'Pretty Woman' Costume Designer Remembers Garry Marshall: "A Star Generator" Who Wasn't Fancy but Real

Pretty Woman Still - Photofest - H 2016
Courtesy of Photofest

Pretty Woman Still - Photofest - H 2016

Marilyn Vance recalls how the late director, who died Tuesday at age 81, turned a prostitute into a style icon in the box-office hit.

Who but Garry Marshall could take a prostitute and make her into an icon? Why Pretty Woman was and still is relatable to audiences some 25 years later is the humanness, not the sophistication. That was Garry’s charm. He was uniquely creative, warm and generous, a star generator.

I believe the term dramedy (serious but optimistic) originated with Pretty Woman. No one but Garry Marshall could have pulled off a story about a hooker named Vivienne (Julia Roberts) and her transformation, showing smarts and a heart of gold.

Pretty Woman was true visual storytelling before social media. At the time, the way the public connected to fashion was through music, TV, magazines and film.

Following Garry’s storyline, we started with seeing Vivienne on Hollywood Boulevard dressed for work. An obvious clash of styles, she wore a short, skin-baring, two-piece dress held together by a chrome ring that was inspired by a Rudi Gernreich bathing suit I had as a kid. She also wore a ‘60s-style band jacket (a Garry request; he would get something in his head and just want it). He also wanted her in heels. But I saw those zip-up, thigh-high patent leather boots at NaNa (the famous punk purveyor) on Kings Road in London, and I couldn’t get them out of my head. She wore a platinum wig, a fisherman cap, earrings, bracelets and a purse. It was her whole signature.

Richard Gere and Julia Roberts as Edward and Vivienne in Pretty Woman. (Photo: Courtesy of Photofest)

Enter Edward (Richard Gere), all smooth elegance in gabardine suits, but nothing flashy. He transforms from being an insensitive, angry, ruthless corporate raider to a more accessible, kind and sensitive man. They didn’t have any smooth gabardine anywhere in men’s suiting — I couldn’t find it! At the time, everything was nubby, Harris tweedy, interwoven. Nothing was solid smooth. I wanted something to play off his hair, to enhance the gray and give it that steely look. So we went to Bielle, Italy. The Cerutti family had a mill there. Every suit was made for him. I don’t think costume designers do that anymore.

Vivienne’s journey begins through fashion — by seeking help to change her wardrobe to fit Edwards’s high-class lifestyle. Each and every outfit including the red gown, was custom made for her character, because of the fashion cycle. Otherwise, things could have looked dated. We made everything couture-style. Julia was amazingly patient through all the fittings.

Julia Roberts as Vivienne in Pretty Woman. (Photo: Courtesy of Photofest)

Although Garry wasn’t a visualist, he was very involved with the looks, especially in the creation of the red gown. He would have liked a black gown. We camera-tested color and fabrics on Julia and came away with the red gown and the black lace cocktail dress. Julia was a trooper. She had to stand and get measured for everything. We were also really low key with accessories. We stuck with one pair of pearl earrings she wore with seven changes. Piling on is easy, trying to take it all away and help the character is difficult.

I don’t think Garry was ever that involved with wardrobe as he was for Pretty Woman. I loved his input as it was crucial for the film. His fantasy wasn’t fancy. It was right there, simple and real.

Richard Gere and Julia Roberts as Edward and Vivienne in Pretty Woman. (Photo: Courtesy of Photofest)