Michael Caine’s Thanksgiving Cardigan in Hannah and Her Sisters
Michael Caine as Elliot, financial advisor
New York City, Thanksgiving 1985
Film: Hannah and Her Sisters
Release Date: February 7, 1986
Director: Woody Allen
Costume Designer: Jeffrey Kurland
Happy Thanksgiving! Hannah and Her Sisters is one of my favorite movies to keep in my Turkey Day rotation (I know, I know, Woody Allen… And no, I’m certainly not one of the Maxes in the “Woody Underground” described in Jason Diamond’s excellent recent article for his Substack, The Melt.)
Set between three Thanksgivings, the story centers on the eponymous Hannah (Mia Farrow) and those in her orbit, including her nebbish ex-husband Mickey (Allen) and her current husband Elliot (Michael Caine), a “glorified accountant” whom we meet at the outset harboring an impossible obsession with Hannah’s sister Lee (Barbara Hershey).
“God, she’s beautiful,” Elliot’s limerence-laden narration begins over Harry James’ “I’ve Heard That Song Before,” as he continues detailing his private admiration and lust for Lee while he and Hannah host their annual Thanksgiving party. Of course, he’s concerned less about the Thanksgiving turkey than at landing himself that elusive Hershey’s kiss (do you get it please?)
Though still considered one of Allen’s best, having received three Oscars—one for Allen’s screenplay, one for Caine’s supporting performance, and another for Dianne Wiest as Hannah’s other sister Holly—Mia Farrow recalled in her memoir What Falls Away how the movie hit a little too close to home… literally, as the Thanksgiving scenes were actually filmed in her apartment at The Langham on Central Park West.
Farrow recalled how her mother, actress Maureen O’Sullivan who would also play her mother in Hannah and Her Sisters, had a “stunned, chill reaction to the script that enabled me to see how he had taken many of the personal circumstances and themes of our lives, and, it seemed, had distorted them into cartoonish characterizations,” though it also awakened Farrow’s suspicion that Allen may have had feelings for her own sisters echoed in the script by Elliot’s attraction to Lee.
What’d He Wear?
Much like the previous Thanksgiving movie I wrote about, the execution of Elliot’s apparel in the first scene of Hannah and Her Sisters is deeply rooted in ’80s trends, but I admire the overall approach that blends homey comfort with approachable semi-formality, perfectly suited for hosting a well-attended Thanksgiving dinner at home.
Elliot wears a gray ribbed-knit cardigan sweater that incorporates elements of a tailored jacket like notch lapels and a double-breasted front. Running the full length of the sweater down to the hem that hits his hips, the “lapels” are more like a wide shawl collar that has a “fish-mouth” cut-out at each side of the neck, rather than the actual three-piece construction of a tailored jacket’s notch lapel.
The bottom is cut straight across, with a square double-breasted arrangement of four flat wooden two-hole buttons, positioned low at his waist with two to button. The sweater has a hand pocket on each side, with a ribbed welt vertical entry.
Elliot’s shirt is block-checked in slate-gray, blue, taupe, olive, rust, and charcoal, a multi-color combination that adds complexity while subtly low-contrast enough not to look too flashy. The shirt has a narrow button-down collar and barrel cuffs that close with the same brown plastic buttons as those on the collar and up the front. He wears a brown silk tie that echoes the tones of the rest of his outfit, coordinating with his trousers and shoes, the sweater’s brown buttons, and the shades of olive and rust in the shirt.
Below the waist, Elliot dresses in the fall-appropriate shades of brown, from his dark brown flat-front trousers held up by a dark brown leather belt with a gold-finished squared single-prong buckle to the brown leather apron-toe derby shoes.
Elliot wears oversized eyeglasses with translucent brown plastic frames, which I believe were Michael Caine’s own specs at the time of production. According to IMDB, the actor had asked Woody Allen “shall I wear my glasses? Because I figure I’m playing you.”
Caine also wore his own watch, an 18-karat yellow-gold Rolex Day-Date “Oysterquartz” ref. 19018 on the distinctive “President” (or “Presidential”) semi-rounded three-piece link bracelet as seen in his other movies of this period like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) and which sold for $166,500 in a Bonhams auction earlier this month, as reported by Robb Report. While actors wearing their own watches don’t always fit the character, it makes sense that a well-to-do advisor—even one dismissed by another character as a “glorified accountant”—would wear such a prestigious watch.
The Day-Date has a 36mm case with a fluted bezel and a scratch-resistant sapphire crystal protecting the champagne-colored dial with its date window at 3 o’clock and arced day-of-the-week window across the top.
By the next Thanksgiving, Elliot and Lee have been romantically involved for months, though his refusal to leave Hannah and commit to her has made her realize that their affair must come to an end. For this holiday, he wears another gray sweater, albeit a darker cable-knit crew-neck with colorful flecks. He wears an ecru shirt with taupe-brown awning stripes, each bisected by a green stripe, open at the neck where he also wears a burgundy striped silk tie. He also wears golden tan gabardine flat-front slacks.
For the third and last on-screen Thanksgiving, Elliot’s relaxed approach to dress reflects his now less-troubled state of mind as he has reconciled his marriage to Hannah. He wears another multi-colored plaid shirt, though the flannel shirting, camp collar, and two chest pockets define it as an arguably less formal shirt, especially as he wears the plain front totally unbuttoned and open over his beige cable-knit turtleneck, with the shirt sleeves rolled back to show the sweater’s ribbed cuffs.
How to Get the Look
Each of Elliot’s respective Thanksgiving outfits have their own merits, though the most prominently featured is his first combination that he wears while both fielding and indulging his flirtation with Lee. With a few updates to modernize the ’80s details, his sporty double-breasted cardigan, multi-color checked shirt, and tie could still be effectively worn to host your own annual Turkey Day celebration!
- Gray ribbed-knit notch-collar cardigan sweater with double-breasted 4×2-button front and vertical welted hip pockets
- Slate-gray, blue, taupe, olive, rust, and charcoal block-checked shirt with narrow button-down collar and button cuffs
- Brown silk tie
- Dark brown flat-front trousers
- Dark brown leather belt with squared gold-toned single-prong buckle
- Dark brown apron-toe derby shoes
- Brown translucent plastic-framed oversized eyeglasses
- Rolex Day-Date “Oysterquartz” ref. 19018 watch in 18-karat yellow gold on gold “President” three-piece link bracelet
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie… and if your spouse has gone to all the trouble to prepare a great Thanksgiving dinner, the least you could do is not flirt with her sister. Either way, I hope you all have a terrific time.
Easy, you’re a dignified financial advisor. It doesn’t look good for you to swoon.