The costumes in Doctor Zhivago (1965), designed by Phyllis Dalton, inspired a fashion revolution. Re-watching the film for this article and seeing Julie Christie in the fur hat she wears towards the end of the movie (above) makes me consider even more seriously the style. She looks stunning in every frame. Dr. Zhivago elevated Julie Christie to stardom, and her beautiful and romantic wardrobe of fur coats, hats, white shirts and ribbon bow-tied hair styles was used to illustrate social change in a Russia torn apart by the First World War, the Russian Revolution and ideological uproar. The costumes have been inspiring the “Zhivago Look” ever since the film’s release, motivating designers to use fur trimmed collar and cuffs on their winter coats again. Silk braiding and boots came back into fashion too. Marc Bohan, for his notable 1966 collection for Christian Dior, and Yves Saint Laurent, were among the first designers to be influenced by the film’s style.
Although I think some aspects of the story were underplayed in Dr. Zhivago (and Omar Sharif has clearly had better performances), the brilliant cinematography, the skillful direction of David Lean – a master of epics, the decors, the outdoors covered in snow that provide the perfect frame for drama, and the costumes create a superlative mise-en-scène, and its visual beauty lures you in.
The lasting appeal of a white shirt. Julie Christie’s character, Lara, wears a few crisp white shirts. I like this one above, with puffed sleeves and Peter Pan collar, styled with a black tie. She often wears a bow ribbon in her hair.
The red dress Lara wears only because she’s forced to by her lover, Viktor (a very good performance by Rod Steiger). It’s in striking contrast with the rest of her wardrobe and it’s obvious that Julie’s character feels awkward in it, but this was exactly David Lean’s intention, because it is very fitting for this particular scene.
Except for the red dress, Lara’s clothes are simple, denoting her modest social position, and perfectly suitable to the cold environment. But it’s so interesting how the bland colours and simple shapes work to intensify her beauty. And no matter the purpose it served in the film, her style left a permanent mark on fashion.
Even her nurse outfit is noteworthy. Below, in one of the costumes that has made history: grey oversized coat and sable hat. I love the military influence and its austerity. Inevitably, military tailoring also caught the popular imagination with the release of the film.
Dr. Zhivago was also among the promoters of women’s oversized garments. Almost all the coats and sweaters Lara dons are a size too big. She made the maxi coat a fashion must have overnight. I’ve always liked the look. In 1967, Time magazine observed: “What Julie Christie wears has more real impact on fashion than all of the clothes of the ten best-dressed women combined.”
Julie Christie’s beautiful crystal blue eyes are even more striking when she wears a hat. That’s one of the things I find most attracting about wearing a hat, it frames your face and enhances your eyes. Sable hat, belted cardigan and white shirt.
In the fur coat and iconic fur hat she wears when she and Zhivago arrive at Varykino estate. As I’ve mentioned before, the sets are one of the elements that make this film memorable, whether it’s the snow-filled Moscow streets, a bourgeois grand home hosting a party, a train in the snow, the frosted country cottage or the “ice palace” where the two lovers take refuge. Even if it’s covered in shimmering ice inside and out, the place looks romantic and dreamy, especially when we see the room they live in, with the wood burner stove, fur blankets, the books on the shelves, the table covered with Zhivago’s poems, and a burning candle. And there is a frame of Lara’s little girl sleeping peacefully with a pony toy, pine cones and fire wood nearby – I think it’s not because of the time of year when I say that there is something very Christmassy and fantasy-like about it.
In another extra large sweater and fingerless gloves. And there is the ribbon in her hair again. Isn’t it so chic?
The white coat with fur hood and fur trimmed cuffs is lovely, romantic and cosy, but the cream dress with embroidered long sleeves, subtle ruffle details and a long black ribbon around her neck, tied at the back and let to hang loose, is absolutely gorgeous and so Valentino. Tanya’s wardrobe reflects her social status and it’s again her clothes she wears later in film, after war and the revolution break, that evoke the changing times, in contrast with the well-off days in the beginning of the film. However, although her clothes are simpler, they still carry an upper class elegance. It’s only towards the end of the movie, when the conditions become harsher and harsher that her wardrobe changes more drastically. Costumes establish characters, signal social changes, serve the director’s creative requirements and further deepen my love for film.
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