In honor of the Oscar winning designs for Moulin Rouge! (and to continue along with Baz Luhrmann week here at the blog), I'm taking a look at the iconic costumes of Nicole Kidman's courtesan, Satine. The team looked to past screen legends (such as Marilyn Monroe, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo, and Rita Hayworth) as inspiration for Satine's look. Remembering that the clothes had to work as costumes and not authentic representations of 1899 Parisian Couture, they decided to use materials and fabrics available at the time but to use them in unconventional ways. It's no wonder that Movie Stars of yesteryears influenced the character of Satine because Nicole's star turn (helped in large part by her extraordinary wardrobe) has already taken its place alongside those Hollywood greats.
Before anything even gets finalized for the final film, screen tests are made of how the character will look. The second image actually found it's way into the movie. It's the first shot we see of Satine when Christian (Ewan McGregor) tells us in the prologue about the woman he loved. Corsets and top hats made it into other designs, but the cigarette holder didn't. It'll just have to remain synonymous with Audrey Hepburn's Holly Golightly.
For Satine's grand entrance in the Moulin Rouge on a trapeze, she sports a beaded corset with fringed skirt in the back. Black satin opera length gloves and the top hat from the screen test complete the look. Baz says the reason Nicole is like Old Hollywood screen sirens is because of how pale her skin is–it reflects the light and makes her glow...
In the middle of Satine's number she changes costumes on stage, hid by the Can Can Girls' skirts as a curtain. Nicole had injured her knee while filming and the scene of her changing was shot with her in a wheelchair. When she emerges in the Pink Diamonds costume, the pink beaded heart over her...lady parts...mesmerizes Christian as she shakes it in his face.
The outfit Satine uses to seduce the Christian (thinking he's the Duke) consists of a black corset, sheer black stockings with garter belt and a peignoir–a long, sheer outer garment that comes from the French word peigner (to comb) it was used as a dressing gown. There's 2 other variations on this outfit. When Christian signs "Your Song" and they are transported into the clouds, Satine wears a version of this that is covered in sequins and not sheer. The bottom picture is when they perform "Spectacular, Spectacular" from the Duke. Satine is done-up as a makeshift Indian courtesan with a headdress made of fans that will echo the actual headdress she wears in the show.
The Red Dress
"How do I look? Smoldering Temptress..."
As you can see from the above costume designs, Satine's iconic Red Dress wen through a couple of revisions before it arrived at the one used in the film. Made of red satin, with a corseted top that laces in the back and an intricate bustle, the dress is perhaps the most famous from the film. It calls to mind the red dress Scarlett O'Hara wears to Ashley Wilkes's birthday party. Satine wears the dress while singing her I Want song, "One Day I'll Fly Away" and the Elephant Love Medley with Christian. Baz has said the duet is the turning point of the film, where the action (and camera movement) slow down and the love story takes center. And as a personal note, my mom sewed a replica of this dress for my sister to wear to a high school dance.
So extensive were the costumes for the film that over 80 people were employed to make over 300 costumes. The Cream Suit from the very top appears so briefly that I couldn't even capture a descent screen shot to show it. Imagine all of that hard work for nothing. CM did say that anything that would be shown in close-up was hand sewn. The Oriental Dress made it to rehearsal scenes, but never with that Asian inspired hat from the picture. The photo of Satine's back shows that the skirt is actually made of leather which isn't period, but was sited by CM as the moment that decided to play with fabrics and materials.
Underwear and Robes
The Gothic Tower Dress and Necklace
The dress Satine wears to the Gothic Tower to reassure the Duke that he is a vital part of the production and to keep the lovers' ending to the story is made of black velvet and because the scene is so dark, you can't really make out that it is trimmed with brown fur along the train and the one shoulder. The necklace the Duke presents to her is made of 1, 308 real diamonds and cost $1 Million. It was the most expensive item of jewelry ever commissioned for a film.
The Grey Suit
"The Show Must Go On" and the Grey Suit she wears in which she must break it off with Christian, is one of my favorite parts of the film. I love how she uses the veil as protection from what she's really feeling. She hides her face–"I have to find the will to carry on..."–and then right after that furlong look, she snaps into battle mode. Determined to do what's right, but not necessarily easy.
Hindi Show Costumes
Satine's costumes for the final performance...of her life!...have an Indian influence. Makes sense since she lives inside an Indian elephant. These are my favorite costumes in the movie. I loooove the white wedding dress. She's never looked more beautiful. I love that she dies in white. What better way to purify a prostitute with a heart of gold.
Thanks for joining me on this look at Satine's costumes its been fun! Now tell me which is your favorite look?