Gwyneth Paltrow in The Talented Mr Ripley, 1999
Scenic cityscapes of Rome and sunlit beaches of Naples. Bustling jazz clubs and lavish opera theatres. Street cafes and country villas. The Talented Mr Ripley is a thriller like no other, where an eerie atmosphere co-exists with a picture-perfect aesthetic.
The film’s director Anthony Minghella skilfully gets his audiences to fall in love with the idle atmosphere of a holiday resort in the 60s Italy, while costume designers Ann Roth and Gary Jones do their part in creating the main characters’ impeccable style.
The plot (no spoilers)
It all starts with Tom Ripley (Matt Damon). Obsessed with the idea of climbing the social ladder no matter what, he dresses as a Princeton graduate and meets a wealthy American at an event. The new acquaintance is quick to recognise Ripley as the former course mate of his son Dickie (Jude Law), who is now wasting away his life (and family fortune) in Europe, and asks him to bring his prodigal son back to the States.
For a decent fee Ripley eagerly agrees to this deal and heads off to Italy. Here he meets Dickie and his girlfriend Marge (Gwyneth Paltrow), who live in a beachside villa, sunbathe all day long and tirelessly show off their stylish wardrobe to everyone they come across.
We will not go into the intricacies of the plot, based on Patricia Highsmith’s detective novel of the same name. But what matters for the purposes of this article are Marge’s countless fashion looks which give plenty of inspiration for everyday style no matter the weather. She also excels at demonstrating the versatility of a simple white shirt, showing it off in a new light every time.
1/ To the beach!
The audience joins Tom Ripley in meeting Marge and Dickie for the first time on a beach. The happy couple jumps into the water off their yacht, swims and sunbathes to their heart’s content. Paltrow’s character opts for high-waisted beach bikini which is still the most practical swimwear choice today. A lookalike item with a detailed print in blue is available from Melissa Odabash.
So, you have found the perfect swimsuit and are on your way to the seaside. Follow in Marge’s footsteps and grab an oversized white shirt and sunglasses, which you can throw on as you make your way from the sunlounge to the boat.
2/ The feminine style of the 50s
Whether you are going to Italy or not, a white (short-sleeved) shirt, midi skirt with a bold print, hair scarf, straw basket and wedge espadrilles make for a perfect look on any holiday. In Marge’s case this is the go-to look for a trip to the market to get some fresh veg.
In fact, this combination of items seems to be a running theme in her style. Throughout the film the buoyant blonde changes into a number of blouses, carelessly tied into a knot around her waist, and calf-length skirts. All of these elements hint at the film’s setting in the end of the 50s, when Dior’s “New Look” was at its peak.
Today, a perfect A-line skirt with a bold print is best associated with the brand Erdem. When it comes to keeping your gait steady - be it on cobbled streets or city pavements - we have Castañer to thank for. This family business has specialised in the manufacturing of espadrilles since 1927 and knows a thing or two about the making of a good shoe. The brand’s fans include such style icons of all times Grace Kelly, Jackie Kennedy, Meghan Markle and Jeanne Damas.
3/ Everyday comfort
When she is not busy holidaying, Marge spends her time writing a book back at the villa. These indoor scenes are dominated by comfy looks. Flowing skirts make way for bermuda shorts, high-heeled shoes for sneakers and the omnipresent white shirt is paired with a pale-yellow cardigan. The combination of beige, pastel and white colours which was so popular in the 90s when the film was made, remains trendy today.
The latest fashion collections by leading brands are a case in point. Take Acne Studios’ range which features the very woolly cardigans we are after for keeping us warm on a chilly Mediterranean evening. One of Lemaire’s recent collections also has a perfect pair of white Bermuda shorts. For the latter, it is worth moving away from the pair Marge wears in the film in favour of a wide leg fit. Overheating will certainly not be an issue in a pair of these.
4/ A change of moods
As the film’s plot moves to Rome and the thriller truly unfolds, the main character’s wardrobe undergoes substantial changes. It does not take an expert to spot the heroine’s new look which stands out during Marge and Ripley’s chance encounter at the opera. Her care-free style makes way for elegance: black dress, sleek hairstyle, red lipstick and plenty of foundation that covers up her freckles.
Marge’s day-to-day outfits in the Italian capital feature a classic trench coat and sheath dresses, coupled with her much loved oval sunglasses and a delicate scarf, another accessory which the main character uses again and again as part of her personal style. What is this if not the perfect inspiration for an autumnal look? Try substituting the structured dress for this soft-ribbed alternative in blue by Joseph.
5/ Leopard print takeover
The total leopard print look towards the end of the film symbolises the drastic change in Marge’s personality: she distrusts and suspects Ripley and is keen to uncover the truth. This dramatic red lipstick look is amplified by a cigarette that the neurotic Marge never seems to let go of. An overcoat and a pillbox hat in a leopard print signal her determination. And despite their extravagance, we can’t help but look for similar items online.
There is no need to dress head-to-toe in animal prints like Paltrow to add that little bit of drama to your autumnal wardrobe. Experiment with standout accessories by getting a leopard print baseball cap. Alternatively, opt for a bold coat, an item that often proves to be much more practical than it seems. What is key is creating a balance with the rest of your outfit, for example, by favouring neutral colours. In Marge’s case this colour is black.