Sunday 21 February 2016

Film Fashions - The Imitation Game

At the first mention of a film about Alan Turing, I was as keen as mustard to see it, once I learnt that Benedict Cumberbatch was going to be playing Alan I was chomping at the bit - am I the only one who watches Sherlock on a loop? So the very week it hit the big screen, I booked my ticket, grabbed some popcorn and headed off to my local cinema.

Movie poster The Imitation Game

I was not disappointed, the film is wonderful it's full of codebreaking, camaraderie, cryptanalyst's and cardigans (oh and if you want to keep the alliteration going there also a Computer named Christopher), all of which is set amongst the tense backdrop of the 1940s. I mean what more could you want from a film!!

The Team at Bletchley park

There is one point I would like to make however, as fabulous this film is and it really is, it's worth noting the tagline, that little white line just under the title 'Based on the Incredible True Story' which basically means; watch this film and enjoy it but please that don't watch this film and think you could I don't know say, write and essay on the subject*, as some of what you have watched is just a little, not true!

Joan and Alan Turing
As someone who has an avid interest in the goings on at Bletchley, and as someone who has read many a tome on the wondrous AT (I feel I can call him that after the hours I have spent reading about him) it's something I just have to point out. I could get upset about the liberties taken with the truth, shaking my fists at the screen and pull a face like this, then I could go on to tell you all the inaccuracies, and believe me my pedantic little brain is egging me on to do so, but I won't as to be honest it doesn't matter. It is a great film which will make you laugh and probably cry, and if it also makes you want to learn more about Alan and the team at Bletchley Park, then that is the best tribute there could be, which is all that's important anyway, so go learn! Here would be a good place to start.

The Butterfly Balcony - Film Fashions - The Imitation Game - Alan Turing

But hang on, before you leave, I mentioned cardigans earlier and so it would be rude not to have a little look at some of the costumes, while were here! 

~ Film Fashions - The Imitation Game ~

The costume designer on 'The Imitation Game' was Sammy Sheldon Differ who is best known for her work on the costumes for 'V for Vendetta', Stardust' and 'Kick-As, to name just a few, she has done many interviews all over the web about here work on The Imitation Game so here is a quote or two
“We tried to find as much CC-41 clothing as possible, mopping up as many pieces as we could from costume houses and rental outfits. Distinguishing between the 1940s and 50s was difficult, we still had rationing in England until 1953. We were still in that postwar depression, so my practical process had to come into play to show the passage of time at Bletchley Park between 1938 and 1945." To do so, she created three distinct looks for each character but kept their wardrobes limited. “It’s a lot of changes. But you have to bear in mind that people didn't have a lot of clothing. If you had one good suit, you were well off. Most would make-do mend." (Quote Source)
Keira and Benedict costumes The Imitation Game
She has also posted sketches from her design process which show the bold colours and strong geometric patterning are really evident in her garment choices, lots of checks and tweed fabric combined with bright solid colours make up most of the cast wardrobes.
“I tried to make the texture or pattern have a code feel to it. So, everything was rather geometric — squares, lines and checks... with a subliminal code feel to it.”  (Quote Source
“I don’t know if this is an unconscious thing that everyone does, but when we look at the past, we just expect to see black and white” But she found some rare colour photographs in her research showing that “those deep ruby and rosy reds, oak yellows and blues in the film were quite common, colours were also less manufactured than they are now, with natural dyes on natural fabrics making for bolder, more honest colours, in her view. “One of my main inspirations was a photo of some children who had been evacuated to the English countryside sitting on a wall. Each has a block red, oak yellow, green or blue jumper on. So we tried to use those colours as a way of telling the emotion of the story."  (Quote Source)
I am sure like me that anyone with a true love of vintage and in particular the 1940s will already be aware just how much colour there really was back then, the walls and furniture may have been painted drab army surplus colours but colour was everywhere in clothing, just look at any copy of Stitchcraft from the 40s and you will see, black and white it was certainly not!

So in this post I am mainly going to focus on the knitwear featured in the film and unusually for me I am actually going to look at the chaps clothing too, seeing as there are many more men than women in this film it seems only right!
{Click all images to make bigger}

~ Alan Turing ~
Alan Turing - Benedict Cumberbatch

Alan played by Benedict Cumberbatch, is the highly intelligent yet somewhat dysfunctional leader of the team of cryptanalysts at Bletchley, his wardrobe is functional which reflects the lack of time he had for his appearance, it was the maths that mattered!
“Alan, the person, wore ill-fitting clothing, everything was wrinkly or a bit tight at the top and saggy at the bottom. Benedict took that and ran with it. It’s such a heavy, emotional role, we just tried stuff on and went, ‘Is this right? Are we going to get into textures? What shades of gray and blue and brown?” (Quote Source)
Knitted Pullover
First up is this slip stitch ribbed pullover, the colour of this pullover has been a bit of an Enigma in itself, is it green or is it grey, is it grey or is it green, greeny-grey, grey-green, blue green ok lets see if Sammy can clarify!
They ended up focusing quite a bit on blue, in part because of Mr. Cumberbatch’s “amazing blue eyes,” she said, and they used sweaters, shirts and suits with linear graphic prints and geometrical patterns to hint at the computer code in Turing’s work. “There’s texture everywhere with Alan.” (Quote Source)
Alan Turing's cable pullover
This is my favourite of Alan's knitted pieces, this neat little cable pullover knitted in a very simple stitch and again it's in a blue hue, works well against the textures of his other items and helps to soften his appearance!

