If there is one movie character that personifies the disco couture era, then that’s Michelle Pfeiffer (as Elvira Hancock) in Scarface (1983). That’s the disco glam of the 1970s, provoking and showing off, meant not to go unnoticed. The costumes were designed by Patricia Norris, but each one of them carries the undeniable mark of Halston’s style. Roy Halston was the designer who had the strongest influence in the American fashion early in the decade, when he helped bury the girly, tie-dye, hippie look of the 60’s (my least favourite fashion decade) and introduced the virtually opposed minimal, modern clothes that women were ready for. He was one of the names who helped acknowledge the importance of the American designs on the world fashion scene.
His designs included both slinky dresses worn by the ladies of Studio 54 and smartly tailored, linear, refined suits – all governed by a glamourous, simple, sleek, minimal quality. Halston’s greatest flair was to master simplicity – in form, line, cut, texture, tailoring. His approach to minimalism was so radical that he eventually dropped even buttons and zippers. There is no button or zipper on any of the dresses Elvira is wearing either, and even the white suit jacket is a tie waist jacket.
Elvira’s costumes also reference the thirties. And again I’m thinking of Halston, as his designs remind us of the glamour of the past… as well as of modernity. In her near-uniform numbers, the backless halternecks in silk or satin with plunging necklines, Elvira (first the love interest, and then the wife of Tony Montana, played by Al Pacino) is a sullen coat hanger, showing nothing but boredom, insolence and contempt. From her show-stopping entrance gown, a shimmery sea-green chemise dress trimmed in gold appliqué, backless and with a huge slit up the right leg, to the crimson-rose pink satin dress and the brown sequined dress, my favourite one of all (first two photos), she doesn’t look like anything but a femme fatale. Her make-up is very 70’s, too: smoky eyes and a highly saturated lip colour, and the jewellery is glitzy, but not excessive, as it mainly consists of drop earrings – the only type of jewellery a low-cut dress calls for. I do love it though how her beautiful, classic bob offsets her blatant sultriness.
The classy white silk and linen power suit which gains even more points with the hat and cat-eye sunglasses.
photos: movie stills captured by me from this Blu-ray edition, except for the first one – a publicity still | Universal Pictures