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Fashion in ‘The Mask’

Celebrating the Nineties at their best

Fashion in ‘The Mask’  Celebrating the Nineties at their best

There are some clothes that, in addition to having entered the history of cinema, have become icons of contemporary culture. Among these, one of the most famous is the oversized yellow suit sported by Jim Carrey in The Mask (1994), the cult film based on the Dark Comics comics that consecrated him in the Hollywood Olympus. 

Few films represent the Nineties as The Mask: already when it was released, the success was sensational, but since Netflix added it on its catalogue, the film is a fixed presence in the Top 10 of the most viewed on the platform. The importance of fashion is clear from the first scene when Tina (Cameron Diaz) makes fun of Stanley Ipkiss/The Mask (Jim Carrey) for his extravagant tie: "It's a bond of power," replies Ipkiss; "It should make you feel powerful." All the outfits, in fact, serve to make him feel powerful: when he puts on The Mask, Stanley Ipkiss is no longer Stanley Ipkiss, but a more daring, brave, bold and "smokin'" version of himself. Starting from the giant pocket watch, in The Mask all costumes play with proportions: this cartoonish style, together with a theatrical scenography, at times even a bit grotesque, and rudimentary special effects (which earned the film a nomination for the Academy Award®, lately won by Forrest Gump), created a dreamlike, dreamy, crazy mood that well developed the spirit of the Nineties.

The impact of The Mask has been so strong that even today, more than 25 years later, there is no masquerade party in which someone does not wear the canary yellow costume (the last one was soccer player Neymar). An unexpected legacy, considering that the dress was a choice of Jim Carrey himself, who re-proposed the suit sewn for him by his mother when he was still performing in the stand-up comedy. It is actually a tailored suit, more precisely a Zoot Suit (also called Pimp Suit): an oversized dress characterized by large shoulders, wide cuffed pants with a very high waist, accompanied by a Borsalino hat, French shoes and pocket watch. Born in the Harlem dance halls (hence the cuffed pants) and widespread among the African American, Chicane and Italian American communities, the Zoot Suit is a streetwear garment: a style that "came out of the street and from the ghetto", said Louis Armstrong. It was not, in fact, a model born from a designer, but normal clothes purchased in two larger sizes. The Zoot Suit soon became a political symbol: its ostentation was a way to refuse to be ignored, so much so that even Malcolm X said he bought one on credit. In recent years the model has inspired several contemporary brands and designers, the same that have sanctioned the entrance of streetwear in the luxury fashion market, including Marc Jacobs, Gucci by Alessandro Michele, Balenciaga by Demna Gvasalia and Louis Vuitton by Virgil Abloh.

The trend has not spared celebrities. On the red carpet of the 2019 Met Gala, Lena Whaite chose one Zoot Suit customized by Pyer Moss, with an inscription on the back that read "Black Drag Queens Invented Camp" (where 'camp' was the theme of the evening). Before Lena Whaite, the Zoot Suit had also been spotted on Lady Gaga and Zendaya.


Still, the yellow dress is not the only outfit styled by The Mask that deserves attention. Since the first disguise, a sequin jacket - flashy to say the least, his costumes are one more eccentric and bizarre than the other. Think of the French look with which he goes at the appointment with Tina: inspired by the typical mime uniform, the outfit is enriched by a beret (in full Montmartre style), a handkerchief tied around the neck and oversized plaid trousers. The striped t-shirt, then, is a must: always among the proposals of the great designers, in particular Anthony Vaccarello for Saint Laurent, recently it was also chosen by Harry Styles for his trip to Modena. In general, all the outfits of the protagonist are inspired by some cultural stereotypes: it is evident from the disguise as a Cuban singer, from that of a bullfighter during the duel with Tyrell (Peter Greene) but also in the last scene of the film, where the style is that of a real Italian gangster with double-breasted pinstripe, pocket handkerchief and Borsalino. 


Tina Carlyle/Cameron Diaz

Then, there are the outfits of Cameron Diaz. The Mask was her springboard: the producers met her by chance, outside a modelling agency, and forced her to 12 meetings before giving her the part. Inspired by her comic book counterpart, a muscular and miniskirt femme fatale, her styling is deeply Nineties but at the same time contemporary: the red dress she wears at the beginning of the film looks like a more colourful version of the dress proposed by Jacquemus and worn by Gigi Hadid in the Fall 2020 Ready To Wear show. Similarly, with the geometric lines that follow the long-limbed forms of the body, the midi-dress with which she presents herself for the first time at Coco Bongo and the dress she wears in the last scene could easily be Balmain by Olivier Rousteing