Jackie’s sense of occasion when dressing herself for much-photographed occasions. “I think she was very very aware of dressing for the right moment. I think she was never in the wrong look at any occasion, as far as I can see,” she said. “Even if it’s a candid photo, or one more intimate, she’s always pictured [perfectly]. She would never be pictured by surprise. I think that’s fascinating.”
And perhaps that’s why her outfits (as well as those of her children) from the time period the film incorporates are so lasting in the public’s memory. “We had the pink one, we had the black one and we had the red one from the [White House] interview. These were the ones that were already fixed and we just had to make them true and fit it for her,” Fontaine says. “But the other ones made or we used for some sequences that were more free. We just have to be sensible and right in the proportions and in the adaptation of Jackie and Natalie as Jackie.”
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