On the 21st of July 2023, if you had gone down to the cinema, you were sure of a big surprise…
A sea of bright pink and gray cinema goers, announced the arrival of the summer’s two highly anticipated blockbusters. One the cheerful and rather nostalgic Barbie brought to life with actress Margot Robbie as the plastic doll. The second the stoic autobiographical Oppenheimer with its more reserved and world damming story line.
Released on the same day, coining the phrase “Barbenheimer,” the movie outfits, let alone their plots, couldn’t be more different. From Barbie’s dreamland of pink gingham, sequins and bows, which we’ve already discussed here. To the muted and understated vintage tailoring of the Oppenheimer outfits, that tell a story with world changing consequences.
J. Robert Oppenheimer
Dubbed the “Father of the Atomic Bomb” J. Robert Oppenheimier, is the theoretical physicist who is credited for his work leading the Manhattan Project, that eventually developed the world’s first nuclear weapon during the Second World War. But history aside, truthfully we are more interested in his uniform of suits, hats and jackets that made up his Oppenheimer outfits.
A Young J. Robert Oppenheimer’s Gray Three Piece Suit
With the Christopher Nolan written and directed biographical story of J. Robert Oppenheimer, predominantly focusing on his studies, it is fitting that we should start our discussion of his Oppenheimer outfits with his three-piece gray suit.
Depicting a younger version of the character, during his time studying and teaching, the gray tweed wool pants, jacket and waistcoat have just the right level of prep for a lecturer. While still being stylish with its slender fit and added interest in the extended collar points on his pale blue shirt.
The Uniform of a Genius: Oppenheimer’s Brown Suit
Quickly becoming a uniform of sorts for the theoretical physicist, by the time he is the head of the Manhattan Project during World War Two his suits have lost their vests, and have a much more oversized fit. In this case the taupe brown two-piece with its double pleat front pants and single-breasted jacket, with a longer thigh skimming length and sharp oversized shoulders hangs, but doesn’t overpower, the slender body of Oppenheimer.
The Brown Wool Overcoat of Robert Oppenheimer
As the son of Julius Oppenheimer, “one of the most knowledgeable fabrics men in New York,” according to American Prometheus the autobiography the movie is based on, it is no surprise that our scientist knows how to dress. Turning heads for the simplicity of his tailored garments, in their drab gray and brown color-ways. With the dark brown, single-breasted wool overcoat that Oppenheimer wears when meeting Albert Einstein expertly mirroring his matching taupe brown suit and accessories.
J. Robert Oppenheimer’s 1954 Security Hearing Suit in Oppenheimer
With the Oppenheimer outfits of boxy suits and sharp tailoring, being reflected on the fashion runways, the movie has had a vast effect on the men’s fashion landscape. The rise of Oppenheimercore, a nod to Barbiecore, has seen men flock back to suits in the same way the scientist himself uses them as a form of armor.
Especially in 1954 for his eventual fall from grace, when he wore a much darker gray, somber three-piece to his Security Hearing. No doubt a subtle nod to how far he has come, and changed, since that first light gray suit of his youth.
The Pork Pie Hat
Cillian Murphy is no stranger to a hat, with possibly his most well known character Thomas Shelby of Peaky Blinders, most famously remembered for wearing a tweed Newsboy Style Flat Cap. But for Oppenheimer, costume designer Ellen Mirojnick, traveled all over the world to find the perfect hat for the theoretical physicist. Settling on the slightly elongated Pork Pie Hat with a wide brim in a grayish-brown, that shifted color depending on the light.
The Wife – Kitty Oppenheimer
Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer might have been the lonely and isolated wife to the straying man of the hour, but no matter what life threw at her she never flinched, or showed him anything less than total love and devotion. Even when her own life, seen through her Oppenheimer outfits, was cracking around her.
