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Disco Days: 'American Hustle' flaunts gaudy ’70s fashion

By Sandy Cohen
Associated Press

From Christian Bale’s burgundy velour blazer to Amy Adams’ plunging sequin halter dress, “American Hustle” is a cinematic romp through the over-the-top styles of the 1970s.

Set in New York and New Jersey in 1978, the film tells the story of a pair of con artists (Bale and Adams) forced to work for a cocky FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) bent on bringing down power brokers and politicians. This decadent world of power, crime and big money comes to life through ostentatious fashions and outrageous hairdos. All the characters are reinventing themselves, and it shows in their clothes.

“They had ideas, they lived large and they took risks,” costume designer Michael Wilkinson said of the 1970s styles that inspired his designs. “Clothes were less structured, had less underpinnings – it was like people didn’t give a damn.”

The designer relished Halston’s vintage vault, to which he was granted access for the film, and he dressed Adams in authentic pieces from the ’70s.

Adams wears styles reminiscent of disco parties, Studio 54 and “the Breck girl” ads of the era. Jeremy Renner, who plays a New Jersey politician, has a bouffant hairstyle. Jennifer Lawrence wears bouncy, sex-kitten updos whether she’s going out or not. Cooper wears a tight perm: He’s shown wearing curling rods in one scene.

Hair is so prominent in “American Hustle,” it’s practically another character. Lead hairstylist Kathrine Gordon studied Playboy and high-school yearbooks for inspiration.

“I’m really proud of Christian Bale,” Wilkinson said. “It shows the possibility of an expression of personality in menswear. He explores his character in his clothes and he’s a man of the world. He mixes prints!”

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