Outfits Inspired by Gwyneth Paltrow in A Perfect Murder
Long time readers and Instagram followers will know that I love the wardrobe Gwyneth Paltrow wears in the 1998 film A Perfect Murder from director Andrew Davis which also stars Michael Douglas and Viggo Mortensen. I don’t want to give anything away for those who haven’t seen it but I came across this description on IMBD which sums it up, “A powerful husband. An unfaithful wife. A jealous lover. All of them have a motive. Each of them has a plan.” It’s based on the play Dial M for Murder by Frederick Knott. I’m always amazed at how the entire film still holds up but especially the fashions which look timeless so figured it was finally time to create an outfit post. I really hope you like it because I’ve been working on it for over a week.
It’s funny that in all the time I’ve been obsessing over A Perfect Murder, I never researched the costume designer Ellen Mirojnick. Her CV is pretty amazing and filled with iconic films like Fatal Attraction, Wall Street, Basic Instinct, and Unfaithful, many of which starred Michael Douglas. She won an Emmy for her costumes in Behind the Candelabra and has most recently been in the news for her costumes for the Netflix series Bridgerton.
I’m a huge film nerd and keep DVD copies of some films because I like to listen to the audio commentaries. I went back and rewatched the commentary on A Perfect Murder that included Producer Peter Macgregor-Scott, Director of Photography Dariusz Wolski, Costume Designer Ellen Mirojnick, Set Decorator Debra Schutt, and Production Designer Philip Rosenberg. Because I know I’ll be asked about this, Sacred Heart school at Fifth Avenue and 91st Street was used for the exterior and terrace of the Taylor apartment but the interiors were filmed in an Armory building in New Jersey.
On the audio commentary Costume Designer Ellen Mirojnick said of A Perfect Murder, “It was a picture that had to capture the ambience of wealth, sophistication, and a modern New York. The characters played by Michael Douglas and Gwyneth Paltrow lived on the Upper East Side in New York and were very wealthy and had anything that could ever want in their life at their disposal. The character that Michael plays is a character who is very much in control. He controls everything, his environment, people, places, and things, therefore, he needed to have a look that was sophisticated, elegant, and structured and rigid, almost like armor. The cut in his suits were always the same. This gentleman was not a man who would ever deviate from something that he knew and knew well.”
“The character that Gwyneth plays is a woman who is brought up in wealth. She comes from money and sophistication. She does have a job at the UN and deals with lots of different people but she’s a woman who does not have to dress in a way that is representative of how much money they may might have. She’s very elegant, the lines are clean, nothing is too obvious, nothing shouts money, nothing has designer labels on it. She is able to move with grace and elegance just in its own right. She has her own style. As they both do. They are a very stylish couple and the embodiment of a sophisticated, modern New York couple who would be the envy of anyone they would meet.”
“I’m a costume designer who works possibly in an old fashioned way in this day and age. I’m influenced by the world and what I see around me, and who is who, and what’s on the street, and what the world is about, and maybe where it’s going to, that’s always an inspiration, but I’m not influenced by trends, fashion trends, nor am I influenced by any ready wear designers. I’m a costume designer that works in film and therefore will design costumes for film. They happen to be pieces of clothing and they could be sold in a store but my job is to allow the actor or actress to be the best that they can be. To be the most beautiful, glamorous, handsome, sexy, devilish, ugly, whatever it requires. That my job, to make them be the best that they can be and allow the illusion of who this person is to come through. To allow the actor to become a movie star and that’s what we go to the movies to see. We go to the movies to be totally engrossed in a story and watch these actors make magic and that’s the magic of moviemaking. It’s an illusion of who these people are that you will go away with. It’s my job as a designer to create that illusion so that one believes it’s as natural as every day life.”
“The color palette of the film was a palette in which the tones are subtle. They range from black on through the greys, through the navies, through the whites and the creams. It runs the gamut but everything is very sophisticated and deep in its tonality. What we try to do is extract the essence of the film and this film is a murder mystery.”
From the LA Times, “Emily oozes elegance, class, money in leather, suede, cashmere, silk and shearling of purposefully indeterminate source, save for one fabled black Hermes Kelly handbag and several Hermes scarves. (Mirojnick designed most of the principals’ wardrobes, except for Emily’s Loro Piana cashmere sweaters, a Balenciaga gown and a brown shearling jacket by Maxfield in London.) Trousers, sweaters, skirts and coats are all cut simply, close to the body and without gimmicks. The point is that Emily doesn’t need to announce her good taste with a recognizable label or logo. She is a woman of confidence who can “put on a white (cotton) shirt, a little skirt (black knit, just above the ankle) and a piece of jewelry around the neck (8 millimeter pearls, double strand) and look like a million dollars.” You can also calculate into that Paltrow’s own platinum and diamond Cartier watch.”
This is the first outfit we see Gwyneth Paltrow wearing as Emily Taylor as she’s coming from her day at work and an a lunchtime tryst. The film takes place over the course of a week, maybe a week and a half, and many of the same pieces pop up in different outfits.
Every woman should own a black wool coat like Emily Taylor’s and this one is a lovely day to night option.
