Iit’s a zeitgeist film that has divided opinion. Critically adored, award-nominated and praised by Martin Scorsese. On the other hand, prominent conductor Marin Alsop declared it “anti-feminine” and derided it as patronizing by younger audiences for disparaging cancelle culture. But there’s one area where everyone agrees that Tár, Todd Field’s epic about the fall of a fictional maestro, excels: the clothes.
Lydia Tár (Cate Blanchett) embodies the ideal of lesbian power. Sharp, pale blue buckles. A cashmere sweater draped over her shoulders as she curled up in her vast brutalist apartment lined with books. She marches through the streets of Charlottenburg in a luxurious virgin wool coat with padded shoulders, under which she wears a silk shirt. Clean lines and sharp silhouettes dominate.
It’s the kind of aspirational wardrobe that’s made people of all genders swoon—and earned the approval of the fashion world. It was not the reaction that costume designer Bina Daigeler – who previously worked with Blanchett on the TV series Mrs America – expected. Usually her goal is that “no one notices the clothes, even though they are part of the language of the film… that was a big surprise for me”.
But Daigeler knew from her first reading of Field’s script that Tár’s sartorial choices—as with all of us, but perhaps especially in Tár’s case with her self-mythologizing—were central to her character.
Daigeler approached the task with the same level of research as she would approach a historical film. The main theme was clear: power dressing. “I think we all do it – when we need to show strength, we dress a certain way. [Lydia] Tár is a lot about power and strength.”
In response to Alsop’s criticism, Blanchett said that Tár “is not a film about gender, it’s about power”; but her silhouette is often masculine.
Tár is a rich woman. Daigeler mentions Margaret Howell, Max Mara and Dries van Noten, among other prominent high-end labels. Studio Nicholson and Lemaire supplied many of the staples. The film’s budget was only $35 million, which proved challenging at times, and Blanchett joked at one point that they spent most of it on Diana’s coat from The Row (which retails for around £3,000). Tár wears the legendary Hermes Birkin (from £7,000) and for a woman who talks about controlling time, she wears a Rolex (around £4,000) facing inwards.
Daigeler created an entire wardrobe for Tár, as if she were a real person. Some things Field specified in the script – Tár’s baseball cap when he travels incognito. Others were Blanchett’s ideas during the screening: shirts worn over turtlenecks, for example, a style trick also seen at the recent presentation of Brioni, one of the most luxurious brands in the world.
In addition to top designers, Daigeler brought vintage blouses from stores in Berlin and New York, and lots of custom pieces: “It was a complete mix.” The tones were mostly muted to reflect Tár’s austere nature and to “match the gray Berlin sky”.
It’s also about lifestyle – there’s little chance of Tár’s beige and pastel Oxford shirts and knitwear picking up dirt as he drives to school in his Tesla and flies first class.
The most important thing to perfect was Tár’s high-collared penguin tuxedo while conducting. They looked for inspiration in the Austrian maestro Herbert von Karajan and most other former conductors.
“I understood when I watched Cate in rehearsal [conducting], that it is very important for her to be able to move. But also to have strength in the core. So I made these high-waisted pants to support her,” says Daigeler. There is an extended scene where Tár visits the tailors and is measured.
As Tára’s world unravels, her polished appearance becomes somewhat less polished. Tár will never wear running bottoms, Daigeler points out, but clothes are getting looser, collars less tight. The jumpers hang unbuttoned (all in the film are Margaret Howell’s, which cost around £300). Even sneakers and a leather jacket make an appearance. It is as shabby as the industrious Tár allows.
Given how beautiful the clothes are, I ask Daigeler if she took any pieces home. It’s not. For her, “once the job’s done, it’s done” — but Blanchett is. “It was a very nice Dries van Noten suit that I’ve seen her in a few times since then.”
Is there anything available for Tár fans who may not have the income of a globally known cultural icon? Try the New York Rangers baseball cap. Yours for £16.50.