A Simple Favor: Blake Lively’s Most Jaw-Dropping Fashion Moments, Explained

In the deliciously bonkers A Simple Favor, star Blake Lively serves up incredible style moments that—even costume designer Renée Ehrlich Kalfus admits—might sound insane on paper. (In one scene, Lively nonchalantly strips off a dickey from her three-piece suit while mixing martinis for Anna Kendrick’s character.) Under Paul Feig’s direction, the daring fashion choices make sense for the über-stylish thriller. Lively’s character Emily is a fashion P.R. rep who forges an unlikely connection with Kendrick’s suburban mommy vlogger, Stephanie. When Emily goes missing, Stephanie takes it upon herself to find her mysterious, immaculately-dressed friend.

Kalfus—who previously designed costumes for Hidden Figures and Chocolat—did not have to look far for inspiration. Speaking of Feig, Kalfus told Vanity Fair,“Paul walks around in three-piece suits every day.” The idea to dress Emily like Feig struck both Lively and Kalfus simultaneously. Said Kalfus, “Blake and I said, ‘How about men’s suiting?’”

Ahead, Kalfus explains the thinking behind Lively’s sexiest A Simple Favor moments, and reveals the unlikely 80s movie that inspired Lively’s martini striptease. (Note: Spoilers ahead.)

Emily picks up her son from school in a navy three-piece suit and six-inch heels. . . in spite of the pouring rain.

Kalfus was able to raid Ralph Lauren’s archival closet to find Emily’s suits, including this three-piece pinstripe number the character wears in her first scene. “I think there is always a deeper mindset when someone dresses really distinctively in the same way—almost branding yourself, protecting herself, and, at the same time, disguising herself,” said Kalfus. Lively’s first moments on-screen are spent sloshing through a puddle in stilettos—as other mothers (including Stephanie) look on in awe and normal clothing. The fact that Lively’s character seems so nonchalant about destroying designer shoes further proves how different Emily is from the other mothers.

Kalfus collected accessories like tie bars and watch chains from antique stores, and finished off the look with a 1940s-esque custom hat. “Paul wanted to make this a stylish thriller, so we just pumped it up. I’m a lover of men’s suiting always, because I feel it is timeless,” said Kalfus, noting that her vision board contained images of Katharine Hepburn, Lauren Bacall, and Diane Keaton in immaculately tailored formalwear.

Emily strips off her dickey while mixing early afternoon martinis.

Believe it or not, this moment was inspired by another iconic movie sequence—the Flashdance scene in which Jennifer Beals strips off her tuxedo jacket to reveal a dickey at a restaurant. Kalfus did not recall who kickstarted the striptease conversation but gave Lively credit: “Blake is a real collaborator and she may have said, ‘Wouldn’t it be fun if I take something off?’ And the dickey idea came up. . . . I remembered that Flashdance scene so clearly. I was like, ‘How do we do that moment in another kind of way?’”

Kalfus said that this costume decision was meant to further build the intimidation factor between Lively and Kendrick’s characters. The second Lively’s character whips off her undergarment, “Anna Kendrick’s character’s jaw just drops. And I think the audience’s jaw drops because it is a total ‘What?’ moment. In a funny way it kind of sums up the movie,” said Kalfus, explaining that on set, Feig, Lively, and the designer were not sure how the sequence would play onscreen. Regardless, “We went for it.”

Asked whether she has seen anyone remove a dickey as seductively as Lively’s character does, Kalfus laughed, “No, but maybe that’s the trend that will come out of this movie.”

Emily strolls through a playground in white-tie tuxedo for no apparent reason.

Kalfus intended this particular Ralph Lauren tuxedo to be worn in a different scene, but Lively had the idea to wear it “in the most incongruous place.” That ended up being the playground. The costume designer planted a clue in the ensemble—a pair of magenta leather gloves from her own closet that are the same color as another key accessory in the film. If the wardrobe choice sounds insane, know that Kalfus had the same concern: “I had this moment where I thought, ‘I am putting her in a tuxedo to have her walk into a park and pick up her kid with the other mommies and the kids walking around.’ And again, it was like it totally works. I was just delighted.”

Emily visits a gravesite baring side-boob and carrying a walking stick.

This scene marks the most confrontational showdown between Emily and Stephanie. “So those two gals came at it in their most combative or put-together looks, knowing that it was just going to be this sort of intimate battle of wills,” explained Kalfus, who began with a double-breasted white pinstripe suit from the Ralph Lauren archives. “I had a cummerbund and a tie made. There is, in fact, a strategically cut blouse underneath, but you do see side-boob, no question. Again, it was just as much in-your-face, but still completely covered up. It’s amazing how sexy that can be.”

The “slightly gangster” look was completed with silver tie-bar pins and coordinating watch fob and chain. “And Blake of course worked it,” said Kalfus. “You can’t really put men’s suiting on women unless you’re 5’10” or 5’11” with six-inch heels.” As for the walking stick: Blake made a spontaneous decision the day she shot the scene to borrow Feig’s own stick, which he brought to set every day. “She went right up to Paul and said, ‘I just want to use your walking stick.’ Paul said, ‘You can’t just take a walking stick and walk.’ You have to know where to place it and walk with it . . . you have to do it properly.’ So they stopped everything to have a walking-stick lesson.’”

Emily does unspeakable things while wearing a Grace Kelly–style housedress.

The only time Lively’s character wears a dress in this sartorially gender-bending film is in the grand finale. The decision was a conscious one: “Emily looks like the perfect wife, after she pulled off everything else. That’s what I was going for. This devious, very complicated character was then going to whittle her way back into looking like the perfect wife again,” said Kalfus of the floral Samantha Sung 50s-style house dress she chose. “It was a real Rear Window moment. I designed the crinoline underlay, in ombré pink, to make her even more doll-like. It just sort of gilds the lily a little more.”

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