Costumes on the Orient Express

27

There’s a new Murder on the Orient Express, of which you are no doubt aware due to Kenneth Branagh’s OTT mustachios invading your personal space. I’m not as bad as Trystan — I don’t HATE murder mysteries, I just can’t get into regular series. A one-off movie, like Death on the Nile (1978), And Then There Were None (2015), or The Witness for the Prosecution (2016)? Sure! So when my mom came to visit and wanted to see Murder on the Orient Express (2017), I was down.

Now, I haven’t read the original Agatha Christie book or seen any of the previous adaptations, so in some ways it was good because I had zero ideas about the characters, plot, or who-did-it. On the other hand, I was less than riveted by the plot turns, and I’m not sure whether that’s due to Branagh’s adaptation or the story itself. I’m not going to give anything away in case you’re in the same boat I was in (knowing nothing), but once the truth came out, I just didn’t really believe that ALL of these characters were as motivated as they were supposed to be.

Nonetheless, it was a perfectly entertaining movie, and the costumes were appropriate and lovely, so let’s take a look, shall we? They were designed by Alexandra Byrne (Persuasion, ElizabethElizabeth: the Golden Age) and since this is such a high-profile movie, she’s done a ton of press.

Overall, I thought the costumes were well done and appropriate to the period and the characters’ class. On the other hand, Byrne talks a lot in press about putting in lots of little details that are clues to characters, which I totally missed. Maybe I’d catch it on a second watch? I’m sure I’d enjoy looking for them now that I know they’re there … Byrne said:

“The majority of the characters, when we first meet them, are not dressed as who they really are; they’re pretending to be somebody else. So I wanted to do sort of a practical map of [everything that happened from] before the murder so that I had a backbone to find how they would dress as this other person they’re pretending to be. I wanted people to believe in these characters until we get to the end of the film, to the reveal. How I dressed them had to have integrity and credibility, so that if you wanted to backtrack through it, it would all make sense.” (In ‘Murder on the Orient Express,’ There Are Clues in the Clothes)

According to Byrne, part of the issue was that the movie was filmed on 70mm-wide high-resolution film, which meant that every detail could be seen on screen. Thus, according to fashionista.com, “most of the pieces in the movie were custom-built by Byrne and her team to ensure impeccable condition and precise detail…” (How the ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ Costume Designer Outfitted Daisy Ridley and Michelle Pfeiffer in Authentic ’30s Clothing). And, of course, Byrne says that she and the other filmmakers “wanted a total sense of period, but also a bit of modernity to the clothes” (Dressed to Kill: Inside the Lavish Costumes of Murder on the Orient Express).

Michelle Pfeiffer plays American Caroline Hubbard. Byrne says that:

“Christie described her as ‘a woman who walks too loud.’ Michelle [Pfeiffer] and I worked on the idea of Mrs. Hubbard dressing as the seasoned tourist. Each outfit has something to do with her previous or upcoming destination. She travels from the East in a dress with Syrian embroidery and she travels into the mountains wearing a ski suit — always distrusting the saying that ‘less is more.'” (How the ‘Murder on the Orient Express’ Costume Designer Outfitted Daisy Ridley and Michelle Pfeiffer in Authentic ’30s Clothing)

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

There’s that Syrian embroidery…

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Judi Dench plays Princess Dragomiroff. Byrne says, “She is a wealthy Russian princess in exile who would visit the fashion houses, so I looked to Lanvin for influence” (How the ‘Orient Express’ Costume Designer Used Detective Clues to Style the Cast).

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) Murder on the Orient Express (2017) Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

That would be Jeanne Lanvin, French fashion designer. Here’s a few of her more sparkly numbers for comparison:

Fashion designs by Jeanne Lanvin

Various 1930s garments designed by Jeanne Lanvin.

