Keira Knightley’s dress in Last Night
Focused on love and desire, on marriage and temptation, Last Night raises the question of what is worse: physical or emotional cheating?
Knightley is married to Sam Worthington, her university sweetheart. Over the course of a night apart, she reconnects with her French ex Guillaume Canet while Worthington doesn’t fight his attraction for Eva Mendes much.
Although she starts the movie in a simple black trousers-oversize jumper-on white vest combo before moving on to casual track pants, the attire Hollywood thinks all freelance magazine writers wear, the real wardrobe star is Knightley’s navy blue dress worn on her date night with Canet.
Considering that three quarters of the movie play out in this dress, costume designer Ann Roth must have spent quite a bit of time sourcing or designing it.
The dress is first introduced in a classic Hollywood getting ready scene, one that’s not too different from the makeover trope, considering Knightley’s move from casual to evening style.
Adjusting her bra, putting on a touch of Touche Eclat, Knightley’s character doesn’t just don a dress; she abandons the self-confidence and physical comfort she displays with her husband. She’s both excited and uneasy with the idea of meeting up with her ex and this pivotal scene suggests they might have unfinished business.
In an interview with Interview magazine, director Massy Tadjedin describes the dress choices as “participatory”. Knightley’s is as different from Mendes’ as their respective body shapes and character personalities.
A while back, ELLE UK published a feature about the perception of women based on their curves. It opposed Mendes’ and Knightley’s chest sizes as Hollywood examples of the other woman and the wife, as an evidence of how women are stereotyped based on their silhouettes.
The dresses mirror these prejudices. Knightley’s falls below the knees, with a ribbon belt and a small décolleté whereas Mendes wears a wrap dress. Tadjedin explains that
You know if you’ve ever worn a wrap dress, you sort of have to be conscious of when it’s opening when you’re walking, when the cleavage is getting too low, when the belt needs to be tightened—you’re always engaged with it. And also for a lot of women, like me, it requires a slip under it, and if you’re worried about too much of the space between your legs being evident, if the sun hits it at the wrong angle…
Knightley’s dress isn’t just a clothing choice, it’s an argument on her character’s hypocrisy.
For Tadjedin, Mendes is the character who really owns up to her morals whereas Knightley, despite an earlier fit of jealousy at her husband and a demure dress, stops short of sleeping with another man but doesn’t consider any of their emotional connection cheating.