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Image: Cruella via Disney

Cruella is a fashion feast to behold

By Don-Alvin Adegeest

30 May 2021

The new Disney adaption of 101 Dalmatians is a fantasia of fashion’s perennial quest for relevance and equally the making of its villain, Emma Stone, as the inimitable Cruella de Vil.

It is lonely at the top, Emma Thompson’s character - the icy haute couturier Baroness - would echo. A position that requires cut-throat tenacity and unrelentless narcissism. Her advice to protégé Stone is “you can’t care about anybody else, everyone is an obstacle.”

Every show and every season must see the Baroness remain top dog (even her three dalmatians are as toothily malicious as their master) as she unabashedly takes the credit for every idea her team generates. It is a caricature analysis of a bitchy industry but the pressure to achieve and sustain success is not lost on an older audience.

The best office attire ever seen on film

As for the fashion, Emma Thompson dons some of the best office attire ever seen on film, favouring sculptural Dior-esque jackets and fishtail gowns with never a hair out of place. Cruella, or rather Estella is she known at work, has her pulse on the zeitgeist, which is set in 70’s London during the burgeoning punk scene. Cruella is more partial to Galliano, McQueen and Westwood-inspired looks, choosing leather and lace and the spontaneity of punk instead of the rigour of cut favoured by the Baroness. When she gate crashes one of Baroness’s shows emerging from a dumpster truck in full couture, her never-ending train of sewn rubbish spills like lava onto the street.

While previous iterations of Cruella de Vil poached puppies for their spotty fur, the current Disney version is all fur free and full of spunk. An origin story, it charts the becoming of Cruella, who is abandoned at birth by her mother, bullied at school, and becomes homeless after her adopted mother is murdered. After dreaming of becoming a fashion designer, she secures an apprenticeship with the Baroness.

The film’s costume designer, Jenny Beavan, reportedly created over 275 costumes for the principal cast, including 47 for Cruella.