At the beginning of the film, she wears a purple paisley stole over the coat. It was probably either Etro or something supposed to look like it was bought on a trip. Etsy has many paisley stole options that are quite pretty.
For an important work day, she wears a black skirt suit. A reasonably priced options is this blazer in Italian stretch wool.
I wouldn’t buy an expensive white shirt since they always get dingy. This relaxed-fit Thomas Mason shirt is a great option that won’t break the bank.
I had decided that I wanted to buy myself a classic Cartier Tank Louis watch for my birthday next year but after watching this film over and over again for a week, I think I might need to change that to a black leather Hermes Kelly Box bag. I actually have an vintage oxblood Kelly bag but it doesn’t have a shoulder strap. I think I’d use it more often if it had one. A less expensive option that has a similar look is this Saint Laurent Manhattan leather shoulder bag.
In the film, she wears a double-strand of pearls which I’m sure were Mikimoto or some other expensive brand. This Mikimoto Essential Elements Akoya Pearl Necklace would make a lovely present for someone this holiday or for a special occasion. These “STUNNING FLAME” 18K Gold Plated Silver Brilliant Cut Simulated Diamond Cubic Zirconia Stud Earrings have over 6,500 reviews and come in six different metal options and seven different carat choices. They would be great for someone prone to losing things and for a gift option. Supposedly the Cartier Panthère de stainless steel and diamond watch in the film was Gwyneth’s own watch although Cartier was credited for supplying some of the jewelry for the film.
“An important plot point involves Emily’s delicate, though impressive, diamond and platinum wedding band (by Los Angeles jewelry designer Cathy Waterman). It was Paltrow who initially introduced Mirojnick to Waterman’s jewelry at Barneys New York in Beverly Hills, but Mirojnick feared it was too dainty to hold its own on camera. So Waterman agreed to put three of her rings together–one floral pattern sandwiched between two vines.” via LA Times
I don’t love the design of the Taylor apartment in A Perfect Murder but I do have a better appreciation of what went into creating the elaborate apartment set after listening to the audio commentary on the DVD.
There is a formal event at The Metropolitan Museum of Art on the night of the first day that the film takes place. On the Story and Rain Talks podcast, costume designer Ellen Mirojnick talks about going to Bergdorf Goodman where she shopped with Betty to choose a few Balenciaga dresses as options for Gwyneth. It’s such a beautiful classic look.
She also said of Gwyneth, “She has a kind of hanger body. She’s tall. She’s thin. Her legs are longer than her torso. She has great stride and knows how to move in clothes. She knows how to sashay and how to be still. I’m sure she’s been playing dress-up since she was a little girl.”
Events and weddings must be happening again in full force because I had the hardest time finding gown options. There were some beautiful dresses I wanted to include but all the sizes were sold out so these are some classic and one modern style that I like for a formal event. The first is an Off-the-Shoulder Mikado Ball Gown in wine which is somewhat close to the gown in the film and not too expensive. I also liked this bordeau Off-the-Shoulder Shimmer Gown but most of the sizes are gone.
I think navy is nice for evening and this Floral Jacquard Off-Shoulder Gown would stand out in a sea of black dresses. I absoluteley loved this midnight blue Roland Mouret Lamas Ruffle Gown as a modern take on a Greek goddess gown but there are only two sizes left.
The last gown is a dark blue Roland Mouret Cheo Strapless Lurex Gown that is what I imagine Emily Taylor might wear to an event if the film was set now.
I think I read somewhere that Cartier loaned the jewels for the evening event and they came with their own guards. A much more reasonably priced necklace option is this Graduated Cubic Zirconia Collar Necklace for $199. The 4ct tw Cubic Zirconia Earrings are only $50. If the film was set today, I feel like Emily Taylor would choose this Spinelli Kilcollin Polaris set of four 18-karat white gold diamond rings. The Cubic Zirconia Tennis Bracelet is another great deal at $99. All the CZ pieces are available in gold and platinum options.
In the film she carries a satin evening clutch in the same color as her dress that was probably specially dyed. It would be pretty impossible to match a bag without shopping in person I’d pair the dress with this black satin clutch and a pair of Jimmy Choo Suede Pumps.
The next day, Emily Taylor takes the subway to Brooklyn to visit her lover. It’s a variation on her other work look so I took some liberties with this outfit.
She’s probably wearing the same coat but I could see her wearing this this Another Tomorrow Recycled-cashmere coat today.
In the film, she wears another blazer with knit skirt and a knit sleeveless sweater. I picture her wearing this
These black low-heel suede tall boots are chic and comfortable for walking.
I was wondering if they chose the platinum/silver jewelry for Emily Taylor to match Gwyneth’s silver Cartier Panthère de stainless steel and diamond watch but I also wore more silver in the 90s and had one of those diamond by the yard necklaces too so it was probably reflective of the times.
I feel like she’d wear gold today like this gold Curb Chain Necklace which is a great deal at $39. The earrings are the gold version of the $50 4ct tw Cubic Zirconia Earrings. Today, I could see her wearing this Cartier Tank Française medium 18-karat gold and diamond watch and Spinelli Kilcollin Vega set of four 18-karat gold and rhodium-plated sterling silver diamond rings.
