Harry Styles as Jack Chambers, “technical engineer”
The Victory Project, an American desert utopia modeled after late 1950s Palm Springs
Film: Don’t Worry Darling
Release Date: September 23, 2022
Director: Olivia Wilde
Costume Designer: Arianne Phillips
Tailor: Jack Kasbarian
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
I had been among those who were anticipating the release of Don’t Worry Darling since long before the gossip, mostly excited to catch my faves Florence Pugh and Nick Kroll—supporting though his role may have been—against the lush ’50s-inspired style from costumes to cars as seen in leaked photos from the production in Palm Springs.
Much of the film’s attention has since been mired in controversy between behind-the-scenes issues and frustration over its plot execution, but I’d argue that credit is still considerably due to its showcasing the most aspirational aspects of mid-century life, including natty wardrobes, naughty cocktail parties, and Detroit’s chrome-detailed finest in every driveway. Indeed, you could say a little too much attention was paid to *clears throat* Styles over substance.
Okay, that was a cheap shot. While I won’t deny that I was frustrated by what felt like unnecessary red herrings and logistical storytelling holes that didn’t even last my trip to the fridge, Don’t Worry Darling was a dazzling spectacle anchored by a solid performance from the always-excellent Florence Pugh, who celebrates her 27th birthday today.
We begin on a typical sun-bleached day—day 987, specifically—in the presumably “perfect” life of a household in the mysterious Victory Project, a suburban desert oasis. Our well-coiffed breadwinner Jack Chambers (Harry Styles) leaves for his vague job as a “technical engineer” while bread-toaster Alice pantlessly prepares his meals and cleans the house in his absence. What their neighbor Bunny (Olivia Wilde) calls their “perpetual honeymoon” resumes when Jack returns home to his Jet Age chauvinist’s dream of the lovely Alice in a bare-shouldered dress with a drink and dinner awaiting him… though it’s not her well-prepared roast that he eats first.
What’d He Wear?
Academy Award-nominated costume designer Arianne Phillips explained to Fashionista that she took advantage of the opportunity to experiment, “given that there’s multiple layers to our narrative,” as the plot unravels to reveal why the specific styles seen on screen wouldn’t need to specifically represent the fashions of a defined point in history. After all, the Victory Project is merely a simulation created by the enigmatic Frank Carlson (Chris Pine), a one-time podcaster yearning for the misplaced “ideal” of how American life was presented circa 1960, when men dressed like Sinatra and returned home to attentive wives.
“I really put my male-gaze hat on for this,” Phillips told Entertainment Weekly. “It’s not only how men idealize women, but also how they see themselves. The way that Jack chooses to dress really leaned into that Rat Pack early ’60s bro culture, in terms of that flawless suit and the leisure wear and that whole archetype. This is really about gender roles and about a time when there were these societal expectations. So that idea of the perfect wife, mother, lover, who has to be all things. But the same thinking is how Jack presents himself, and how all the men present themselves, as their most virile, handsome self.”
Tailored by Jack Kasbarian from Western Costume, Jack’s half-dozen suits were designed by Phillips in bright pastels that match Jack and Alice’s apparent optimism as well as the Victory Project’s utopian outlook, as she elaborated with Fashionista that she used “heightened colors — colors that maybe are uncommon for the time period.”
Jack Chambers bookends his story in a vivid blue sharkskin suit, significantly worn both for this early scene establishing his relationship with Alice… and his final scene where it all falls apart.
Tailored with a close fit, the single-breasted suit jacket has narrow notch lapels with a two-button front. The wide shoulders are padded with roped sleeveheads and three buttons at each cuff. The ventless jacket has straight flapped hip pockets and a welted breast pocket with a neatly folded white cotton pocket square.
