Her is consistently described as being set in the near future, a purposefully vague phrase that, in another movie, might have resulted in pointy shoulders or high-tech bodysuits. But Casey Storm, Her’s costume designer, has created a near-future fashion that reflects how real fashion trends work: Instead of speculating on the future, Storm simply looks back in time.
Recent decades have seen retro revivals from the ’70s, ’80s, and even the ’90s. In Her’s world, current fashion is an agglomeration of trends from decades gone by, like mustaches from the ’70s and ’80s, and high-waisted pants that evoke a Depression-era aesthetic. We’ve seen these trends before, just not all at once. And apparently in the future, nobody will wear jeans, and everyone’s pants will stay put without the help of belts or suspenders.
Her’s male-focused style pastiche dislocates the viewer in time, and this is the key to a believable future. Men’s fashion has evolved more gently than women’s fashion in the last few decades. Sure, looking at a high-waisted suit from the ’50s is a sharp contrast to current styles—but it causes less whiplash than trying to follow the quick evolution that women’s fashion has suffered (or celebrated, depending on perspective) from the ’80s to present day, even as some of those trends are recycling. But in Her, the women wear fashions more familiar to the present day: Amy Adams doesn’t look particularly trendy, but neither do her comfy shirts and baggy, cinched pants look altogether out of place. Rooney Mara would look just as polished if she sat down at an outdoor luncheon in 2014, and Olivia Wilde’s clothes are so normal they barely register. Samantha, the main female character, doesn’t even require a wardrobe. In this movie, it’s the men’s fashions that signal a slightly off-kilter reality. Mustaches are worn sincerely, shirt collars have all but disappeared, and those pants. The not-so-distance future has eschewed synthetic materials and embraced tailoring, and it’s all tied together with a narrow palette of peach, yellow, and Apple-store red.
And there’s that safety pin. Once again, Casey Storm reminds the viewer that this world isn’t so different from our own. There’s no tech-specific couture, no implanted microchips or even Google Glass. Theodore Twombly still has to jerry-rig his shirt pocket in order for Samantha’s camera to peek out and share his world. Her rejects futuristic stereotypes in favor of a more natural notion, leading us instead toward a frighteningly real world of earnest mustaches and beltless pants.
With an Academy that favors period pieces and wild fantasy—recent winners include Anna Karenina and Alice In Wonderland—the relatively spare Her would be a subversive pick. But it would be a powerful one. Her’s world could be ours, an idea that comes across as much through its familiar fashions as its story of universal loneliness. Imagine a Her set in a more hackneyed future, one with sleek silver bodysuits or technology that fits perfectly in your front pocket. In that world, it’s harder to take seriously a love story between a human and an operating system. But this world? It’s just a pair of high-waisted pants away.