Daisy Ridley plays Mary Debeham, who is, according to Byrne, “a young single woman who needs to work to support herself… She wears sensible clothes, and has quite a small wardrobe” (How the ‘Orient Express’ Costume Designer Used Detective Clues to Style the Cast). And, of course, her costumes were my favorite — lots of nice tweedy and crepe numbers, lots of autumnal colors.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) Murder on the Orient Express (2017) Murder on the Orient Express (2017) Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Lucy Boynton plays the reclusive Countess Elena Andrenyi, who is almost always hiding in her car and wearing lounging wear. Most of the fabrics were custom-made for the film, but according to fashionista.com, at least one of the Countess’ costumes was made from real antique 1930s lamé.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017) Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

For the gents, Byrne says:

“Some of the men’s suits, we had them made because there’s a difference between English and American and European tailoring for men. It has to do with the cut, but also with the type of cloth. A lot of English tailoring is made in quite a heavy wool, and to get a wool at that weight would be quite dense and thick. You can’t get that kind of wool to behave the way you want it to. So we did have some of the suits made in Scotland.” (In ‘Murder on the Orient Express,’ There Are Clues in the Clothes)

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

Johnny Depp plays shady American Edward Ratchett. According to fashionista.com’s interview with Byrne, part of the way they demonstrated his character was by putting him in loose and wide printed ties.

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

And, of course, we gotta talk about that mustache, which was designed by hair designer Carol Hemming. Not being terribly attached to the character of Poirot, I thought it was OTT but I’m not terribly stressed about it … but I know many of you ARE stressed and feel like it’s too flouncy for the precise Poirot.

According to an interview with costume designer Byrne (so the quotes here are her’s): “Hair and makeup designer Carol Hemming devised a ‘double-mustache effect’ to achieve author Christie’s description of ‘one of the most magnificent in all of England'” (How the ‘Orient Express’ Costume Designer Used Detective Clues to Style the Cast).

Branagh said:

“In a way, the act of putting the moustache on, was the process of becoming Poirot. We became so anal about how foursquare, perfect, symmetrical he would want it and that we therefore had to make it. Everybody became as particular as Hercule himself. In a way, the secret is in the moustache, because as soon as you start getting as concerned about it as he did, somehow everything else opened up, and you’d entered the world of Poirot. It was like his superpower!” (Murder on the Orient Express’ Kenneth Branagh says Poirot’s moustache is ‘like his superpower’)

Murder on the Orient Express (2017)

 

Have you seen the 2017 Murder on the Orient Express? Feel free to rant about Branagh’s mustache in the comments!

Tags

About the author

Kendra

Website

Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

27 Responses

  1. Susan Pola Staples

    No but I’m going to. The costumes by Alexandra Byrne look amazeballs and I’d watch/listen to Dame Judi in anything. Nice to see that Daisy Ridley is in something other than a SW film. And Michelle Pfeiffer just is the icing on the cake.

    Reply
  2. broughps

    Sorry for me the only Poirot is David Suchet. Won’t be watching KB and that monstrosity on his lip. Though I have to say the costumes look very nice.

    Reply
  3. A

    Sorry, no. I can’t get behind that mustache. I do realise that David Suchet does not necessarily equal Poirot, but in Christie’s books there is enough mentions of the mustache being waxed and perfectly shaped.
    This brings to my mind a turn-of-the-century Russian official. Maybe Austrian. Not the fastidious post-WW1 Belgian detective.

    Reply
  4. Shawna

    I want to rant about the moustache but I actually work for the company that made it and was present for its creation so I feel like I should keep my mouth shut online 🙈🙈🙈

    Reply
  5. ladylavinia1932

    And, of course, we gotta talk about that mustache, which was designed by hair designer Carol Hemming. Not being terribly attached to the character of Poirot, I thought it was OTT but I’m not terribly stressed about it … but I know many of you ARE stressed and feel like it’s too flouncy for the precise Poirot.

    The mustache is the right size, even if it could have been waxed a little bit more. Agatha Christie loved the 1974 movie, but one of her complaints was that Albert Finney’s mustache was too small for Poirot. She would have expressed the same complaint about Peter Ustinov and David Suchet’s moustaches.

    Reply
    • natticus54

      Ya I feel the same! I was taken aback at first cause I love Davis Suchet’s Poroit so much, but then I thought, no, Agatha Christie meant it to be big and beautiful! I went and saw the movie opening night and absolutely LOVED it!!

      Reply
  6. Kate D

    I enjoyed the look of the movie. I was not as offended by Kenneth’s mustache as I thought I’d be, I thought he did a fine job with his overall interpretation (though David Suchet is Poirot to me forever).

    The treatment of the plot did not impress me, David Suchet’s Murder on the Orient Express episode was much better and made Poirot’s storyline make much more sense! I think by changing the mystery that happened immediately before he got on the train, his whole character drama and moral dilemma was completely lost.

    Removing Poirot’s Catholic faith and washing away the moments of Protestant/Catholic sparring between Poirot and the missionary woman passenger made the themes of mercy and judgement in this movie version anemic at best.