Alan Turing Green Waistcoat
Lastly we have this snazzy little bottle green waistcoat which on a closer inspection seems to have been knitted in a solid rib stitch and has very pointy ends to each panel.

~ Joan Clarke  ~
Joan Clarke Keira Knightly costumes
Screenshots // Source // Source //Source
Joan played by Keira Knightly is the only woman in the team, her outfits tend to be bolder and brighter in colour, perhaps in an effort for her to stand out, which she certainly does!
"My instinct about Joan was very much that she should not be a fashion icon in the film. She needs to look like she is a young woman that does not think about fashion. So every single look she has, and I don’t know if anyone will notice this, there is nothing matching. And one thing Kierra said to me is that “I love the fact that you did not give me a matching hat. You would have one coat at that time, you might have two hats and you would change them up. Nothing was meant to match. I wanted it to look a little bit of a jumble, there are matching colors but I didn’t want it to look like she had twin sets on."(Quote Source)
Keira Knightly Joan Clarke Blue Cable Cardigan
Screenshots // Source // Source // Source 
First up on the knitwear front for Joan is this beautiful blue cable cardigan. It is a long hip length cardigan which has a belt for cinching it in around the waist. Lattice style cabling runs in two strips down each side of the front and also down each sleeve, the neckline has a ribbed collar which looks like it should stand up rather than be folded flat. This Cardi is actually currently on display at Bletchley Park Museum,

Jan Clarke Keira Knightly Maroon Cardigan
Screenshots // Source
The second Cardigan is a snazzy little burgundy number, which took me quite a while to realise it was in fact knitted as there are very few close ups. It's another long line drapey cardigan with some shaping created by some ribbing around the waist, I must say I really love the pockets on this one they have such an interesting draped design and again lots of texture with a cream checkered pattern, which is repeated in the neat little collar.
...a lot of the clothes we had gotten had holes in them and we mended them up. Quite a few of Kiera’s cardigans were mended so you could see that, stitched in with slightly different tones so that you could see it. The matching was on purpose." (Quote Source) 
The Imitation Game Costumes - Joan Clarke Green & Brown code breaker Cardigan
Screenshots // Ravelry
And last but by no means least, is this wonderful Fair Isle cardigan. I must have had more emails asking me if I knew where to find this pattern than any other, and it's not difficult to see why, as even with its relatively subtle colours this piece really pops off the screen! Now the eagle eyed amongst you will perhaps have noticed that this very striking cardigan was also used in the recent ITV adaptation of 'Murder on the Homefront' see it here!

Again it's a longer line cardigan with waist shaping this time created by a band of garter stitch in the main body colour, this actually gives much more of a peplum feel to the lower half it has disguised front pockets Pattern is reminiscent of wartime taped windows.

~ Peter Hilton ~
The Imitation Game Costumes - Peter Hilton Fair Isle Pullover
Peter played by Matthew Beard is the youngest member of the team, something which is emphasised by a wardrobe full of Fair Isle!

First up is this beige, brown and green Fair Isle. The more I look at this pullover the more I feel this is most likely to have been a 1970s piece, looking closely at its construction it appears to have been machine knitted, something in the way the fabric lays and the smallness of the stitches, also the cuffs and neck facings are too fine to have been knitted by hand. Anyway that does not distract from the fact that it's a very striking knitted!

The Imitation Game Costumes Peter Hilton Fair Isle Pullover Green
Next up we have this wonderful green, cream and brown Fair Isle, definitely a hand knit and a very striking one!

The Imitation Game Costumes Peter Hilton Fair Isle Pullover
Finally there is one last fair Isle (if I am honest there was another but it's not on the screen long enough for capturing) again we have a green yarn mixed with cream, this time however mixed with a bit of terracotta brown.

Ok lastly we have the last two characters in the team, both played by Downton actors, neither have any exciting knitwear but it would be a shame to leave them out!

~ Hugh Alexander ~
The Butterfly Balcony: Costumes from The Imitation Game Hugh Alexander
Screenshots // Source

Hugh is played by Matthew Goode, there is no knitwear here, Hugh is far to serious and smart for any frivolous fashions. Hugh's wardrobe is very limited he has what looks to be two suits one dark blue and one dark grey and a few pinstripe shirts!

~ John Cairncross  ~
The Butterfly Balcony: Costumes from The Imitation Game John Cairncross
Screenshots // Source
John played by Allen Leech, has a wardrobe of tweed, he appears to have two suits and a few shirts though he does have a good selection of ties!

Ok so there you have it all the best woolies from The Imitation Game, I am off now to find some suitable knitting patterns to recreate some of these pieces, wish me luck!

Wendy x

*I say this as someone who was supposed to read Wuthering Heights in the school holidays, got bored with it so went to Woolworths and bought a VHS (yes this was a long time ago) of the 1940s film version and expected to sit a test the first day back on the film knowledge alone, not best idea as most of the book is missing!


  1. Do you know where I can find pattern for that Fair Isle cardigan? My girlfriend wants it so bad and can't find it anywhere trying to help her out.

  2. Nice article. thank you for sharing :)