I did two versions of this outfit because I’m a glutton for punishment. The shearling coat was from Maxfield Parrish in London and you can still find vintage versions online. But not everyone likes shearling so I created a wool coat alternative outfit.
A coat with a similar neckline to the one Gwyneth wears in the film is this alpaca-blend coat.
This wool-blend cardigan looks similar to the style in the film.
Each outfit has so many layers including tanks. I’d wear this stretch Pima cotton-jersey tank under the cardigan.
She wears suede boots with her suede skirt so that’s why I chose these chocolate suede knee high boots.
I imagine that Emily Taylor would definitely be a fan of The Row now and might carry this beige buckled textured-leather bag.
I also put together this outfit option as I imagine she might dress today.
If you like shearling, this single-breasted shearling coat is pretty chic. I also like any coat from Yves Salomon like this Meteo shearling coat. A very expensive but similar looking coat to the one in the film is the Bottega Veneta shearling wrap coat. This Teddy Double-Breasted Long Coat is another non-shearling option.
If I was dressing Emily Taylor today, I’d put her in oatmeal starting with this mélange wool and cashmere-blend cardigan. I’d pair it with a cashmere camisole and matching ribbed cashmere midi skirt below.
There is nothing better with skirts and dresses in the fall and winter than knee high boots.
The jewelry I’d pair with both outfits includes this Curb Chain Necklace. I also like this Textured Link Necklace which is only $35. The earrings are the same gold version of the $50 4ct tw Cubic Zirconia Earrings above. They’re such a good deal that I might have to buy myself a pair.
Emily Taylor wears the same watch everyday but maybe if she didn’t, she’d wear the Cartier Baignoire 18-karat rose gold and alligator watch or Cartier Baignoire 1920 18-karat gold and alligator watch which are both incredibly chic.
In my fantasy scenario, she’d wear this Spinelli Kilcollin Sonny Max set of three 18-karat yellow and rose gold diamond rings.
There are so many details to her outfits that you wouldn’t notice unless you watched the film as many times as I have since it was released.
The details on her robe make it look very expensive. Options that you could try are the dreamiest robe or Cotton Pique Robe above. I also like the Eberjay Larken Lounge Robe and Hanro Irini Long Robe.
The outfit she wears to go to her mother’s house is one of my favorites. The house used in the film is Salutations in Glen Cove, Long Island which has been used in many films. More on this at a later date.
The Vince Cashmere Donegal Ribbed Turtleneck is almost an exact match for the chunky oversized sweater in the film. I also love the new Nadaam Luxe Cashmere Fisherman Turtleneck in the middle and the other Vince Cashmere Donegal Turtleneck Sweater on the right.
You only see a hint of black pants when she gets out of the car. Maybe she’s wearing leggings but I doubt she’d wear something so casual to see her mother which is why I chose these full-length Cameron pants in four-season stretch.
When I’m sick or it’s really cold, I’ve been known to wear a cashmere sweater to bed like Gwyneth’s character. The options that look similar are the taupe Nadaam Luxe Cashmere Fisherman Trim Crewneck Sweater or Max Mara Lodi wool and cashmere sweater. Maybe she’d wear sweatpants to sleep in like these grey cotton-blend sweatpants or these beige cotton-blend sweatpants.
Some of my other favorite outfits are those where she tucks a silk Hermes scarf into her cashmere sweater. Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick gave her advice on the look to the LA Times, “You fold it in a triangle, put it at your neck, double knot it, puff it out and leave it alone. The key is leaving it alone. I’m not joking about that one.”
The sweaters she wears are Loro Piano in charcoal and loden green. The options that I would wear are this dark grey cable-knit wool and cashmere-blend sweater, grey wool and cashmere sweater, and the olive Essential $75 Cashmere Sweater.
The outfit she wears for the end of the firm is a grey ribbed turtleneck and black knit skirt. It’s simple perfect for colder weather. They started filming A Perfect Murder in the late fall in New York and continued through the new year and you can see the city look colder at certain times in the movie.
The fine-rib merino-wool sweater is a thinner option while the J.McLaughlin Arlette Turtleneck is a pretty close match for the sweater in the film. The charcoal Cashmere Cable Turtleneck is a slightly different option.
I can definitely picture Emily Taylor wearing these black knee high boots.
A Perfect Murder is one of those films that gets rich people and New York right which isn’t easy. I also love the juxtaposition of the casual Brooklyn artist David Shaw played by Viggo Mortensen. One fun fact from the movie is that Viggo created all David Shaw’s artwork himself. He also wanted to live in David’s studio but there was no electricity or bathroom in the Brooklyn building. He told the filmmakers he’d use candles which they told him wouldn’t be safe in the old wooded structure. In the end, it was the insurance company who decided it wasn’t a good idea for the third lead in the film to stay in an unsafe building. But Viggo spent a lot of time in the loft painting and helped dress the set too. I really love his commitment to the role.
Definitely put A Perfect Murder on your must watch list. I guarantee you’ll love it and want all the clothes too.