How ‘My Policeman’ costume designer Annie Symons created that perfectly tailored police uniform for Harry Styles [Exclusive Video Interview]

You could say that working on “My Policeman” would be any costume designer’s dream. The movie, which had a limited theatrical release in the U.S. on October 21 before debuting on Amazon Prime Video on November 4, is a romantic period drama that takes place across two timelines in 20th-century Britain and features everything from a well-attended opera performance to an excursion to sun-drenched Venice. But what primarily attracted Annie Symons to the project was actually the profoundness of the story.

“I couldn’t stop crying,” reveals the film’s Emmy and BAFTA Award-winning costume designer about her visceral reaction to reading the script for the first time in her recent webchat with Gold Derby (watch our exclusive video interview above). “I thought it was so powerful and so personal. I thought… this story will be personal to just about everybody watching it for some reason or another. And I was just drawn in by the sort of honesty of the emotions.”

Based on Bethan Roberts‘ 2012 novel of the same name, “My Policeman” carves a visually transporting, heart-stopping portrait of forbidden love and changing social conventions through the eyes of three people caught up in the shifting tides of history, liberty and forgiveness. Directed by Michael Grandage, it tells the story of closeted gay policeman Tom (Harry Styles), who falls in love with museum curator Patrick (David Dawson) in 1950s Brighton. Bound by the legalities of the time, which prohibit the two men from displaying their affection for each other in public, they meet in secret, and Tom eventually becomes married to schoolteacher Marion (Emma Corrin). In the 1990s, Tom (Linus Roache), Marion (Gina McKee) and Patrick (Rupert Everett) are still reeling with longing and regret, but have one last chance to repair the damage of the past.

The flashbacks in the movie take place during a very particular time in British history, when the population was just beginning to move out of rationing, a means of ensuring fair distribution of food and commodities that was introduced by the British government shortly after the start of World War II. Hence, even though people were by and large still suffering financially, they were beginning to slowly feel relief and be able to breathe again. Symons therefore wanted to infuse a sense of possibility and hope into the costumes, while also reminding viewers that the movie’s characters are still very much limited by the constraints of the time.

“I wanted to reflect a sort of innocent joy, I suppose, in the colors, but also remind the audience — which is what you do with costume: you signify things about character and period — that we’re really still in a different period,” explains Symons. “Patrick, in a sense, is slightly old-fashioned, slightly gentlemanly, compared to the more youthful Tom and Marion. I wanted to limit their choices in terms of what they would be able to afford… For Tom’s character — I think he was very limited in the choices he was able to make. He was constrained by the times he lived in, fighting his desire, his nature… So, all his civilian clothes are as uniform as his police uniform in a sense — [boasting] that sort of simple navy blue, navy blue/white.”

Tom’s police uniform is, of course, among the movie’s standout costumes, not least because it is perfectly tailored to Styles’ physique. But in order to achieve that result, Symons had the star wear a belt, even though it would have been uncommon for a then contemporary policeman to wear one. Or was it?

“The jury is actually out on that because I’ve found evidence to support the fact that some policemen, somewhere, would have worn a belt at that point,” avows the costume designer, who underlines that she consulted with experts about uniforms. “Ultimately, I [made] the decision not to put [Styles] in the rather trunk-like unbelted version because I wanted to accentuate his physique, which is very handsome, young and athletic. The belt just gave him a waist, basically, rather than no waist at all.”

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