interview: Ben Simkins

When you get Nancy Meyers (Something’s Gotta Give) and Meryl Streep, two female powerhouses of the silver screen together in one project, you can count on three things: award noms, sharp dialogue and meticulously orchestrated fashion. As It’s Complicated finds its way to DVD this week and we watch Alec Baldwin fall over himself as the older…newer Streep, 303 asks the question, “Who’s responsible for making Streep look so darn good?”

That would be the incomparable Amanda Ross. This fashion mogul has been setting trends for more than two decades. Starting her career at Conde Nast, Ross has added her voice to Harper’s Bazaar, add her style expertise to the cast of NBC‘s Lipstick Jungle and was recently named W Hotel‘s Global Fashion Director. Ben Simkins talked to Ross about styling Streep for the film and about style tips for Denver.

Ben Simkins: Meryl Streep embodies the chameleon actress, and her wardrobe obviously plays a large part in this process. While styling her in the film, It’s Complicated, can you tell me the process that you went through to create the look? Was it a collaborative effort with her?

Amanda Ross: Absolutely, it was a collaborative effort. Meryl has great taste and she knows what looks good on her, but she was very open to trying new things. I consulted with the costume designer who was brilliant, Sonia Grande, as well as Nancy Meyers–it was a big collaboration. Everyone brings their own ideas about the character and you run around the city trying to find it, calling showrooms. You know, this was about a working woman with a Californian lifestyle sensibility. It was fun to dress Meryl in a contemporary look that wasn’t part of a character look, like how she wore a nun’s habit in Doubt… We wanted to dress a woman who, at sixty, had sex appeal. That was the foremost in Nancy’s, and everyone who worked on the movie’s mind, and not make it look like a man’s version of a sixty year old woman. It’s a love story, and Jane Adler character [played by Streep] had style. She wore jeans, belts and accessories and she didn’t look like she was trying to look like a twenty year old. She looked like herself: contemporary, relaxed, effortless and part of the background on her character was that she had lived in Paris when she was younger, so she definitely had that sort of flair and sensibility. You notice she wears a lot of Hermes scarves. Hermes has gotten a ton of calls and people coming into the shop wanting to know what exactly, what print of which scarf. She wore three in the movie. So, it’s really fun, exciting to get that kind of feedback and it’s so much fun to read a script, visualize the character, run around the world trying to execute it and funnel it down into the fitting… It’s such a fascinating process! And to then execute it, have it go to film, and see it on print is just enormously rewarding and exciting to be part of.

BS: You said that Meryl’s character in the film suddenly finds herself irresistible–her confidence at that stage of her life makes her irresistible to her ex-husband. What’s the best advice that you can give to women embarking on a kind of “revenge” makeover, which has become really popular right now?

AR: A revenge makeover?

BS: Yes. You know, making yourself too irresistible to people who have

Amanda Ross, Streep's fashion stylist in "It's Complicated"

put you aside.

AR: I love that! Wow, well I think it has to do with inner strength, and that kind of confidence, you know, overrides anything you could ever wear. I think that doing things that enhance your life that make you feel good about yourself on the inside is very much revealed on the outside and certainly being in shape [laughs] and whether you are doing yoga or hiking, tennis or biking, or whatever it is, exercise definitely gives you an outer glow.

BS: Coloradans definitely know that.

AR: Coloradans, yes. You are always outside, you are always exercising. The sun is shining every day and wow, I think it’s such a great question, and I do think that when you go through relationship changes, what you wear reflects that, very much so. You often see women who get divorced sort of dress a certain way for their husband and feel this sense of freedom to sort of find that they were dressing for their husband and actually, they find a look that they like better and suits them and then, people think, Oh, what’s going on with her? She looks fabulous. And, they can’t quite put their finger on it, but something about you has changed; therefore, how you look at yourself changes in the mirror, and therefore, what you put on changes. So, “revenge” dressing…Wow, I didn’t even know it had a name to it [laughs]!

BS: Yes, it’s becoming one of those trends. [Laughs] So, people who go see the film and get inspired by the strong female message Meryl and Nancy put out there, if people would like to get certain items for the look, can you share any information on where they can get them?

AR: Yes. Meryl wore a lot of wedge heels Espadrilles from Castaner. I think you can find them in stores here, but also at Sonia Grande brought those over from Spain, and I think that they are sold here in the U.S. Of course, Hermes, the little scarves. There is a shop on Lexington Avenue in New York called Amedeo, that’s where we got this cameo necklace that she wears in that scene when she’s telling her friends what’s going on with she and her ex. And, then she wears a cameo belt, that’s when she visits the psychiatrist, it’s over a navy jacket. So, it’s a lot about accessories, as I said–belts, jewels, accessories. Then her signature necklace is from a shop called Kirna Zabête, which is a Jane Hudson little butterfly on the end of a chain. She wears to the graduation these very pretty, simple little purple stone drops from Pomellato. We found some great shirts, stretch shirts from [Elie] Tahari. The linen pants that she wears in the opening scene are from Michael Kors.

BS: That’s a large shopping list for our readers. Thank you!

AR: It mixed the rang of prices: Tahari, Michael Kors, Hermes. I think it’s the styling, the little touches, that made it feel real. She actually would wear those things. She would wrap a scarf, you know. The cute bag, the striped bag that she carries through the film, was from this great shop called Roberta Freymann, and they have a shop in L.A. as well. We tried to make her very real–it was the sense of style, yet not fancy. New York’s lifestyle is very  much Californian lifestyle.

BS: Talking about California lifestyle, we all have a good sense of what is east coast style and what is west coast style. What would you say represents good mid-west style?

AR: I think good mid-west style, you know, a lot of what people wear gets dictated by weather. I, having grown up in the mid-west, having spent time in Colorado, I would sort of err more towards the California lifestyle, and mix it with a bit of New York lifestyle, in the sense that in New York, you wear a lot more black. That works in the mid-west. In California, you tend to wear color, whites and tans. I think, in a similar sense, it is life in cars in the mid-west, like it is in California. Obviously, comfort is a factor, and I think approachability. Not too dressed to the point where that flies more in New York or Paris. I think suits maybe work more in the mid-west than they do in L.A. I’d say add suits, add black, add a touch of polish more similar to California lifestyle than New York, I would say.

BS: Excellent! Our readers are always interested in some fresh styling tips. Though, with style and trends constantly evolving, how do you know which items to hold on to and which are fleeting moments in style?

AR: I think that depends on how you shop. If you stick with an item which is more classic in nature, like a sleeveless dress is always going to look chic, you can add different shoes. Maybe one season you wear it with a platform, the next season you wear it with a kitten heel. Kitten heels are coming back, so tell all your readers to pull out their kitten heels! A sleeveless shift dress that’s fitted is always going to look good on you and is something you should always have in your wardrobe and always buy, and then change your accessories. Really buying what works on your body and not buying in to a trend will lend itself to mix and match with items in your wardrobe that you add each season. So, in other words, if you are following trends and you go shopping, and you want to buy a safari jacket this season, more than likely if you like shirts, you’ve got a shirt in your closet that you can wear under the safari jacket!

BS: Great! Well, thank you so much for taking the time to talk to us today, Amanda.

AR: Sure. Thank you, Ben.