“Ripley” Might Be This Year’s Most Stylish Miniseries

ripley dakota fanning fashion
“Ripley” Is the Year’s Most Stylish MiniseriesNetflix

In the pantheon of cinema’s most stylish films, The Talented Mr. Ripley always makes the cut. The 1999 adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s classic novel is a sartorial fever dream—transporting viewers to a 1950’s Italian Riviera where camp shirts, dreamy tailoring and colorful swim trunks intertwine with a psychosexual thriller for the ages. The film’s atmosphere is deeply unnerving, and by its breathless conclusion we learn that the clothes have played a pivotal role in seducing the audience along the way. That’s because the character of Tom Ripley is all about presentation. We see him the way he wants us to see him—which makes his story, in any format, a luscious opportunity for fashion as storytelling.

Netflix’s Ripley—created, written, and directed by Steven Zallian, and starring Andrew Scott and Dakota Fanning—revisits Highsmith’s source material to stunning effect. While there are winks to the 1999 adaptation, this new eight-episode miniseries makes a dramatic departure from the sun-drenched, color-saturated world we thought we knew, instead bringing us into a sleek, black and white reimagining of the novel. In Ripley’s grayscale world, clothing exudes mystery and meaning, and a monochromatic presentation serves only to heighten the textures and silhouettes we see on screen.

We caught up with Giovanni Casalnuovo, who co-designed Ripley’s costumes alongside Maurizio Millenotti, to learn more about how the duo costumed this iconic story in a brand new way.

What was your overall thesis to bringing this novel to life through costume?

Our core approach to costuming Ripley was to create a visually distinct world that captured the essence of the novel while offering a new perspective compared to the previous adaptations.

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999) is considered one of the most stylish films of all time. How did you seek to reference—or deviate from, and not reference—that film?

The 1999 film is a true style inspiration, and Ann Roth’s costume design is undeniably iconic. We approached our series with immense respect for their work, but with a distinct focus. Our guiding light was the exceptional script, which served as a brilliant translation of Patricia Highsmith’s captivating novel. We saw an opportunity to delve deeper into the complexities of the characters and their journeys, crafting a visually distinct world that honored the richness of the book.

This meant going beyond referencing the film’s stylistic choices. The black and white format itself presented a unique challenge. While the 1999 film used color to great effect, we had to rely on other elements to differentiate characters and portray social standing. This constraint became an exciting opportunity to explore silhouette, texture, ands patterns in even greater detail. For example, a character’s social status might be hinted at through the sharpness of their suit or the quality of the fabric. Similarly, a bold geometric pattern could suggest a rebellious spirit, while classic stripes might convey a timeless elegance. These details, meticulously considered thanks to the script’s depth, became a silent language woven into the costumes.

While viewers familiar with the film might recognize subtle echoes here and there, our overall goal was to create a different and unique costuming experience that pays homage to the novel’s complexities.

ripley andrew scott

Ripley is notable for being in black and white. How did that present challenges for designing costumes? Or did you see it as an opportunity?

Black and white was definitely frightening at first! In today’s world of vibrant color films, it felt like a bold choice. We, as costume designers, are used to relying on color to define characters and set moods in scenes. But as we delved deeper, the limitations of black and white became a fascinating creative challenge. Instead of color, we focused on the interplay of patterns, textures, and silhouettes. This forced us to be incredibly meticulous in our costume design. Each detail—a bold geometric print, a luxurious velvet fabric, a sharply tailored cut—became a powerful tool to tell the story. In the end, the black and white palette pushed us to create a world with a unique visual language, one that is both elegant and deeply evocative.

Where did you source costumes for Ripley? How much was purchased, or sourced, or vintage, versus how much was built or created?

Sourcing costumes for Ripley involved a multi-pronged approach. We aimed to create a world that felt authentic to the period while offering a fresh perspective.

We scoured vintage stores and collectors for unique pieces that captured the essence of the era. These finds added a layer of authenticity and visual interest. However, due to the need for duplicates for some scenes, not all vintage pieces were viable options and we used vintage mostly for extras.

For almost all the main cast, we collaborated with tailors and costume makers to create bespoke pieces. This allowed us to achieve the perfect fit, style, and details that aligned with our vision. And certain wardrobe staples were sourced from established costume houses or reputable retailers. This ensured a foundation of high-quality garments that could be adapted or accessorized for different characters.

It’s difficult to provide an exact percentage breakdown, but we aimed to strike a balance between the unique character offered by vintage finds, the precision of custom creations, and the practicality of purchased staples.

ripley dakota fanning
Courtesy of Netflix

Were there any pieces that were difficult to “get right?”

There were definitely some costume pieces that demanded extra attention! One standout was Dickie Greenleaf’s shoes. Recreating those iconic loafers with all the intricate details in black and white was a fascinating challenge. We had to focus on the silhouette, the texture of the leather, and the subtle shine to capture their essence. Another interesting story involves Marge’s swimsuit. Finding the perfect one that conveyed her carefree spirit while translating well to black and white was tricky. We explored many options, ultimately landing on a design with a unique geometric pattern that pops on screen and hints at her personality.

But perhaps the biggest challenge was Tom Ripley’s entire wardrobe. In color, you can use clothing to showcase wealth, taste, or social status. In black and white, we had to rely on other details. Tom’s clothes often have subtle textural variations or interesting tailoring to suggest his background and differentiate him from the more affluent Dickie. It was a meticulous process, but one that ultimately helped define Tom’s character visually.

ripley andrew scott

Do you have a favorite details from any of the costumes that you’re especially proud of?

There are definitely some costume details we are particularly proud of! One challenge was creating signature pieces for specific characters. Dickie’s ring and cufflinks, for example, were meticulously designed and handcrafted especially for the show. Capturing the essence of her style and the era in those bespoke pieces was a rewarding process. However, sometimes the most impactful details are more subtle. We were fortunate to discover a treasure trove of vintage fabrics from the fifties. Sourcing these fabrics allowed us to create authentic costumes for the main cast. One specific detail I love is the use of a houndstooth pattern in silk. It’s a subtle nod to the era, and the black and white palette of the series allows the texture of the fabric to truly shine. It might go unnoticed by some viewers, but it adds a layer of authenticity that I find deeply satisfying.

Dakota Fanning is an actress with incredible personal style. What was she like to work with?

She is an absolute dream to work with! Her talent and dedication are matched only by her kindness and positive spirit. She definitely has a strong sense of personal style, and we had some fantastic conversations about how her character’s wardrobe could reflect that. Dakota was incredibly collaborative throughout the process. She always came prepared with thoughtful ideas about her character’s motivations an dhow clothing choices could express those. At the same time, she was incredibly open to our suggestions and loved exploring different options. There was a real sense of mutual respect and creative exchange, which ultimately led to some inspired costume choices for her character.

ripley dakota fanning
Stefano Cristiano Montesi

Do you have a favorite fashion moment from Ripley that the audience should watch out for?

We relied heavily on details—a sharp geometric pattern hinting at personality, a luxurious fabric texture suggesting wealth, a contrasting silhouette creating unease. These details subtly evolve and interact with the story, creating a depth and intrigue we believe viewers will discover as they watch. We encourage viewers to pay close attention to how the costumes transform and interact with the story… The intricate details woven into each piece add another layer of meaning to your viewing experience.

This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

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