Analysis Of Character Clothing Design In The Grand Budapest Hotel By Wes Anderson

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In The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), director Wes Anderson elegantly narrates a bizarre plot full of persecutions, murders and love with a surreal mood in a luxury hotel.

Wes Anderson did not seek historical accuracy in the film but wanted to differentiate the three periods that are represented in The Grand Budapest Hotel through colour to locate the viewer. In this way, the costume designer Milena Canonero felt free to create a sophisticated and colourful wardrobe that defines the characters, with details that refer to Austria and Germany. The artists Kees van Dongen, George Grosz or Tamara de Lempicka and photographers such as Man Ray and George Hurrell were relevant sources of inspiration for Canonero.

Clothing across the Film

The film begins in the present with a girl who holds a memoir in her hands and then travels to 1985, where the author of the book The Grand Budapest Hotel narrates how the novel was forged. Milena Canonero used brown tones to locate the character in the first half of the 80s, where the reminiscence of the 70s is appreciated.

The narration takes us back to 1968, with the meeting between the young writer and Mr. Moustafa, owner of the now dilapidated Grand Budapest Hotel. In these scenes, the narrator’s informal attire stands out, with a classic jacket in tweed fabric with large pockets with flaps and belt and high-waisted trousers.

Mr. Moustafa invites the young writer to dinner and tells him how he became the director of which was the most famous and luxurious European hotel in the 20s and 30s. The modesty of the character is seen in his simple wear, which keeps the colours of the uniform he wore when he was the young Zero Moustafa: purple velvet jacket, red turtleneck and brown corduroy trousers.

The story of Mr. Moustafa transports us to his beginning as a bellboy in 1932, together with Monsieur Gustav, a distinguished and extravagant concierge who maintains a close relationship with the high society ladies who stay at the hotel.

Milena Canonero was inspired by sketches of the Italian tailor Umberto Tirelli to create the uniforms for the employees of The Grand Budapest Hotel, loyal to the 1930s. The purple colour of the costumes came from an old cassock that the designer keeps in her house. The fabric was found in the Hainsworth store in London and after that the uniforms were made in her atelier in Görlitz (Germany). The details show the exquisiteness of the design: red bow tie to match the skirt of the tuxedo jacket and the stripe of the trousers, tiny buttons on the white shirt or the badge of the keys on the lapel.

The design of Zero Moustafa’s uniform shows the hierarchy of the workers of The Grand Budapest Hotel. His bellboy suit is composed of a short jacket with a Mao collar, purple pants and a central button of the same colour. As an apprentice of Monsieur Gustave, he wears a simple cap with the inscription `Lobby Boy´ that identifies and distinguishes him from other employees, who wear a hat with the acronym `GB´ in golden colour.

M. Gustave H. was concerned that the clientele of the hotel was well looked after in all aspects, especially the female… One of his best guests was Madame D., a 90-year-old art collector whose eccentric wardrobe denotes the nostalgia for the past and youth. Milena Canonero imagined the character as Peggy Guggenheim and was inspired by the painter Gustave Klimt to create the patterns of Madame D.’s dress and coat, with a clear influence of the 1920s. The Italian brand Fendi was responsible for creating the silk veil and black mink coat of this character.

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The ostentation of the old woman is not only reflected in her wearing, but in everything that surrounds her, like the suitcases created by Prada. Wes Anderson looked for vintage-style suitcases that he only found in museums and ordered the Italian firm twenty-one pieces of leather, lined with peach-coloured sateen and with the initials of Madame D.

When Madame D. dies, her lover Monsieur Gustav M. inherits a very valuable canvas from her, but the family of the deceased is opposed. At that time, Gustav plans the theft of the painting along with Zero, and the descendants of the old woman accuse him of the murder of their mother. After an intricate plot, Monsieur Gustav and Zero end up in jail. The two prisoners manage to flee and, with the help of Zero’s girlfriend and The Society of the Crossed Keys, they recover the painting. Then a second testament it’s discovered so Gustave becomes the sole heir of the painting and also the Grand Budapest Hotel.

Jopling, who acts as a hitman, is another of the characters that Milena Canonero provided with a dark and sombre attire, defining his character so. The designer devised a long black leather coat that Prada created for the film.

Much of the film is set in the Interwar period, and the costume designer, inspired by several military sources, gave the black and grey colour to the army uniforms, avoiding the typical military green.

For the character of Henckels, a police inspector, she collaborated with Fendi to create the grey astrakhan coat. The badges that appear in the film were designed by Wes Anderson. One of them is the wolf’s head that Inspector Henckels wears on top of his uniform.

In addition to the subtle colours for the soldiers, the garments worn by Monsieur Gustave and Zero in prison and in their flight have discoloured shades. This feature distinguishes the luxury that is lived inside the hotel with the real situation of the country at war.

Milena Canonero thought pastel shades for Agatha, Zero’s girlfriend, in harmony with the pink and light blue of the pastry shop where she works. The young woman wears a beige coat and a grey-blue dress, with a pink ribbon and bow. Canonero gets the simple and humble touch of the character with a sweater under the short sleeves.

Signature clothes

Main characters on this film have very representative ways of clothing that perfectly describe their personalities. Some examples would be:

  • The soft pastel colours and simple designs that typify the sweet and innocent character of Agatha.
  • Also plain and humble attire of young Zero, that changes along his life rising until he becomes the old Mr. Moustafa but maintains the same colours.
  • The luxuriously eccentric look of Madame D., whose clothes were created by Fendi and Prada, inspired by the style of Klimt’s paintings.
  • In opposition to the lavish image of their mother, the family of Madame D. wear black sober clothes to represent their mourning and their connotation as the `bad people´ of the story.
  • Jopling and his black leather attire that defines him as a typical hitman.
  • The fur jacket designed by Fendi that shows Henckels as a high hierarchy officer.
  • Monsieur Gustave’s looks could be considered classically elegant but with a special touch, same as his personality. His concierge outfit, along with the rest of the hotel employees, was inspired by the renowned Italian clothier Umberto Tirelli.


With this splendid film, Milena Canonero achieves a meticulous wardrobe in a frame full of colour as is The Grand Budapest Hotel. She meritoriously won the Oscar for the Best Costume Design in 2015.

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