The first time we see this suit, Jack wears a skinny tie that harmonizes with the narrow shirt collar and jacket lapels, consistent with the sleek associations with men’s tailoring of the early ’60s. The tie is predominantly sky-blue with sets of short but wide horizontal block stripes in navy and olive, bordered along the top in a narrow olive stripe; the resulting sky-blue sections are bisected at the mid-point by a narrow blue stripe. The tie has a squared bottom like many knitted ties, though a closer look suggests the sheen and imperfect slubs of dupioni silk.
Much later, after the simulation reveal and Alice’s reprogramming, the couple essentially relives that first day, but Jack returning home from work to Alice standing in wait with a drink in her hand ends up going much differently when his mindless singing reminds her of the reality of pre-simulation life, a reality that soon comes crashing down over Jack’s head. On this day, he wears another skinny tie, though in a solid dark navy blue.
Jack Chambers seems like the kind of guy who would have learned all the wrong lessons from Mad Men, seeing the early Don Draper as an aspirational figure, and thus he follows the basic mid-century American office dress code of cycling exclusively through white dress shirts for work, albeit with plain button cuffs rather than Mr. Draper’s French cuffs. Jack’s white cotton shirts are designed with a narrow spread collar, plain front (no placket), and breast pocket.
Jack’s matching blue suit trousers echo the styling of his jacket with a close fit that flatters Harry Styles’ lean physique and a medium-high rise to near his natural waist. The fit tapers through the legs to the plain-hemmed bottoms, which break high over his shoes.
Rather than the traditional flat front or pleats, the trousers have a short dart on each side of the front. Signaling a well-placed confidence in the tailor’s abilities, the waistband is beltless with just a button-tab on each side of the waistband to adjust the fit if needed. The trousers have the slightly slanted “full top” or “frogmouth” front pockets that were popular on men’s trousers through the 1960s into the following decade.
Reflecting the somewhat more relaxed American workplace sartorial norms during the era so celebrated by the Victory Project, Jack wears slip-on shoes for work rather than the more traditional—and more formal—derbies or oxfords. The uppers are black leather with a straight cap-toe and short elastic side gussets that ease Jack slipping his black-stockinged feet into the shoes. According to Nylon, Arianne Phillips found Styles’ screen-worn vintage shoes from the L.A. outfitter Vintage on Hollywood.
To complete his wannabe alpha image of Rat Pack-era cool, Jack appropriately pulls on a set of sunglasses in the browline style that Shuron Ltd. vice president Jack Rohrbach had developed in 1947. Primarily available only for clear-lensed eyeglasses, browline-framed specs have become associated with mid-century figures like Malcolm X, Vince Lombardi, LBJ, and Burt Lancaster’s domineering J.J. Hunsecker in the 1957 noir Sweet Smell of Success.
As you can learn in my friend Shawn Michael Bongiorno’s well-researched post for his blog Individual Elegance, browline frames were revived in the 1980s when companies like American Optical, Art-Craft, Persol, Ray-Ban, Shuron, and Victory (appropriately enough, in this case) co-opted the style for sunglasses merely by adding tinted glass like the brown lenses that Jack wears in his black-framed sunglasses.
In addition to his gold wedding ring worn on the conventional finger of his left hand, Jack wears a simple yet elegant stainless steel wristwatch on a black leather strap. The round black dial with its silver-toned non-numeric hour indices and white 3 o’clock date window resemble a classic Rolex Oysterdate.
After Frank publicly presents Jack with a gold ring upon his invitation to the Victory Project’s senior advisory board, the ring never leaves Jack’s right index finger. Chanel Vargas for POPSUGAR identified the ring as the Bauhaus Model 4 Enamel by MISHO Designs in 22-karat yellow gold-plated bronze with a slightly slanted enamel-filled strip across its rectangular face. MISHO Designs offers the enamel in a variety of colors, but Frank bestows Jack with a ring filled in “black beauty” enamel.
