Much has been said of Ocean’s 8, the all-female reboot of the franchise (which originated in 1960) made famous for a new generation over a decade ago by George Clooney, Brad Pitt and a crew of other male stars. With the latest installment starring Sandra Bullock, Cate Blanchett, Anne Hathaway and Rihanna in a diverse cast featuring Hollywood’s top female talent, there was an opportunity to transform the usual array of hilarious costumes into some major fashion moments.
Designers clearly agreed, lining up to dress the cast. “We got a lot of help from the fashion world,” costume designer Sarah Edwards told British Vogue. “There were a lot of people really interested in being a part of it.”
As Edwards told Vogue, the costume department was “bulging with every major fashion brand.” As for those gala gowns, British Vogue reports, they were as exclusive as you’d expect: Think archive Givenchy (Blanchett), Alberta Ferretti (Bullock), Zac Posen (Rihanna), Valentino (Hathaway), Dolce & Gabbana (Helena Bonham Carter), Naeem Khan (Mindy Kaling), Prada (Sarah Paulson) and Jonathan Simkhai (Awkwafina). Add to that the cameos from celebrities, several of whom graciously pulled from their own closets to embody the high style of the gala.
But the real center of attention? The diamond necklace that catalyzes the action. The “Nawanagar” necklace was created by famed jeweler Cartier, which actually approached the production to participate, even opening its archive to Edwards and Hathaway, who plays actress Daphne Kluger. “We sat in this incredible room, and Cartier brought us trays and trays of jewelry,” Edwards recalled. “We went through every single one and matched the jewelry to all of Anne’s outfit changes—it was incredible.”
Of course, the Met Gala is only the climax; to help flesh out the main characters, Edwards had to create distinct fashion personalities for each of the eight actresses, who she told Vogue were team players:
It was amazing how good they all were about having to share me. Most of these actresses are used to being the star of a movie, not having to share that spot with seven others, but they were really respectful of each other.
Standout style moments we’re looking forward to include Blanchett’s Lou, whose rock-star style evokes ’70s and ’80s Debbie Harry and Keith Richards. Burberry created Blanchett’s custom-made suits, which were then teamed with low-end and thrift pieces. “I did a lot of research into New York in the late ’80s and early ’70s—that kind of new wave-meets-rock ’n’ roll era.”
Bullock’s Debbie Ocean’s fashion statement, by contrast, reflects the character’s narrative; she has just served time in prison, during which she planned the heist. “There’s a stillness about her, so there’s a lot of clean lines and controlled colors in her wardrobe,” Edwards says. “She’s the polar opposite of Lou, because it’s an opposites-attract kind of thing.”
But what was the designer’s real secret to dressing a cast of eight very different actresses? “It was important to try to incorporate real people’s style into every character.”
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, then, that Rihanna’s Nine Ball was perhaps Edwards’ favorite to costume. “She plays a computer hacker from the Caribbean, so I looked at pictures of Bob Marley and other Rastafarians,” she said. “She wears very oversized clothes, so when we see her character at the Met Gala, it’s a major transformation. It’s really fun.”
The bad gyal purportedly had a hand in developing her look, collaborating with Edwards and director Gary Ross on Nine Ball’s style profile, and requesting that the character wear locs in the film. The director trusted her vision, which was created in collaboration with longtime hairstylist Yusef Williams, who told style site Refinery29:
We thought it would be strong. Her locs would maintain that tie to Africa. She’d keep her accent. She wasn’t just going to be some American girl in this movie. Nine Ball is still a Caribbean girl that just happens to be in America. ...
We wanted this girl to be cool, chill, and very minimal. She would wear the same things over and over again. But I think the one thing she probably cared about the most was her hair. When people have locs, it’s kind of like their crown. It’s their pride and joy. It’s like a flower... you gotta nourish it and watch it grow. Hair played a really big part in who Nine Ball came to be.
To create the look, Williams and three assistants braided Rihanna’s hair (which is unrelaxed), then wrapped and coiled synthetic hair around it. Even the choice of hair reflected the character, as Williams told Refinery29:
We didn’t use Marley hair, which is a little bit more refined, pretty. Instead, we went with a kinkier, looser textured hair for a reggae feel. We didn’t do too much parting, either; when you start to part and make sections, the hair becomes a little bit unrealistic.
As we filmed, we had to thin the locs out. People that grow locs have been with them, and have time during the growth process to strengthen their core and whatnot. When you just throw 12 years of locs on somebody overnight, it feels like you have a fucking Toyota on your head.
To protect Rih Rih’s hair from the weight of the locs, Williams relied on natural products:
We used tons of Shea butter and black seed oil to keep her hair strong. Those are our go-to’s: olive oil, lotion, anything to keep the hair moisturized. For her edges, I used a lot of black seed oil. I’ll mix that with a little bit of gel or pomade and then smooth them up... also letting them kind of curl up when they wanted to, just to create that realness.
We have to admit, we love Rih’s loc’ed-up look. And apparently, so did she, as Williams reports:
It probably was the easiest style she’s ever had, since she got to be free and cool and see herself differently. She’s a huge pop star, and then we kind of stripped her down and gave her locs that we didn’t make super, super pretty. She made them glamorous when she wanted, and then super casual when she wanted. I thought it was cool to see her locs own the night whenever she went out. You will be seeing her with locs again, for sure. I don’t know when, but it will happen.