THE FILM AND THE CLOTHES: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

In this series I will offer a summary and analysis of a film and then highlight the clothing of a certain male character (or characters), elaborating on the cultural and historical significance of the attire while also discussing how certain styles are still relevant and/or wearable today. 

THE FILM

Directed by Roman Polanski, Rosemary’s Baby – based on Ira Levin’s 1967 novel of the same name – is one of the paramount horror films of the 1960s, if not all of film history. With the likes of Alfred Hitchcock and George A. Romero directing some of the defining pieces during the decade, Rosemary’s Baby assuredly holds a lofty position with Psycho (1960) and Night of the Living Dead (1968), enduring as an essential classic that helped solidify horror as a legitimate, sophisticated genre.

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First night in the new apartment.

It tells the story of the Woodhouses, Rosemary (played by Mia Farrow) and her husband Guy (played by John Cassavetes, arguably the greatest independent director/writer ever), who have at last found the ideal Manhattan apartment in which to settle and begin their life together. Guy is an actor who has yet to achieve his big break, and Rosemary is an innocent housewife who cheerily encourages Guy’s aspirations. They meet their unusual neighbors Mini and Roman Castevet (played by Ruth Gordon, who won an Academy Award for her performance, and Sidney Blackmer, respectively) who soon clandestinely convince Guy to allow Satan to impregnate Rosemary – ensuring the birth of the Antichrist. They offer him a Faustian deal of success, which he receives upon inheriting an important role from another actor who is “inexplicably” blinded, while Rosemary herself is plagued with paranoia and fear after she is drugged by Guy and then raped by the devil incarnate during a gut-wrenching, cult ritual.

Never relying on the gore and violence or uninspired conventions apparent in most horror pictures, the film is psychologically disturbing and ever-lingering both during and after each viewing. Its ominous score, excellent performances, and perfectly suspenseful pacing create a brooding and frightening atmosphere: the sunny Manhattan skyline over the Woodhouse apartment slowly devolves into a Kafkaesque nightmare, one from which Rosemary seemingly never wakes. Additionally, Polanski’s skillful use of a hand-held camera further adds to the immediacy of the danger that surrounds Rosemary.

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Rosemary hallucinating after being drugged.

She is ceaselessly tormented – so too the viewer – as she suffers from surrealistic hallucinations and is met with utter indifference as she discovers the true identity and motives of those around her. Farrow’s portrayal of Rosemary is immensely key, producing a totally humanized and sympathetic protagonist, as opposed to the cliched scream queen who can hardly start a car when in danger.

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So close to escape.

In some type of sick irony, a close-to-birth Rosemary seeks protection for herself and her unborn child, whose father she still ignorantly believes is Guy, but is thwarted at every turn and cannot trust anyone, especially after her closest friend and only confidant, Hutch (Maurice Evans), dies under mysterious circumstances. She is finally captured by the cultists after nearly finding safety and she soon goes into labor. Once she awakens after having been sedated, Guy recounts to her that the baby died during the delivery; however, she quickly discovers the Satanists worshiping the child (they name him Adrian) in a secret room attached to her own apartment. In one last chilling, yet darkly humorous scene, her initial dismay over the realization of the child’s identity turns into a smile and she embraces the baby as any mother would a first-born.

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The “reveal”

THE CLOTHING: Guy Woodhouse

In that final scene, Guy stands apart from the others and can only watch with sheer embarrassment, knowing what evil he has wrought on the world by allowing these events to unfold. His face wreaks of a shame that stems from sacrificing one’s wife to Satan for career advancement, but his attire belies this sentiment as he still felt the urge to dress up for such an awful occasion as the birth of the Antichrist. For that matter, he dons sweet digs throughout the entire movie. The guy (excuse the pun) is clearly immoral, but he assuredly knows how to dress; and his attire isn’t merely cemented within a bygone era – it is exactly what any modern man can and should own.

Guy is seen cowering under a doorway in that final scene in a dark olive suit, one which he also wears at an earlier time in the film. Like his other suits and jackets, it is in the “Ivy League” style which the likes of J. Press and Brooks Brothers made immensely popular throughout America in the 20th century, peaking in popularity in the 1950s and ’60s. The archetypal “Ivy” jacket entails a 3/2 button “sack” (undarted) front – where the top buttons rolls away for a 2 button closure – natural shoulders, swelled edges, and a center “hook” vent, while the pants have a high rise and tapered leg. Also, like many of the jackets of the era, his has flapped patch hip pockets.

Guy’s olive suit is made of a cotton poplin which is perfect for the summer – the time of Adrian’s “reveal” – if not also 3 season wear. With it he has on an ecru oxford cloth button down and silk-repp striped tie of navy blue, brown, and tan; on his feet he has brown leather cap-toes. While he’s psychologically rattled, he’s physically as cool as can be.

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Perfect “Ivy”
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The olive suit earlier in the film.

Guy’s suit selections throughout the film are not just appropriate for each occasion either (even the birth of the Antichrist), but also each specific season. Early in Rosemary’s pregnancy during the Fall, they are visited by Hutch and Guy is seen in a white cotton suit – a supremely underrated transitional piece, one that enables the perfect sport coat or pair of trousers when worn in separate ensembles. Hutch himself even has some great outfits: of specific note is a brown cord sack suit and camelhair duffle coat he wears during his aforementioned visit.

Then, at a New Year’s Eve party, Guy has on a deep navy wool flannel suit – a staple for those frigid New York winters and cold weather everywhere. With the cream suit he wears a tan broadcloth cotton shirt which has a versatile semi-spread collar along with a orange and light brown silk-repp striped tie, and with the navy suit he wears a white broadcloth shirt with blue pinstripes (again with a semi-spread collar). The shirt has French cuffs that are fastened with brass cufflinks, and with it he wears a navy and silver silk-repp striped tie.

All of Guy’s suits are lightly tapered and he surely doesn’t look stuffy or at all outdated. The sack cut of his jackets, with their moderately slim lapels and natural construction, paired with the button downs and repp ties, exudes a casual formality to which “Ivy” pieces inherently lend themselves. They aren’t the wide lapeled and garish suits of the ’70s, the wide shouldered and obtuse “power suits” of the ’80s, or the skin-tight amalgamations that are in nearly every store today… they are as timeless and appropriate in 2016 as they were in 1968.

As such, his suits, along with the encompassing style, shouldn’t simply be viewed through some myopic, historical lens. The character of Guy doesn’t exhume the following characteristics, but his style speaks to simplicity, tradition, and elegance. His suits are that of a tasteful man, sending out a clear signal: I know how to dress, I understand tradition, but I don’t take myself too seriously. Who knows what kind of person lies beneath the clothing and the fabric (we unfortunately do in Guy’s case), but a certain way of dressing elicits respect from others and it often emits an aura of professionalism. It’s definitely safe to say that every guy should take lessons from how Guy himself appropriates suit wearing, likewise the requisite style in which every man can look great.

But! It’s not just Guy’s suits that are to be discussed, it’s his sportswear and loungewear too. His style and entire look/wardrobe is something for modern men to both admire and adopt, and it’s why I’ve chosen Rosemary’s Baby as the first film in this series; in part two, I’ll elaborate on the totality of Guy’s clothing in much further detail!

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Sneak peek of his great sportswear.

*If you’re interested in suits similar to Guy’s, I’d recommend the likes of O’Connell’s, J. Press, and Southwick (and even Brooks Brothers whose style has shifted in past years, though recently they have attempted to revive their sack suits); vintage shopping and thrifting are of course other optimal (and cheaper) routes for picking up great pieces.*

More on Guys wardrobe in Part 2…

-Bradley S.

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