Margot Robbie's Daring Red Look in Babylon Was Inspired by This Hollywood Trailblazer

Babylon costume designer Mary Zophres exclusively shared insight with E! News about Margot Robbie's stand-out look from the upcoming movie.

By Alyssa Morin, Carly Shihadeh Dec 20, 2022 8:49 PMTags
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Lights, camera, fashion.

There's no denying Margot Robbie is expected to charm the screen in Babylon, Paramount's upcoming feature that spotlights the film industry's transition from the silent era to early talkies in the 1920s.

And what better way to capture the glitz and glamour of the Roaring Twenties than through a fabulous wardrobe? In fact, the first outfit Margot's character, Nellie, wears in the new flick is a daring red playsuit that features a plunging neckline and sarong skirt.

Babylon costume designer Mary Zophres revealed that Anna May Wong—the first Chinese American movie star—was the inspiration behind the red-hot look.

"There's a photograph of her and she has this scarf that's wrapped around her neck and it comes down," she exclusively told E! News about the Hollywood trailblazer. "That's where I got the idea for Margot."

According to Zophres, the fiery playsuit was meant to make a statement.

"It says strength, power, anger, passion, and all these things you want to the audience know about Nellie in the first 20 minutes of the film," she exclusively told E! News. "It's a very risqué and provocatively-dressed time period."

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Zophres, who created the red-hot look out of vintage China silk, said it was a dream to work with the Barbie actress.

"She was very open to wearing anything," Zophres shared. "Nellie is a daring woman and isn't afraid to put herself out there in a way that's sexual at times. Margot was fearless and was very trusting of the process. It was a great collaboration."

Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures

And while Margot's red getup might be considered tame by today's standards, it marked a thrilling new era of fashion in the 1920s. Before flapper dresses ruled the dance floor and women could bare their knees and shoulders, they had to be completely covered up. 

"After a very repressed period of time, especially for women who were corseted for a century, and then it's not in fashion to wear a corset anymore," Zophres shared. "Can you imagine?"

She added, "And it's OK for a woman to walk down the street without a male companion. I can only imagine that's part of what spurred the Roaring Twenties."

Screen Archives/Getty Images

As she put it, "We're just portraying it a little bit more realistically than might have been portrayed before."

Babylon hits theaters Dec. 23.