Costume designer Arianne Phillips explained to Elle that she “learned a lot about the signet ring from working on a couple of Kingsman movies. It’s more unusual in America, yet [Don’t Worry Darling‘s male characters] leaned into this kind of bro culture, this Rat Pack early ’60s, when ‘men were men and women were women’ quote-unquote.” Indeed, rings were a status symbol among the Rat Pack and their contemporaries, with Frank Sinatra regularly photographed wearing his usual pinky rings and even once gifting Dean Martin a diamond ring that matched one of his own.
What to Listen to
The Don’t Worry Darling soundtrack celebrates many vocal standards of the 1950s and ’60s, stretching back even a decade earlier when we hear “Where or When” as recorded on Christmas Eve 1941 by the Benny Goodman Sextet with Peggy Lee singing. The song continues from Alice’s “driving lesson” in the black Thunderbird to her frying bacon and eggs for Jack’s breakfast.
Jack leaves for work with the other men of the Victory Project in a choreographed sequence scored by Mel Tormé’s jazzy 1962 rendition of “Comin’ Home Baby”, which could seem contradictory to the depiction of their morning commute until it hits us later that we are indeed watching the men returning home to their reality before they re-enter the simulation at the end of their real-life workdays.
When Jack returns home, his romantic reunion with Alice is underscored by The Platters’ 1958 doo-wop update of “Twilight Time”, which had been written 14 years before the group recorded what is now considered the definitive version of the song and which reached #1 on both pop and R&B charts.
At the start of Don’t Worry Darling, Jack drives a black 1956 Ford Thunderbird that we see he had specifically chosen—right next to his preferred nationality and his choice of Alice as his wife—in the flashback to reality. It’s an excellent choice, if somewhat obvious as the sleek first-generation T-Bird remains a chromed symbol of American automotive glamour in the fabulous fifties.
Differentiated as a 1956 model by its rear-mounted steering wheel, front-panel air vents, and porthole windows on the hardtop roof, Jack’s Thunderbird may have been powered by either the base 292 cubic-inch Y-block V8 or the larger 312 cubic-inch V8 added as an option for ’56, both engines mated either to a Ford-O-Matic automatic transmission or a three-speed manual.
Ford initially unveiled the Thunderbird to the public at the Detroit Auto Show in February 1954, having been developed a year earlier in response to the Chevrolet Corvette, which is curiously the car later chosen for Jack and Alice’s re-entry into the Victory Project.
What to Imbibe
The Chambers household daily routine includes Alice pouring Jack a bourbon, neat, in a crystal tumbler to serve him with a smile as soon as he crosses their front door. Rather than the bottle of Wild Turkey inelegantly stashed above his fridge in their non-simulation reality, the Kentucky whiskey is poured from a clear carafe with “BOURBON” printed on the side.
How to Get the Look
An extension of the men (including, I admit, yours truly) whose gut response to watching Mad Men a decade ago was to basically cosplay the early ’60s by wearing slick suits, white shirts, skinny ties, and pocket squares, Jack Chambers gets the help of an Oscar-nominated costume designer to take his fantasies to the next sartorial level in expertly tailored suits made from eye-catching period textiles like silky blue sharkskin.
- Blue sharkskin suit:
- Single-breasted 2-button jacket with slim notch lapels, welted breast pocket, straight flapped hip pockets, 3-button cuffs, and ventless back
- Darted-front trousers with button-tab side adjusters, full-top “frogmouth” front pockets, and plain-hemmed bottoms
- White cotton shirt with narrow spread collar, plain front, breast pocket, and button cuffs
- Blue silk skinny ties
- Black leather cap-toe loafers
- Black socks
- Gold signet ring with black enamel-filled line across rectangular face
- Gold wedding ring
- Stainless steel Rolex Oysterdate-style wristwatch with round black dial (with non-numeric hour indices and 3:00 date window) on black leather strap
- Black-framed browline-style sunglasses with brown lenses
Phillips recalled to Who What Wear that “Harry was a dream to work with… open and generous with the time he gave to the multiple fittings, as there were quite a few costume changes.”
Do Yourself a Favor and…
Check out the movie.
Alice, we’re perfect in here… don’t you wanna be perfect with me?