    Reply
  7. Jan

    I absolutely loved the mustache and felt it perfectly embodied the essence of the most particular and exacting M. Poirot. But then I’ve read all the books.

    Reply
  8. Sarah F

    The thing that creeped me out most about the stache is that half of it is actually cheek hair, shaved and styled so that the lip hair will blend into it.
    That’s fucking weird.

    Reply
  9. MoHub

    I don’t care for the ‘stache, but I could almost live with it if it weren’t for the soul patch.

    Reply
  10. picasso Manu

    I feel there is something un-Belgian about that ‘stache. Probably the handlebar… And yes, I want to smack that soul patch with a rolled newspaper.
    Dame Dench is perfect, as always.

    I’ll wait till TV diffusion, though: Just like Joan Hickson was the ultimate Miss Marple, for me, David Suchet was the ultimate Poirot.

    Not that it’s any obstacle to enjoy… I grew up with Mrs Christie novels, I know them like old friends. So I’m sure not watching for the suspense! (and am always surprised when people say they don’t know them. Isn’t she the second most published author after the Bible? Not to mention all those films and Tv series!)

    Reply
  11. Liutgard

    What disturbs me is how old Ken is looking. He’s three years older than I am, and looks more than ten years older. Rode hard and put away wet?

    Reply
  12. Sophie

    I’ve loved Michelle Pfeiffer for years (baby’s first gay crush haha) but I can’t bring myself to watch anything with Depp in it. So this one will be a no from me, no matter how nice the costumes are. :/

    Reply
  13. Hari

    Bloody beautiful clothing..Didn’t look costume”y” if you like well- made garment,hair, styling..you will enjoy the movie. It adds not distracts.

    Reply
  14. ladylavinia1932

    The treatment of the plot did not impress me, David Suchet’s Murder on the Orient Express episode was much better and made Poirot’s storyline make much more sense!

    I’m a fan of David Suchet as Hercule Poirot. But I’m not a fan of the 2010 adaptation of “Murder on the Orient Express” that he had starred in. Some aspects of it was pretty interesting and original. But overall, I didn’t like it very much . . . especially the adaptation’s last 20 minutes.

    My favorite version is still the 1974 adaptation, but I enjoyed this movie very much.

    Reply
  15. Karen K.

    I have seen all three versions, and read the book multiple times, and I still think the 1974 version is the best. The costumes and cinematography in the new version are great but I take serious issue with how they changed up the story so that Poriot just dominates everything. The story has been changed from a tightly plotted whodunit to the Branagh show — his scenery chewing was almost unbearable and they added a lot of unnecessary scenes which are just so, so, wrong. There are some great actors in this adaptation who are criminally underused, like Olivia Coleman.

    Reply
    • Kathleen

      Yes, indeed in the Branagh show. Ever since he did Frankenstein, when he went all shirtless & romance novel-cover, dumping Emma Thompson for HBC. He’s been smelling his own farts in a fancy goblet ever since. Before that, I really enjoyed him in Dead Again & Much Ado About Nothing, before he totally fell in love with himself.

      Reply
  16. ladylavinia1932

    The story has been changed from a tightly plotted whodunit to the Branagh show — his scenery chewing was almost unbearable and they added a lot of unnecessary scenes which are just so, so, wrong.

    Interesting. I thought both Finney and Suchet did a lot more scenery chewing in their versions.

    Reply
  17. ladylavinia1932

    By the way, none of the versions are an accurate adaptation of Christie’s novel. Perhaps it’s just as well. There are some aspects of the novel that I didn’t like. Especially that last chapter before Poirot revealed the “murderer”.

    Reply
  18. Christine

    Ugh I just roll my eyes at most of Kenneth Branagh in general. OF COURSE he would play Poirot with an absurd moustache, the man is all ego and self-aggrandizement. I also never want to see Johnny Depp on screen again after watching/fast-forwarding through the second Burton Alice in Wonderland. Whatever I thought of his acting before, I’m pretty sure was smoke and mirrors because that performance is terrible. I like Daisy Ridley and Lucy Boynton, and Judy Dench is always fab, but have next to no interest in waiting out those two actors’ on-screen appearances.

    The costumes look nice, though.

    Reply
  19. Penny H

    You make the costumes look so delicious, I may have to go see it. The mustache is rather horrifying, though. As for the plot, I always forget mystery plots, so it will be all new to me.

    Reply

Feel the love