James Stewart as John “Scottie” Ferguson, former San Francisco detective
San Juan Bautista, California, Fall 1957
Release Date: May 9, 1958
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Costume Designer: Edith Head
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
Let’s wrap up this week’s commemoration of Alfred Hitchcock’s 120th birthday with another exploration of the style in Vertigo, now considered one of the Master of Suspense’s masterpieces though it may have been overlooked during his lifetime and resulted in the end of his successful collaborations with James Stewart.
One of the movie’s most famous and shocking scenes finds detective Scottie Ferguson (James Stewart) and the woman he was hired to follow, Madeleine Elster (Kim Novak), driving together to Mission San Juan Bautista, which Scottie had identified as the location of Madeleine’s recent nightmares. After the two express their feelings for the other, Madeleine suddenly dashes up the mission’s bell tower as Scottie—impeded by his agoraphobia from pursuing her—seemingly leaps to her death.
The Spanish mission, founded in June 1797 by Fermín Lasuén of the Franciscan order, was suggested to Hitchcock as a filming location by Judy Lanini, the daughter of associate producer Herbert Coleman. Though the mission’s steeple had been demolished in a fire, Hitchcock developed his own vision of the mission’s bell tower that was executed with scale models, matte paintings, and trick photography to create an effective setting for Madeleine Elster’s death.
What’d He Wear?
Like Steve McQueen a decade later in Bullitt, James Stewart dresses for the Bay Area’s transitional season climate in a brown tweed sports coat, though Jimmy’s Scottie Ferguson approaches the look with considerably more formality with his white pinned-collar shirt and striped tie as he drives “Madeleine” (Kim Novak) south to Mission San Juan Bautista outside of Monterey.
Scottie wears a brown birdseye tweed jacket with a single-breasted, three-button front that balances Stewart’s tall, lanky frame. The sporty jacket is detailed with swelled edges on the notch lapels and the three patch pockets. The sleeves are roped at the shoulders and finished with three buttons at the cuffs. The jacket’s short single vent makes it one of only two vented jackets that he wears on screen.
Scottie’s charcoal trousers provide a somber, low-contrast bottom half to the suit, but opting for a dark gray rather than brown provides enough of a visual contrast that it doesn’t look like an attempt to combine mismatched pieces into a suit.
The buttoned jacket conceals the trouser waistband and top, but roomy fit through the trousers and the consistency of Scottie’s style tells us that these likely have single reverse pleats like this others and are worn with a belt. We don’t know what color belt and Scottie’s unorthodox practice of wearing colorful belts to match his suits (consider the blue belt) widens the array of options, though it’s likely that he wears a slim burgundy belt that would coordinate with his shoes as well as his jacket. The trouser bottoms are finished with turn-ups (cuffs).
Scottie wears his usual burgundy wingtip oxford brogues with five lace eyes, worn with his also standard dark navy socks.
The white cotton poplin shirt is another Scottie standard with its pinned point collar, held together with a white gold or silver pin under the tie knot, front placket, breast pocket, and two-button barrel cuffs that balance Stewart’s long arms.
Scottie’s striped tie for his drive to the mission with Madeleine was also worn earlier with his brown serge suit. It is striped in multiple shades of blue, including a periwinkle, royal blue, and dark navy, all split with hairline stripes and following the “uphill” direction of British regimental ties, and it is held in place with a silver-toned tie clip.
The tweed sports coat makes a brief appearance later in Vertigo during Scottie’s date with Judy, this time worn with a bright red foulard tie patterned in a crimson geometric grid with a yellow dot at the center of each grid cell. The tie is held in place with a gold tie bar just above the jacket’s buttoning point.
Scottie also wears a chocolate brown felt fedora during this date, suggested to be James Stewart’s personal hat that appeared in many of his movies throughout the ’50s and well into the ’70s. Discussion at the online forum The Fedora Lounge has suggested that the hat is a product of Churchill Ltd., though the forum also suggests Borsalino, Cavanagh, Dobbs Fifth Avenue, and Stetson among the possible brands that the actor preferred.
He sports his usual gold wristwatch, strapped high on his left wrist with a black leather band.
How to Get the Look
Unlike he’s spending a quiet evening at home (or in a sanitarium, as this scene would drive him toward), Scottie Ferguson never dresses in any less than a tailored jacket, white shirt, and tie and never more casually than this smart dark tweed sports coat and slacks.
- Brown birdseye tweed single-breasted 3-button sport jacket with notch lapels, patch breast pocket, patch hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and single vent
- Charcoal wool single reverse-pleated trousers with belt loops, side pockets, and turn-ups/cuffs
- White poplin dress shirt with long point collar, front placket, breast pocket, and 2-button rounded cuffs
- White gold collar pin
- Blue “uphill” multi-striped tie
- Silver tie clip
- Burgundy slim leather belt with rectangular single-prong buckle
- Burgundy cordovan leather 5-eyelet wingtip oxford brogues
- Dark navy socks
- Gold wristwatch with round case, black-ringed white dial, and black leather strap
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
I won’t lose you.