For my first costume design post, I thought that I’d go with a classic. So here’s one of Theadora Van Runkle’s designs for the character of Bonnie Parker in Bonnie and Clyde from 1967, as well as a little overview of her work on the film and its impact upon fashion. Doesn’t everyone like a beret? I know I do. It’s sad that Bonnie looks so grumpy with life in my sketch but maybe she knows how the film ends.
Bonnie and Clyde was a seminal film to influence fashion in the late 1960s, and the casual knitwear, tweed midi skirts and sophisticated berets have become a classic look which has been referenced in collections and editorials ever since. Here are just a few recent editorials and collections using Bonnie and Clyde as a theme:
Theadora Van Runkle, the costume designer of the film, researched the living hell out of the real Bonnie and Clyde, finding out what clothes they bought with their ill-gotten gains (tailored clothes from Marshall Field’s catalogue, if you’re wondering), which influenced her final designs. She decided upon a chic look for both characters; adding a sexy glamor to the Depression era which resonated with the Sixties audience. Of course the look was updated, but it retained the essence of the real Bonnie and Clyde, in particular, Bonnie’s famous beret.
The beret is an iconic element of the Bonnie look and one that was lapped up by fashionistas as being a low-cost item to update their wardrobe. Beret milliners in France saw an increase of production from 5,000 to 12,000 berets a week to keep up with demand after the film’s release. Van Runkle said: “The beret was the final culmination of the silhouette. In it, she combined all the visual elements of elegance and chic. Without the beret it would have been charming, but not the same.”
There’s an element of professionalism about how the real Bonnie and Clyde began to dress once they were, you know, taking robbing banks and shooting people, but the clothes were still practical. The thin floral print dresses that were popular in womenswear in the 30s weren’t much use for the way Bonnie lived on the run. Van Runkle said that the Bonnie and Clyde look from the film became a fashion trend literally overnight was because: “(They) wore clothes that people could wear to work and wear in their real lives. (…) Bonnie and Clyde slept in cars and crummy auto courts; their clothes had to be liveable. That’s why they’ve been so successful now.”
Bonnie and Clyde coincided with the era of Biba, a fashion brand which took a lot of inspiration from the fashion of the 20s and 30s, so the Bonnie and Clyde look would have fit in and be well catered for, especially in the UK. Apparently it took a little bit longer for the trend to take off in the US and elsewhere, probably owing to the film being harshly reviewed by critics initially.
Here are some original costume design sketches by Theadora Van Runkle which I scanned in for this post. She worked for Costume Designer Dorothy Jeakins as a sketch artist, and actually it was Jeakins who recommended her for the role of Costume Designer for Bonnie and Clyde, so no surprise that her illustrations are so beautiful.
Somehow my illustration looks far better in real life or photographed rather than scanned, so colour pencils are something I’ll have to play around with because I’m not used to there being so much texture. As my first time using the Polychromos set I bought recently, I loved the depth of colour and how well they blend. The super fine points that you can get from them is great for small, detailed work, like in her neckerchief here which I cursed throughout drawing it.
Well, I hope that you enjoy this post! If you did, please follow me on the smorgasbord of social media that I’m loitering on, subscribe for post updates, and let me know if you have any suggestions for future posts. I will draw literally anything if it involves clothes, and I have a long list of topics planned, including more costume design posts like this one, but I’m always open to suggestions!