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celebrating the costume design of “brooklyn” by rebecca olkowski

Brooklyn costumes

You know how much I loved Brooklyn (which, by the way, should have won something at last night’s Academy Awards) so I was very excited to be invited to a cocktail party celebrating its gorgeous costumes with their designer, Odile Dicks-Mireaux and producer Finola Dwyer.

Unfortunately, though, I was out of town this weekend so my fellow blogger, Rebecca Olkowski, stepped in to cover it for me.  If you don’t know her — and you should! — Rebecca is an “almost native” Californian blogger, freelance writer, podcaster and 35 year plus professional voice actor. She has a great blog, BabyBoomster.com, and it sounds like she had a fantastic time at this event!

The pain of leaving home and conflicted love in the highly acclaimed and poignant film, Brooklyn, is reflected in its subtle and true-to-life costume design. Saoirse Ronan, who plays the part of Eilis Lacey, leaves her dowdy life in Ireland post-war to live in effervescent Brooklyn. She gradually morphs from a simple and unsure young girl to a polished and confident woman. Eilis’s clothing transforms as she does from plain Irish home knits to stylish New York department store attire.

I attended a gallery event for the film at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM) in downtown Los Angeles where the costumes of Oscar-nominated and classic films are on display through April 30th. Brooklyn’s costume designer Odile Dicks-Mireaux and producer Finola Dwyer were on hand to chat and give their insights on the making of the movie.

Finola-Odile cocktail party

The story was adapted from the book written by Colm Tóibín and inspired by the life of Finola’s mother who was Irish. She traveled from New Zealand to Brooklyn in 1951, the year the film takes place. Odile’s mother also influenced her costume design through a collection of vintage photos and memorabilia.

Unlike many of the films nominated for costume design, the clothing wasn’t flashy. Finola commented, “It’s a quieter film and takes an emotional hold on people when they see it. I like doing films where people wear the period lightly because it’s more real.”

Odile with costumes

Finola started as an editor before becoming a producer and received a B.A.F.T.A. Award for An Education. She and her producing partner Amanda Posey made history as the first female producing partnership and they were nominated for an Academy Award for Brooklyn. They often employ female trainees in below the line positions to help them move up faster in the film industry.

When asked why they thought the film resonates so well with people, Odile responded, “Because we all leave home. And when we do, relationships change. This happens even if you don’t leave countries or continents. There’s always that conflict you feel about leaving.”

Brooklyn yellow dress

Brooklyn was shot in Ireland, Montreal and New York. Most of the costumes were sourced in London and shipped out. The difference between the clothing in Ireland and those of New York during the early 50’s was that Ireland was still recovering from the war. Women would wear clothes that were five years old and would only wear high heels on Sundays, if at all, because they cost too much to re-heel. There was more money and less recovery in the U.S., so clothing colors were stronger and patterns more detailed.

Odile started her career in the theater, doing most of the work herself.  There, she learned to work as a team and feels it’s an excellent place to start for anyone who wants to pursue costume design as a career.

Nominated for three Academy Awards (Best Picture, Best Actress, Best Adapted Screenplay), Brooklyn is currently available on Digital HD courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment and will be out on Blu-ray/DVD on March 15.


  1. What a nice opportunity to meet the designer and see the costumes up close from the movie. Looks like a really fun time. Thanks for sharing the experience with us through these great pics.

  2. You know, if it wasn’t for the snow and slush I could totally see myself wearing those dresses. They are so beautiful!! I get that they are “costumes” but I wish that this was how society still dressed. I perhaps was born in the wrong generation.

  3. I was bummed they didn’t win, I thought this movie was excellent

  4. I’m always keenly aware of the ‘costumes’ in any movie and what a treat to be able to view a selection of Oscar nominated designs! What a treat to have been able to meet the designers. Sounds like a perfect night.

  5. Like you, I love costumes and loved Brooklyn. I wish I could go to this exhibition. But we have a designer clothes exhibit at one of our San Francisco museums that I won’t miss. Still, I love the Brooklyn costumes and the way the era was depicted. Thanks for bringing us along.

  6. I really want to see the movie. I love the costumes!

  7. How awesome is this. I’m so interested in seeing the movie – for the story and also the visual delights. I’ll be looking for the costumes.

  8. That sure would have been a fun thing to see. I love all the costumes from movies..they are the best part!!

  9. So glad you were able to write this post and see the costumes. I have yet to see the movie. It’s first on my list now. Your post helped put it there.

  10. I love the costume of this movie. Period clothing is so beautiful and captivating.

  11. The floral skirt is truly beautiful. Even-though those costumes are not flashy, they still stand out.

  12. I haven’t seen this movie, but have heard good things. I love the green sweater and flower dress.

  13. These costumes look lovely. I haven’t seen the movie but now I want to.

  14. Oh how I would have love to see the costumes in person! Loved the clothes.

  15. Wow, what beautiful costumes! I would have loved to see them in person. I grew up in Brooklyn so there’s that too!

  16. I totally love this era of clothing and would wear it right now

  17. I am in no way a clothes horse, but I LOVE a good costume exhibit. And being able to actually speak to the costume designer — what a great opportunity.

  18. That would have been a fun thing to see!! I love all the costumes from movies!

  19. It sure is great to get a little backstory about the outfits. I still haven’t seen the movie but have heard great things about it.

  20. I am completely renting this movie next weekend. The costumes and hairstyles are lovely. I love this movie and “Carol” and both deserved more awards.

  21. That would be fun to attend a gallery event for the film.It’s fun when fashion and film collide. 🙂

  22. Beautiful! I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I love exhibits such as this one!

  23. LOVE exhibits like this, although it always seems like New York CIty and the surrounding areas always have the best ones. Chicago just doesn’t compare. – Katy

  24. Talk about elegance! I haven’t seen the movie yet but I’m going to add it to my list. I love Saoirse Ronan!

  25. How amazing!!! That must have been an amazing opportunity! Looks like a great time!

  26. I could feel totally comfortable living in that time period and dressing that way. Clothes were so simple back then, but so flattering. I want to see that movie!

  27. The clothing from that area is so beautiful. It looks comfortable and easy to wear. It is a style I like to wear today.

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