• December 9, 2022

How Lydia Tár Became Our Problematic Menswear Fave

  Reading time 4 minutes

There are many things to be gleaned from watching Tár, the new Todd Field film starring Cate Blanchett as its titular EGOT-winning, domineering maestro-antiheroine. There are the expected post-movie ruminations, to be sure: about ego, cancel culture, gender and power dynamics. But there is another, slightly unexpected notion flowering in the post-release discourse—a lingering thought of, Damn, do I need to start dressing like Lydia Tár?

The aim, the film’s costume designer Bina Daigeler explains, was to dress Tár—a working conductor at the peak of her game, and a self-proclaimed “U-Haul lesbian” who divides her time between the elite intellectual scenes of New York City and Berlin—as Tár would dress Tár. But now moviegoers (and GQ staffers) are lusting after her sumptuously casual wardrobe of tailored suits, perfect trousers, and The Row coats. If you were surprised to feel this way upon leaving such a shades-of-gray film, well, Daigeler is surprised, too. 

“I’m so touched to hear this, because for me, Tár is a very special movie I did, but for me it was never about costumes. [There are] projects that are about my costumes and my design, but Tár was not like that,” said Daigeler, who earned an Academy Award nomination for her work on Disney’s live-action Mulan (2020). “Suddenly, people talk about the costumes and it’s like, ‘Hmm, that’s interesting.’” But the wardrobe, like all of the other fastidiously researched details in the film, is a seductive entrypoint into the highly specific world of the film—to figure out its language, to understand who moves within it, and what matters to them.

Admittedly, Daigeler’s surprise here feels a bit surprising in itself, especially given that the movie begins with meticulous fashion. In the opening sequence, we see Tár at the Berlin atelier Egon Brandstetter, getting a custom suit made inspired by the outfits worn by legendary conductors Claudio Abbado and Tár’s mentor Leonard Berstein on the LP covers of their own Mahler recordings: an unfussy blue Oxford shirt, a sharp gray jacket. (Her assistant even brought along the Deutsche Grammophon vinyls for reference.) But it turns out that scene—which Daigeler recalled comprising only two lines in the original script, with just half an hour budgeted for the shoot—was also something of a surprise during production.

After discussing the suit-making sequence with Field, “I came back to him and I said, ‘You know that is a two-day schedule,’” Daigeler said. “‘This is really high men’s tailoring, and it is super beautiful, but who will make it? You need a beautiful table. You need somebody who knows to do that.’ And then he said, ‘Yeah, that’s exactly what I want.’ I said, ‘Well, good to know.’” Realizing the tall order he had in mind, she connected with the atelier, where they shot the scene. “When I saw the movie the first time, I thought, ‘Wow, it’s all about that,’” she added. “It tells a lot about her, about how the script was written with all these details, with how much love and also with how much knowledge.”

Munich-born Daigeler, who is based in Berlin, spent a lot of time considering the costuming with Field and Blanchett, her friend and frequent collaborator. The task was nailing down the how and why of how Tár presents herself, and doing so in a way that reflects and communicates the priorities of her industry: utility, masculinity, grace. Everything is expensive but seems comfortable, which, particularly for a woman, is its own sort of power.

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