Watching Annie Hall is a delight to the senses purely for an unadulterated slice of 1970s fashions in full-on glory. Men with their oversized glasses and overgrown sideburns, tweed jackets and elbow patches and bell-bottomed trousers. And I swear I saw someone who looked exactly like Borat sitting behind them in the final scene at the cafe in LA.
But it’s Diane Keaton in Annie Hall who is the one to watch. She was the fashion inspiration of the late 1970s, the way she layered pieces on top of each other, it was all very unique, hap-hazard and with lashings of personality. She wore a floaty paisley patterned dress over a polo neck, high-waisted trousers with shirts, waistcoats and a tie (belonging to Grammy Hall) a bowler hat and tweed jackets and scarves.
Annie Hall, a naïve singer from Wisconsin was based on Diane herself, a former girlfriend of Woody Allen. He said: “The Annie hall look was the exact way Keaton dressed in real life.”
It was a look for the mid-seventies, when women were carving out new identities; they were an emerging class of independent women who were working and establishing themselves away from just being housewives and mothers.
The costume designer for the film, Ruth Morley, worked with Diane Keaton to create the look. Some of the clothes were from Diane’s wardrobe, some were from thrift shops and some from men’s shops.
This eclectic use of mix and match masculine pieces really sparked a trend for an androgynous, kooky look, with oversized blazers, loose trousers, waistcoats and men’s shirts. It was a throw-away style, as if she had just grabbed a few pieces from what was lying around in her apartment and flung them together.
Diane Keaton said: “Annie Hall was a combined effort really. Woody gave me carte blanche. Ruth and I went shopping. We borrowed and bought from Ralph Lauren because I loved what he did. But in the end it was the way I normally dressed, and we didn’t want to change that.”
Over the years there has been a belief that the Annie Hall look was shaped by Ralph Lauren, his name always appearing with mention of this film, and with the designer Ruth Morley often overlooked. Morley apparently even considered suing him for taking the credit. Keaton wore only a couple of his items, some Ralph Lauren shirts and a tuxedo while performing on the nightclub.
Costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis criticised the common belief that fashion designers are often behind the look on screen: “Ruth Morley designed Annie Hall. Ralph Lauren made a career copying those designs. They take advantage of the association with Hollywood – the fashion business spends three or four billion dollars a year promoting their lines, so they want the association because it’s sexy, it sells clothes.”
While the androgyny is key to the Ralph Lauren look, it’s more eclectic than his designs for the sporty, wholesome All-American girl. Annie Hall isn’t wholesome, she smokes weed before she can have sex, she’s clumsy on the tennis court, and she often puts her foot in it.
Ruth Morley said: “I was designing for a character who was not quite formed. But even though she didn’t yet know who she was, she had originality and she was creative.”
Diane Keaton’s look caught on when the film was released. The Washington Post in July 1977 observed that it is “apparent on the streets of New York in small doses. The ingredients of it are coming into the stores here.”
But as Diane Keaton would later say herself, “I was just taking from the way lots of women dressed in Soho at the time. No one really creates one look. No two people are going to look the same, even in a hat and necktie.”
So go forth and create your own Annie Hall look: with a man’s tailored shirt, some high-waisted trousers, a scarf or tie, a funny hat, a polo shirt and tweed jacket or waistcoat.