Clothes from 1837-1919

12 Years a Slave Trailer: Fine Fabrics

Well if this doesn’t look staggering. Set from 1841, via upstate New York to the cotton fields of Louisiana, 12 Years a Slave is the true story of Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man kidnapped and sold into slavery. As the title suggests, he remains in this Hell for 12 long years. It’s an agonising subject, especially when not satirised like in Quentin Tarantino’s recent Django Unchained.

What jumps out of this trailer are the fabrics…so many beautiful fabrics. Just look at the shirts worn by the plantation slaves: linen, tunic style (as they were), cut full with sleeves blooming from the elbows. The film will be particularly fascinating to contrast between those at the top of society’s rungs and those at the bottom. A time when dress codes were vitally important, men and women could be identified in terms of wealth and status entirely by what they wore.

Costume designer for 12 Years a Slave is Patricia Norris, now 82 years young and not only still working, but also as a production designer (not here). With The Elephant Man, Victor Victoria, Scarface and The Assassination of Jesse James to her name, she brings enough experience to fill a two-volume book. Couple this with a prestige cast including Brad Pitt, Benedict Cumberbatch, Alfre Woodward and Michael Fassbender, plus a visceral director in Steve McQueen (Shame, Hunger) and we cannot see how this could possibly fail.

12 Years a Slave is released on 18th October in the U.S. (no pun intended) and 24th January in the UK.

© 2013 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.