Saltburn: Unpacking the fashion of a fan favourite
Saltburn has been captivating and, at times, repulsing audiences worldwide for all the right reasons. An undoubtedly entertaining watch with a stellar cast and witty script, it was always bound to be a success. Emerald Fennel got many things right in this film, and her attention to detail as she pays homage to the debatable fashion of the early 2000s is no exception. Taking inspiration from period style icons, including the likes of Prince Harry, Sienna Miller, Jamie Dornan, and Kate Moss; Fennel and costume designer Sophie Canale deliver an accurate execution of indie sleaze, bohemia, and over-the-top party-wear.
Felix Catton’s ‘What Happens in Kassiopi, stays in Kassiopi’ shirt.
For some background context, all you need to know is that Kassiopi is part of North Corfu’s secluded cove, commonly referred to as “Kensington on Sea” and “Millionaire’s Row.” Need I say more? It’s a holiday destination that also attracts VIPs, including Joanna Lumley, David Cameron, and the Duchess of Cornwall—and the Rothschilds also happen to have an entire estate there… obviously. This is exactly where a man like Felix Catton would go, and I can definitely vouch there is a surge of Catton-esque men every summer across the area.
Photo credits @saltburnfilm via Instagram
Nothing is more fitting for Felix Catton than a shirt that references the wild time he had in the Greek village of Kassiopi. Having grown up and lived in Corfu myself, in one of the next villages along from Kassiopi, I can confidently say Fennel and Canale were very clever in including this little anecdote.
A brilliant satire of the classic “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” phrase, which we all know has been adapted to various greasy strip holiday locations (think Kavos, Malia, or Zante). Of course, Felix’s version of a “lad’s holiday” is worlds apart from the typical teenage drinking vacation—it’s Kassiopi, with the added option of partying with the Rothschild family.
Every single outfit worn by Venetia.
Venetia encapsulates so greatly the messy yet glamorous style of early noughties fashion. From the damaged blonde extensions and leftover glitter smeared across her eyelids to the star print flares and obnoxious fringe jacket, Venetia’s style is everything the girlfriend of a rockstar would wear in 2006. In other words, Venetia shares a striking resemblance with Kate Moss during her relationship with Pete Doherty between 2005 and 2007.
It would be impossible to speak of Venetia’s style without addressing the dress worn for Oliver Quick’s masquerade birthday party. A handcrafted cobweb dress, made from chains and dewdrops, is by no means an easy piece to create, and it’s even harder to execute the dress in motion. As Canale said, “It was a real challenge to design and make. Every time we added a chain, the balance of it would be different.” The end result is undeniably worth the persistent efforts—a stunning piece of jewelry wear, then thrown over a cheap, tacky black bodycon dress. The look embodies the borderline tasteless fashion of the 2000s by cheapening such a gorgeous jewellery statement with something as simple as a low-cut tube dress.
Photo credits @saltburnfilm via Instagram
What is 2000s fashion without its brands and logos?
No matter what age you were in 2006, there is definitely a photograph of you wearing some form of garish logo. I was 4 in 2006, and even I have a photo wearing a peach-colored tee with Rip Curl plastered across it.
For those living through their teenage years in 2006, it was all about what we now call “the Y2K brands.” Y2K fashion briefly made a comeback around 2020, and I was very thankful to see that phase burn out in a matter of months; 2023 is firmly taking inspiration from the 90s for the time being, and I think the majority of the fashion-forward population are quite content with this.
For girls in 2006, having taste meant wearing Juicy Couture, Jane Norman, and Miss Sixty. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that in one of the opening scenes of Saltburn, at none other than Oxford University, there is a girl captured wearing fluorescent blue, diamante-detailed, velour Juicy flares. Canale was a genius in acquiring all the core staple pieces for 2000s teenage girls, forming a wardrobe of Kate Moss Collection Topshop dresses and outdated pieces by Kookaï.
The boys wore Jack Wills, Hollister, and Tommy Hilfiger and were arguably even more obnoxious than girls with their prominent branding. Fennell and Canale wasted no time showcasing the average teen boy’s questionable choice in shirts—more specifically, polo and rugby shirts.
Photo credits PRIME, taken via Entertainment
The Midsummer Night’s Dream Masquerade.
I know I’ve already mentioned Venetia’s stunning cobweb dress, but it wouldn’t be fair for the rest of the cast’s party attire to go unnoticed.
Beginning with Felix, his look is so quintessentially Felix; the aim is to make minimal effort and not be too much of a try-hard. Supporting his naturally louche and carefree attitude, his clothes need to enhance these key personality traits. This is exactly why Felix turns up to a 200-person extravaganza simply wearing a pair of jeans and a white tank top, matched with a set of thrown-on golden wings. Despite his lack of effort, he is still the centre of attention and awed over; when you’re a filthy rich Adonis, effort is rarely required.
Oliver Quick’s costume was a white, crisp suit embroidered with oak leaves and acorns, paired with a set of deer antlers. The embroidered details were thought out articulately, with oak leaves and acorns being symbols of power and victory. If you’ve watched the film, you’ll understand how his suit is actually a very obvious feature of foreshadowing. I’ve seen other articles describe his antlers as “menacing,” and I’d have to disagree. I actually thought Oliver’s antlers were quite tiny; they could have easily been designed to be a huge set of buck antlers, with endless stemming branches. His lack of a grand headpiece, I believe, could have been to signify the inescapable inferiority he feels in contrast to the Cattons.
As for Elspeth, she embodies the role of Titania and can be seen wearing a decadent Valentino gold gown. Throughout the film, Elspeth exudes a certain nonchalance; as a former model, she is always so effortlessly elegant. Vain as ever, she knows she can wear whatever and no matter what, it will look great. That’s why there’s such a contrast in the entirety of her wardrobe, whether it be a kimono or a ball gown, she can pull it off.
Barry Keoghan at Midsummer Night’s Dream Masquerade/ photo credits Amazon/MGM
Jacob Elordi at Midsumer Night’s Dream Masquerade/ photo credits @playtusu via Instagram
Felix’s eyebrow piercing.
This is a very niche and particular item of fashion to focus on, but there is so much to say about Felix Catton’s eyebrow piercing. First of all, it looks great. I also like how there was a disagreement between Fennell and the producers on the decision to reject the brow piercing. The argument was that Jacob Elordi is possibly the most beautiful man in the world, so how would it make any sense to ruin his face by having a piece of metal sticking out of it.
I agree with Fennell’s standpoint, and a brow piercing is what every boy like Felix Catton would wear; it suited his character so well. Every student that moves away for university ends up getting some form of piercing that their parents would probably frown upon. Speaking from personal experience, I got a belly-button piercing in my second year and was told that I’d “mutilated” myself. It makes sense that when retreating back to Saltburn, the eyebrow piercing had to go.
Nonetheless, this doesn’t take away from the initial premise of Felix’s piercing; as Fennel put it in an interview with Vogue, “If you have never been around the back of a nightclub with a boy with an eyebrow piercing and then cried into your kebab later, you have no skin in this game.” Quite right, Emerald Fennell. Most of us have enough of an ego to think Felix Catton would give us a chance, but we would also probably all walk away crying.
Photo credits MGM and Amazon Studios, taken via The Cut