Fashion in Xavier Dolan’s films

by Kristin LVSK

One day, after a fortuitous viewing of one of his films my love affair with Xavier Dolan began.

I found myself charmed by both his aptitude for writing scripts with amusing dialogues, as well as his self-indulged artistic flair, and his perfected choice of costumes that he designs for all his films.

J’ai Tue ma Mere (I Killed my Mother)

Suburban Montreal in the 90’s. He made the middle class moms look so stylish and gorgeous that we all want to be as cool.

This being his first film, I’m sure that retrospectively he would have changed some things, like shots and such, but not costume choices. His style is so unique, beautiful… and it only gets better.

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Chantale Lemming, played by Anne Dorval, delivers a magnificent performance. In regards to the costumes, they are carefully chosen, appropriate to the era, style and If you ask me, the 20 year-old Dolan did a great job capturing the life in Montreal in the 90’s.

There is the beautifully touching scene in the forest, when Anne Dorval wears a gorgeous white gown and while both of them are running toward each other, unsuccessfully trying to get to one another delivering different ways of expressing it.

Les Amours Imaginaires (Heartbeats)

“J’aime ça, fumer. une rune cigarette c’est comme…c’est un oublie. Moi, quand j’t’au fond du caliss de baril là, c’est bin tout ce qui me reste, m’allumer une cigarette, la fumer, pis fermer ma gueule. Ça cache la merde…la smoke, cache la merde…Cigarettes menthes. Cigarettes vanilles. Cigarettes chocolats. Cigarettes cigarettes. Moi, ume rune cigarette ça m’empêche de devenir folle. Ça me garde en vie. Me garde en vie jusqu’à temps que je meurs.” – Marie.
Heartbeats is a story of three close friends involved in a love triangle. It’s a good viewing experience, with enchanting set design and costumes added.

Dolan made vintage be fashionable even before vintage was fashionable.

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With Heartbeats he used very brave color choices and beautiful 80’s dresses.

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One of the best scenes of this film is when Marie (Monia Chokri) and Francis (Xavier Dolan) are getting ready to meet Nicolas (Niels Schneider) This can not only be used for a fashion ad, but it is also cinematographically perfect.

After Heartbeats, Dolan directed his big masterpiece.

Laurence Anyways

Anybody who knows me knows I have been trumpeting Xavier Dolan’s heartbreaking Laurence Anyways since I first saw it. I experienced a lot of emotions during this gloriously decadent and painfully intimate affair which makes it one of my favorite things I’ve ever seen.

Featured imageNot only do Dolan’s movies have strong, original stories, but they are also of an outstanding cinematographical gorgeousness with an amazing perfect mix of costumes and set design.

What took my breathe away the most was the beauty with which Dolan painted images through costume. Never had their colors felt so radical, their intent so cutting, their stories so vivid.

Featured imageSo many memories I have of Laurence Anyways rotate around the costumes. The first thing we notice with Fred is her burning red hair and clothes.

The first thing that shows us how Laurence has been struggling is the paperclips as fingernails, wisely chosen waredrobe, and earrings.

The movie opens with our lead character, and what we see first is what Laurence wears. There is the symbolic baby blue business attire with hot pink accentuated shoulders. There’s the billowing gorgeous purple coat that threatens to consume the entire screen.

There is the film’s centrepiece sequence as the divine Suzanne Clément struts into a new wave ball to the throbbing beat of “Fade to Grey” by Visage. As her black and white spider-cape is removed to reveal a body-hugging metallic dress she joins revellers outfitted in the finest 1980s designer wear. It’s a room full of gigantic pink bows, lemon yellow princess dresses, puffy crimson floor-length gowns and stylish tuxedos with visor accessories and makes this movie scene more fashionable than many fashion shows we’ve seen. Ever. I would give that scene every award I can.

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Featured imageThe gorgeous costume work alongside the equally dazzling make-up, credited to both François Barbeau and Dolan himself won a Canadian Genie for their work.

The raining clothes scene looked amazing. When Fred and Laurence go to the Island of Black to meet another couple with a similar story to theirs, they walk into a real Clothing Shower. It is mesmerising. Both dressed as women, lovingly holding hands, makes you want to be them despite all the pain you feel for them.

Featured imageFeatured imageThe costumes are luxurious and quirky, singular and sprawling. Much like the entire film, really.

Laurence Anyways just isn’t Laurence Anyways without them and feels so complete by its costume work, refined story, beautifully chosen soundtrack and all the small details making this movie one of the best ones I’ve ever seen.

Tom a la Ferme (Tom at the Farm)

For the first time Dolan worked with someone else’s material, but even though his style bleeds through and reminds us of him in many ways. As Dolan grows and matures, so do his films as seen in this film.

Featured imageThe costumes alude to the late 80’s, with a touch of Dolan.

tom-a-la-fermeFrancis (Pierre Yves Cardinal) and Tom (Xavier Dolan)


The story, style and on some level costume choice reminds us a lot of his first film. Steve (Antoine-Olivier Pilon) is a troubled teenager who shares many of the similar characteristics with Hupert Minel (Xavier Dolan) in I Killed My Mother.

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Their clothing style is similar; Anne Durval plays Dianne, Steve’s mom, and she also plays Chantale, Hupert’s mom. She gives an excellent performance – and as usual Dolan has beautifully created costumes matching the mood of the film perfectly.

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The reason why Dolan’s films are my absolute favorite is because of the mix of strong story, great directing skills, well chosen cast, beautiful camera work, and always perfectly done costume choice and Art Direction.

The mix of all of this makes Dolan something special and we can’t wait to see how his career will progress.

These defining ‘Dolan’ traits are what makes him distinct and separates him from the bunch making him one of the most interesting contemporary directors whose career will be interesting to continue following as it further develops and flourishes.

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