The Glamorous Villain: A Look Into The Fashion Inspirations and Theatricality of 'Cruella'

You’re probably wondering where you’ve seen the sumptuous looks in Cruella.

It is the 1970s in London—the punk rock era—when we see a new origins story of the fur-obsessed style enthusiast. With her signature skunk-streak hair and show-stopping ensembles, Disney’s Cruella makes it impossible not to gush over her style and theatricality.

While the movie directed by Craig Gillespie strayed away from the stealing-and-skinning-puppies-aspect of the villain, Cruella (played by Emma Stone) focused on the extravagant fashion.

Oscar and Tony Award-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan led the creation of 277 looks for the principal cast with 47 of them for Stone alone. From Alexander McQueen to Elizabeth Taylor, we’ve scoured past collections of designers for the fashion references of the glamorous film.

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RIGHT: Alexander McQueen’s Fall 1996 “Dante” collection experimented with Victorian themes and denim. (Photos from The Disinsider and the Metropolitan Museum of Art)
Beavan shares how the vintage red dress is a homage to the modern practice of reusing materials to create a new look. RIGHT: Alexander McQueen’s Pre-Fall 2009 evokes a “Dickensian opium den feeling.” (Photos from The Verge and Livingly)

Alexander McQueen

Beavan’s portfolio includes designing for films Mad Max: Fury Road and A Room With A View where she earned Academy Awards and has been nominated 10 times previously. Now with Cruella, the designer names Alexander McQueen as a major fashion inspiration for the costumes.

McQueen is notorious for the macabre themes in his work. Not only are his runway designs political and controversial, but his presentations are also equally shocking. From setting fire on stage, robots spray-painting the dress of supermodel Shalom Harlow to ‘deluded models’ parading in a glass cube resembling a mental asylum.

His visionary shows inspired the way Cruella exhibited the lavish costumes—a hooded cape set aflame, a punk rock show by the fountain, and a garbage truck moving to reveal the trail of a voluminous dress in pink tulle interspersed with newspapers.

Cruella’s newspaper dress was inspired by John Galliano’s Dior newspaper prints. The movement of the dress is reminiscent of Alexander McQueen’s 2006 Fall/Winter collection where Kate Moss appeared in a hologram in the runway show.
(Photos from News in 24, Shoot Digital, and Elle)
Alexander McQueen’s Spring/Summer 2010 show titled, ‘Plato’s Atlantis,’ revolves around the idea that humans return to the oceans after living on Earth. (Photos from Crfashion Book and Livingly)

As Beavan explains in an interview, Cruella is much similar to McQueen’s disruption of the fashion scene. While outrageous, his works are grounded on political messages.

For instance, his first collection Highland Rape was perceived as “aggressive and disturbing” given the provocative tailoring and blood-spattered models. But ultimately, he refers not to the rape of women but to “England’s rape of Scotland.”

For Cruella, her approach to fashion is similar but mainly punk—rebellious but brilliant. As her story as an aspiring fashion designer progresses, she evolves into her jaw-dropping ensembles that we have originally seen from Glenn Close’s Cruella almost 25 years ago.

RIGH: Vivienne Westwood, London 1977. (Photos from The News 24 and MOT Mag)

Vivienne Westwood

Vivienne Westwood was also an inspiration for the punk rock theme of the costumes. Activism, aggressiveness, and aversion to cultural elitism dominated the scene. From military jackets, torn and spray-painted clothing, pinned manifestos on garments to pliable accessories, Westwood challenged traditional notions of femininity.

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The Baroness and Elizabeth Taylor in DIOR’s style of nipped waists and full skirts. (Photos from CinemaBlend and Rex Features)

Dior and Balenciaga

A big influence for the Baroness (Emma Thompson) is Dior, Balenciaga, and screen icons like Elizabeth Taylor and Joan Crawford. While regarded in the film as a legendary designer, the Baroness is reaching the end of her reign—a contrast to Cruella’s fashion-forward approach.

Taking in the 1960s and 1970s fashion scene, Beavan dressed the Baroness in the old-fashioned way. The team pulled a backdated homage to Dior which includes the fashion house’s warm brown palette, turbans, taffetas, and even the houndstooth pattern.

Balenciaga focused on hard lines and volumetric constructions such as shoulder pads, interlinings, and reinforcements.
(Photos from CinemaBlend and Yolan Cris)

Similarly, Balenciaga’s iconic structured pieces also defined Thompson’s Baroness. The luxury brand’s take on the rigid silk gazar, for example, inspired the sheen dresses that appear to be sculpted.

Banner photo from PopSugar.

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