The Movie: “Schindler’s List.”
The Setup: Steven Spielberg directs the story, filmed in black and white, of Oskar Schindler (Liam Neeson, pictured), an avaricious member of the Nazi party who made a fortune off war goods while sparing more than 1,100 Jews in his factory from death camps.
The Costume Designer: Anna Biedrzycka-Sheppard, a Warsaw native who has designed costumes for about 20 Polish films. She received an Oscar nomination for her work on the film.
Inspiration: Photographs of Schindler in the Historical Museum of Krakow, as well as conversations with people who knew him.
The Look: Schindler’s almost unbelievably polished and urbane-looking dress contrasts sharply with the forbidding SS uniforms and with the haunting images of incarcerated Jews. A small-town boy with a weakness for expensive and fashionable things, Schindler is no commoner when it comes to clothes. He preens in tall riding boots, jodhpurs and hacking jackets, and in handsome, tailored suits with silk crepe de chine shirts and polka-dotted ties.
High Impact: As conditions worsen for the Jews, Schindler’s fortune multiplies and his wardrobe becomes finer. Biedrzycka-Sheppard’s scrupulous eye for detail and authenticity--14 coats, 15 pairs of period ‘40s gold cuff links, two pairs of velvet slippers, six pairs of handmade shoes, one made-to-order tuxedo--erases the concept of costume entirely, and the images set forth seem as genuine as old photographs.
Trivia: To gather period clothing for about 20,000 extras in a scene at Plaszow, the designer advertised in newspapers in Krakow, where filming took place. The ads brought forth mint-condition women’s hats, bags, gloves and evening clothes.
Quoted: “The real Oskar Schindler was actually rather vain about his appearance. He sometimes changed his suits three times a day. He loved beautiful clothes and beautiful women,” Biedrzycka-Sheppard said.
Sources: Except for several contemporary Ralph Lauren neckties and a Lauren camel’s hair coat, most of Neeson’s clothes and shoes were custom-made by tailors in Poland. His cuff links are from Alfie’s, a London antique market specializing in ‘30s and ‘40s goods.
Most of the women’s costumes and furs were original period pieces rented from Morris Angel’s costume house in London and then distressed, shredded and stained. Angel’s also provided replicas of military uniforms.