Hitchcock costume designs

Oscar-winning costume designer Julie Harris was a perfect suit for Alfred Hitchcock. Designs from the BFI National Archive reveal their mutual love for muted tones, used in Hitchcock’s 1972 film, Frenzy.

Claire Smith
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“I would loathe to work on modern films,” claimed Oscar-winning costume designer Julie Harris, during an onstage interview at BFI Southbank (then the National Film Theatre) in 2002. “You do sketches first when you do period films. People think that the sketches are quite pretty and they like that and that’s how it’s got to be. But with modern things it’s different because the director can look at them and might say, ‘Oh, my wife doesn’t like that.’ They all know about modern clothes.”

The costumes pictured are Harris’s designs for the doomed character of Brenda (played by Barbara Leigh-Hunt) in Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy, the grisly tale of a ‘necktie’ strangler which marked Hitchcock’s triumphant return to British soil after a long tenure in Hollywood.

To tie in with the BFI’s forthcoming season on Hitchcock, the Special Collections team are busy preparing an exhibition at BFI Southbank on Hitchcock and all things British. Teasing out some of the behind-the-scenes aspects of Hitchcock’s filmmaking, the exhibition will include a number of other costume designs for Frenzy.

Julie Harris was renowned for her attention to detail, as well as her ability to create visually stunning and decorative designs. Like many designers, she often attached small swatches of fabric to try out various colour combinations, which perfectly capture Hitchcock’s preference for stylish but muted tones.

The exhibition runs from 14 June 2012 until 2 September 2012.

Julie Harris was interviewed by Jo Botting at the National Film Theatre on 8th June 2002.

“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.”

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