Homely and Feminine: Kitty’s Cardigans and Blouses in Oppenheimer
It wasn’t long after Kitty first met, and subsequently fell in love with, J. Robert Oppenheimer, that she saw her own career and aspirations as a scientist fade away. Instead becoming a house-wife and mother, with a wardrobe of Oppenheimer outfits designed for simplicity and practicality. From her simple blouses paired with pants, to her delicate button-up cardigans in soft, muted tones. Even her most extravagant patterned cardigan sticks to black and cream tones, with only the slightest subtle dash of red.
Kitty’s wardrobe of practical garments normally stays away from bold patterns, like this cardigan, instead she opts for simple and subtle looks so that she can fade into the background.
Emily Blunt Wearing a Vintage Demure Blue Dress as Kitty Oppenheimer
Initially a confident, well-to-do woman with an elegance that is conveyed through her wardrobe, hair and make-up, Kitty’s softer blue color palette blended flawlessly with the light grays of her soon to be husband’s early looks. Just like her powdery blue dress, with its statement pointed collar and shoulder detailing. That when used alongside her soft make-up and gently curled dark hair, was the epitome of the stylish decade the costume department were trying to recreate.
Kitty Oppenheimer’s Bold Red Skirt in Oppenheimer
For a movie with so little vibrant color, a palette of browns, grays and creams predominantly featuring in every character’s Oppenheimer outfits it was a surprise to see Kitty in a bold red skirt. In a similar way that Emily Blunt’s, Liza Drake in Pain Hustlers, started to dress to fit into her new role, Kitty’s colorful outfit marks her as an outsider amongst the scientists and military personnel. With the modest knee-length scarlett skirt, softened by the cream blouse and stylish black blazer, portraying her as the dutiful wife.
Katherine “Kitty” Oppenheimer’s 1954 Security Hearing Skirt Suit in Oppenheimer
By the time that Oppenheimer faced his 1954 Security Hearing, Kitty’s wardrobe and overall look was drab, conservative and had suffered because of her drinking. But when she dutifully walks into that room to be interrogated in support of her husband, little did the men gathered there know what they were about to face. Simple, dark and somber her two-piece skirt suits, tailored to flatter her figure, contrast the bold and fiery red nails and lipstick that hint at who Kitty really is.
The Mistress – Jean Tatlock
Florence Pugh, might have only had a small part to play in the Oppenheimer character of Jean Talock, but as it turns out as the mistress of the “Father of the Atomic Bomb” it was an important part to play. With just as important Oppenheimer outfits for us to analyze.
Florence Pugh in Jean Tatlock’s Tan Brown Coat in Oppenheimer
The young and troubled Communist Party USA member, flawlessly portrayed by Florence Pugh in another of her captivating performances (and whose onscreen style we have broken down here), had a big part to play in Oppenheimer’s life. But Jean Tatlock, a psychiatrist in her own right, played that role from the shadows as his mistress. Something that is reflected in her wardrobe of dark browns and muted creams. Like her 1930’s pale tan brown coat, that is complemented by a soft cream blouse, brown skirt and accessories in a subtle, yet stylish way.
Jean Tatlock’s Orange Wool Skirt and Brown Striped Sweater
Eventually going on to take her own life, Jean Tatlock’s depression-filled story is reflected in her Oppenheimer outfits that stick to the overall movie’s dark and muted color palette. With grays, browns and creams the shades most often used, just as it was with Kitty, it is a shock to see Jean wearing a bright and vibrant skirt. This time a burnt orange, modest paneled knee-length skirt in a wool tweed, that she tones down with a luxurious, supple brown sweater with its matching narrow orange stripes.
Although the true historical events that were depicted in Oppenheimer had real life consequences and took a heavy toll on humanity, it is alright to still want to scream from the rooftops how good the Oppenheimer outfits were. Especially with the effect the movie seems to be having on the often overlooked men’s fashion industry. With its perfect mix of statement pieces and tailored suits having us all desperately searching the term “Oppenheimercore” for some inspiration.
For all Fans, we recommend : 10 Gift Ideas for Oppenheimer Movie Fans