Like what you see Lily Tomlin, Diane Keaton, Jane Fonda — and, soon, Harrison Ford — wearing on screen? Thank Minnetonka native Allyson Fanger.
Fresh off the Netflix series "Grace and Frankie," which earned the Hopkins High School graduate five Emmy nominations for putting Fonda in crisp suits and Tomlin in wearable art, Fanger tackled fashion icon Keaton in "Mack & Rita," which opens Friday. It's a be-careful-what-you-wish-for comedy in which thirtyish Mack (Elizabeth Lail), who longs to be older, transforms into Rita (Keaton).
"It was a short shoot but it was one of the most fun puzzles I've ever gotten to solve as a costume designer," said Fanger, who got her start in the '90s on Minnesota-lensed movies including "Untamed Heart" and who is currently at work on a Harrison Ford series for Apple Plus TV called "Shrinking."
The challenge was to put seventysomething Rita in clothes we might expect to see on a younger woman, a challenge complicated by the small budget but eased by Keaton's gigantic closet. That closet has been setting trends at least as far back as the '70s, when the Oscar winner's menswear-inspired "Annie Hall" looks sent women to their grandfather's closets in search of neckties and waistcoats.
"We didn't talk a lot about fashion. We talked about Rita," said Fanger, from the "Shrinking" set.
It was a collaboration, heavily influenced by Keaton's own well-known preferences: She dresses almost exclusively in black and white. She goes for maximum coverage, from neck to toes. And she's into unusual proportions, such as a tutu-like skirt Rita sports in some scenes.
"Diane is very knowledgeable about what looks well on her and very settled into what she wants to wear. I would never doubt her instincts," said Fanger, who said the thrill of finding garments Keaton wanted to use compensated for the low salaries on "Mack & Rita."
"I didn't do it for the money. I had worked on a movie where [director] Katie Aselton was an actress and she reached out and said, 'I really want you to do this movie,'" said Fanger. "I was in it because of Katie, because of Diane and because it was a look-driven story."
"Mack & Rita" continues something that has become a specialty, and a passion, for Fanger, who also costumed Tomlin and Fonda, as well as Sally Field and Rita Moreno, for an upcoming film, "Eighty for Brady," about a group of friends on a road trip to meet their idol, Tom Brady.
"'Mack & Rita,' I feel like, is very much a Diane Keaton story about having a resurgence of style, respect and admiration," said Fanger. "This happened with 'Grace and Frankie,' too: Women are not relegated to the rocking chair anymore. They stay active and have adventures and look well into much older ages."
Fanger loved the opportunity to use costumes to tell an evolving story over the course of the Netflix series' seven seasons.
"In the first season, we kept Grace [Fonda's conservative character] in her palette — black, white, gray, camel, navy, no prints. And Frankie [Tomlin] was chaotic — every color, the Santa Fe sunset colors," said Fanger. "As their relationship develops, you see Grace starting to have a little print in her life. She was influenced by Frankie and she started to warm up and be a little more fun. She was always Grace but she started to wear pink and a lot of those print shirts."
Audiences may not be able to identify that evolution but Fanger believes the changing color story had a subliminal impact on the storytelling. By the same token, she made sure to give Grace's adult daughters — one caustic, the other sweet — items that seemed like they came from their mom's closet, as if they were establishing their own styles but were influenced by their mother's choices.
Speaking of moms, Fanger's, Helen Brown of Woodbury, has a big impact. Her "impeccable, coordinated, very detail-oriented style" provided the template for Grace's style. And she impressed upon her daughter the value of looking good.
"For me, it's always been important how you present yourself to the world, almost as a character," Fanger said.
If you want to see how Fanger presents herself to the world — or, at least, to Edina — you can see her in person at the new Margaret O'Leary shop. Fanger, who is pals with O'Leary and used a lot of her cashmere/beach pieces on "Grace and Frankie," will be at the "Shop, Style and Sip" event from 3-7 p.m. Aug. 24.
It'll be a chance to check out some stylish people, including Fanger, and to test something the designer says guides all her costume choices: "My goal is I want you to know a person before they speak."