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Drab ‘Remains’

The Movie: “Remains of the Day”

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The Setup: The trio that brought you “A Room With a View” and “Howards End"--director James Ivory, screenwriter Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, producer Ismail Merchant--examines the efficient, unemotional life of Stevens (Anthony Hopkins, pictured), a dream of a butler in 1930s England. Lord Darlington (James Fox) is master, and Miss Kenton (Emma Thompson, pictured) is head housekeeper.

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The Costume Designers: Jenny Beavan and John Bright, who shared an Academy Award for “A Room With a View.” The pair also designed costumes for “Maurice,” “The Bostonians” and “Howards End.” Bright, who owns the London costume house Cosprop, also did “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” and “Tess.”

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The Look: Austere servant uniforms that carefully adhere to reams of restrictions for “downstairs” dress in ‘30s England. “Upstairs,” Lord Darlington looks typically tweedy and woolly.

The designers keep a lid on color, opting for a primary palette of black and white, to amplify Stevens’ emotionless life. When dressing female servants, they choose dreary prints instead of light florals, a subtle signal that the house is missing a woman’s influence. After teatime, the women change into black frocks.

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Except for Miss Kenton. As head housekeeper, she is exempt from uniforms, aprons and evening duties. She wears mostly black, navy and maroon blouses, skirts and cardigans, with nary a stiff white shirt--too peppy, say designers.

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Hit: The brash, American-style dress of Mr. Lewis (Christopher Reeve). He stands out among the dull Englishmen in his camel’s hair overcoat, cashmere cardigans, pin-striped suits and, with his button-down shirt, a silver tie.

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Inspiration: Queen Elizabeth’s former butler, Cyril Dickman, provided information on strict wardrobe guidelines for servants. Historical books and photos of Lord Astor (of Waldorf-Astoria Hotel fame) provided additional images.

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Quoted: “Cashmere is the kind of thing Americans wear. Good English Lords wear good English wool,” Beavan said, explaining the sartorial differences between Lord Darlington and Mr. Lewis.

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Sources: Most of the principals’ costumes were new or vintage stock rented from Cosprop. At 6-foot-4, Reeve required special attention. His camel’s hair coat was purchased at High and Mighty, an English large-size chain; his suits were custom-made, and his cashmere cardigans came from Westaway & Westaway in London. Only his Brooks Brothers shirts are American.

* MOVIE REVIEW F1


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