Business dress: looks that work

Lynnette Peck / 25 February 2016

From start-ups to blue-chips, costume designer Jacqueline Demeterio who worked on The Intern, tells us what business wear works now.

Jacqueline Demeterio works as a film costume designer (The Other Woman, The Dictator, Sex and the City 2) and personal celebrity stylist for stars such as Cameron Diaz, Sarah Jessica Parker and Laura Linney.

Her latest film project The Intern is a multi-generational comedy starring Robert De Niro as Ben Whittaker, a 70-year old widower who goes back to work – but as a senior intern to fashion company boss Jules Ostin played by Anne Hathaway.

The film addresses issues such as women in business, retirement and remaining relevant once you are past the first flush of youth. Director Nancy Meyers explores experience and tradition over youth and how that manifests itself in people’s behaviour and what they wear.

Related: Read David Gritten's review of The Intern

Ben: I’m comfortable in a suit, if it’s okay…

Jules: Sure, it’s fine.  Old School.

Ben: Exactly. At least I’ll stand out.

Jules: I don’t think you’ll need a suit to do that.

How does Robert De Niro’s character 70-year old Ben dress differently to the 20-somethings in The Intern?

Ben wears button down collars throughout the movie, so I was trying to stay away from putting the other guys in button downs. They are back in fashion. A button down collar is a great look for older men who want a casual but preppy look.

The younger men in the movie have a hipster vibe look that is mixed with lower end vintage pieces and some higher end pieces from Barneys and Bergdorf. 

Ben makes such an impression on these boys that they gradually change their appearance and start making an effort to wear proper shirts and even jackets and ties. Bob’s character also lays his clothes out the night before as he likes to be organised.

I still love a man in a suit and it is an appropriate and great look for work.

Tell us about Anne Hathaway’s wardrobe as the character Jules in The Intern and your own taste in fashion

The script felt very familiar to me as I am also a mom and I did fashion styling. My wardrobe has a lot of designer clothes but when I spoke to Anne we decided it was quality over quantity. I invest in them and mix classic pieces with vintage.

One look for Anne’s character Jules was the same as this with a slouchy men’s trouser with a vintage t-shirt and a really great tuxedo blazer with a cool pair of Celine sneakers and a great Chanel bag.

When we started to talk about Katherine Hepburn, the spirit of Jules came out a little bit more clearly.  Once we said, ‘Okay, she’s a little bit post-punk Katherine Hepburn,’ everything became a lot clearer for us. You also cannot beat a fabulous coat or cashmere sweater - investment pieces that last. I currently love fashion by The Row. I often think about having my own range as I go to every store and see every designer and see every show – I look at everything and I am still looking for more clothes. Sometimes I will make some pieces that I am inspired by even from past seasons.

Any memorable fashion moments when you worked on the second Sex and the City film?

In Sex and the City 2 Sarah-Jessica Parker’s character Carrie goes on a date to meet her ex-boyfriend Aidan for dinner. The Pucci dress she wore in that scene I originally pulled for the character Charlotte to wear. I love that dress. But when Sarah-Jessica spotted it she grabbed it and she was right as it suited her. It even ended up being on the movie poster you saw everywhere.

Any tips on how men should dress now?

I have seen tiepins, cravats and pocket-handkerchief details coming back – you have to do something with a man’s suit to make it more interesting. But the fit is the most important – it is all about the tailoring. I say take it off if it is not going to fit.

Different collar treatments are also popular and the detail has gotten broader which is great. I dress so many different men for film and TV and they have to have their own style and be different. It can’t just be five men in different suits so in real life opt for your own style and be confident with it.

How has work wear changed over the decades?

For both men and women work wear has changed and has gone extremely casual, but it still depends on the workplace, job and career.

In The Intern it was a start-up fashion company based in hip Brooklyn and for Anne’s character I wanted to represent her as still being the boss but also having a fashion sense.

Anything goes in work now though. You see people in jeans and then some in tweed suits.

Tell us about your view of modern workplaces

I worry that the approach to work is too casual now. I often get interns who are late and are texting on their phones. The attitude to work has changed. This doesn’t cut it in costume design though as some days we work 16-18 hours.

Do people really need to dress up any more?

The world of fashion now mixes elements such as a motorcycle jacket with a dress – mixing uptown and downtown.

When I am out shopping for a movie and I go to see a shop assistant they are sloppier. When I shopped with my mother in the 1980s shop assistants were polished and dressed smartly from head to toe.

People don’t dress up so much now. People even wear jeans for Broadway shows. I feel it is more memorable to dress up and it makes an evening out more special.

The Intern is available on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD from February 29.

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