Kate Winslet’s latest runway romp of a movie, “The Dressmaker” takes us back to an era where fashion took a wild turn from the old to the contemporary. When new designers such as Balenciaga and Dior came to revolutionize and free the body from the trappings of fashion’s yesteryears.
In “The Dressmaker,” Kate Winslet dons the character of Tilly Dunnage, a woman who returns to her town for her ailing mother and right the wrong that separated them twenty years ago. Their years apart gave way to Tilly’s nascent talent in dressmaking, which she learned from her mother, Molly (Judy Davis) at a very young age.
Tilly arrives to her hometown alone and armed with a luggage and a Singer sewing machine, she begins to make space for her belongings and reconcile with her mother, ultimately, stitching the events from the townsfolk responsible on accusing her of murder at a very young age. In Dungatar where “The Dressmaker” is set during 1951, everybody knows everybody and they all have a secret. Cabin-crazed, bitter, grasping and small-minded, the town folk maintain a precarious equilibrium as they know that their secrets are not safe.
The stakes are raised when Councillor Evan Pettyman (Shane Bourne), who virulently hates Tilly and Molly, employs the buttoned-up Una Pleasance (Sacha Horler), a rival dressmaker from Melbourne, to compete with Tilly and bring her down.
In a no-holds-barred showdown between Tilly’s and Una’s creations, it becomes clear that the transformation of the residents of Dungatar has only exaggerated their many flaws, and revealed just how ugly and black their hearts are. Their obsession with Tilly’s couture designs will be their ultimate unravelling, and Tilly’s final triumph.
Fashion in “The Dressmaker” is about disguise. Tilly Dunnage takes advantage of the women in the town and appeals to their sense of competition and vanity. The women of Dungatar haven’t looked or felt good for a very long time, so it’s a way of luring people and giving them a false sense of hope. Tilly simply gives them enough rope – or ribbon – to hang themselves with. She lets them “bring themselves unstitched”, as Rosalie puns.
Hugo Weaving, who plays Sergeant Farrat, an eager recipient of Tilly’s skills says: “The tone of it’s the difficult thing with this film. Everything needed to be grounded in a reality and a truth but at the same time there’s a heightened reality to it, so it’s slightly surreal. The characters are both drawn from life, very specific types, but a lot of them are larger than life and the costumes need to somehow reflect that.”
Kate Winslet says: “Tilly has trained as a couture dressmaker in France with Balenciaga and Dior and Madame Vionnet. The Dungatarians don’t really understand quite how magical and beautiful her creations truly are, they think it’s ‘dress up’. It’s kind of a gift that she’s giving them, as well as carrying out little bits of revenge along the way. They go from looking pale and a bit tea stained to looking like they’re all walking down a red carpet. It’s really quite striking.”
The featured Singer Sewing Machine 160 used in “The Dressmaker” is a model made during 1951 for the company’s 100th anniversary special edition. Singer sewing machine started in 1851, and will be celebrating its 165th birthday next year (2016). In the Philippines, Singer is proudly exclusively distributed by Monteverde Sewing Machine, Inc. (website: www.singerphilippines.com)
“The Dressmaker” is now showing (opend November 4) in theatres from Axinite Digicinema.