Oscar-winning costume designer Michael O’Connor discusses the gorgeous period costumes in Ammonite, which illuminate character and class just as much as the film’s dialogue.
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Early in Ammonite, nineteenth-century paleontologist Mary Anning (Kate Winslet) trudges along the stony shores of Lyme Regis, hunting for fossils, dressed in a tattered, blue, checkered dress. When she spots a promising stone on an outcropping of rock, she hitches up her dress, revealing a pair of trousers concealed beneath the skirt. Mary has barely uttered a word thus far in the film, but the layers of her costume convey a woman more concerned with practicality than appearance. She’ll appease patriarchal society by throwing on a feminine outer layer, but underneath, her clothes are functional for the job she loves doing.
Costume designer Michael O’Connor and his team made almost all the clothes in Ammonite from scratch, ensuring that each piece used colour, material, and the wear of the garment to communicate each character’s personality and class. Mary wears four different outfits in the film: a blue dress for outdoor work, an almost identical dress for indoor work, a smart blue dress for social gatherings, and a red dress that she buys at the end of the film for a trip to London. Her limited wardrobe reveals her hand-to-mouth lifestyle, as does the wear and tear of her outdoor dress, which is caked in mud, faded, and frayed. Mary has the clothes she needs to survive and function in society, and nothing more. She only needs one smart dress because she’s something of a hermit — it’s not as if she goes out enough for people to notice repeat outfits.
By contrast, Mary’s aristocratic lover, Charlotte Murchison (Saoirse Ronan), has an array of beautiful, delicate dresses that look ridiculous on fossil expeditions in harsh weather. Charlotte braves Dorset’s angry winds in a corset with a dress that leaves her shoulders exposed. She is all adornments: bonnets, ribbons, parasols, lace, intricately patterned fabric. While Mary is confined to blue, and occasionally red (a colour Lee and O’Connor reserve to connote passion, as was the case in God’s Own Country), Charlotte’s wardrobe is abundant with variety, although her fragility and grief over losing a child is reflected in paler colour choices. Lee’s film leaves a lot unsaid, allowing O’Connor’s costumes to express Mary’s and Charlotte’s melancholy through muted colours, their connection through shared instances of red, and their class differences through the size and intricacy of their respective wardrobes.
I spoke with Michael O’Connor (Jane Eyre, Dredd, Fanny Lye Deliver’d, an Oscar-winner for The Duchess) about his exquisite, BAFTA-nominated costume design in Ammonite. He discusses negotiating period-accurate costumes with Francis Lee, the joys of holding real fabrics and materials in your hands, and how undervalued men’s period costumes are.
Seventh Row (7R): What attracted you to working on Ammonite?
Michael O’Connor: Well, the script’s great. It’s down in Lyme Regis. I love this period [1840s]. Having done [the period] several times before, or done around it, I’m always fascinated by it. Generally, you don’t get to do everything about the period. When you’re looking into the periods, there’s so much more there than you actually can put on screen. So I don’t tire of that period.
7R: You must have had a jumpstart on the research process, then.
Michael O’Connor: I think the funniest thing is, you [have to think], “Well, have I done exactly this period before?” Well, not really. You’ve done a little bit later, maybe twenty years later, and maybe you’ve done a little bit before. So you find a new way of looking at it.
I had worked with Francis very, very briefly when he was an actor. It was a small part and he was just starting. This was twenty-five years ago or something. And so we hadn’t remembered it at that point. We looked different, and I don’t tend to check up too much on who people are [before meeting them for a project]. It just has to be your instinct, whether or not you enjoy the project and enjoy the script.
7R: What did you work with him on before?
Michael O’Connor: We worked briefly together on Topsy-Turvy, the Mike Leigh film about Gilbert and Sullivan. But we didn’t remember. After a few weeks, it sort of came up in conversation, and then I think Francis had to rack his brains to remember if he was in [that film] or not. Because with Mike, you can’t always tell if you’re going to be in it.
7R: I understand that Francis has quite a lengthy process for working with actors, particularly working out their backstory and stuff like that. How do you fit into that process? Are you working with the actors during that time?
Michael O’Connor: When we were sitting there together with these few images in front of us, Francis first of all said, “I never imagined myself making a period film.” Obviously, I’d seen and loved God’s Own Country and could see the relationship between the two films. Once you’ve seen the direction and the behaviour of the actors and the script [in the previous film], you transpose that onto [this new project], and you understand what you think is going to happen. But Francis was like, “Period film is not the thing I imagined myself doing.” It’s not like he was coming at it like, “I love the idea of it being this period.” I think he was wanting to tell, more importantly, the emotional story. I don’t think there was much desire to explore the 1840s.
The good thing was — because, as you say, there’s quite a long and deep process from the start — Francis had already been down to Lyme several times. He’s researching it all the time. I think he’s doing it himself; I don’t think he has anyone doing it for him or with him. So he’d been down to Lyme, combing the beaches. At the first meeting, he had a fossil and plonked it in my hands and said, “There’s a piece of dinosaur shit for you.”
We’d look at images, and he’d tell me what he didn’t like, and why he didn’t like it. There were things that, in my head, for this period, I had considered very simple, and I thought, “Crikey.” Francis was looking at it thinking, “This period is going to be distracting.” So I think the idea was to not go in that way. That was the start for me.
From then on, the process that the actors [went through], Francis was on that immediately. I was involved in speaking to the actors, giving Francis some clearer images and fabric swatches, and saying why I thought something was the right thing. And then we discussed it. Things would change; things would develop.
I’d have a meeting with the actors, just me and them. And then we would do provisional fittings, which was basically, “Let’s get something up to the state where it fits you,” with underwear, particularly. You’re always starting with the underwear, especially as they’re going to be taking clothes off [in the film].
[Figuring out the costumes] was simpler for Saoirse [Ronan] because of the type of woman [her character, Charlotte,] was, and her class. But for Kate [Winslet, who plays Mary Anning], it was more difficult. We started off with two famous pictures of Mary Anning. And of course, they’re not anything like anyone wants to portray her, with her bonnet and her cape and everything. Well, there’s obviously an element of that [to the real woman], but this is a woman that goes and scrapes around on the beach, and she’s certainly not going down like that. This is a portrait costume, so this is a costume that she may never even have had or worn, because those things are done later.
Clothes are valuable. They’re not something, like today, that you could throw away. They still weren’t using the sewing machine [in the 1840s]. That hadn’t been invented. So people were making things by hand. We know [the Anning family are] poor. So anything that was anything will be repaired until they could no longer be repaired.
There was such a thing as a second-hand clothes industry. [I figured that] her father was dead, and she very much respected her father, and [so she used] his leftover clothes. There’s a value in them, as with the mother with the China ornaments [that she keeps to remember the children she lost].
There was a practicality [element]. [Mary] had to have warmth, so there would be knitwear. We know fishermen had knitwear; the men used to knit their own jumpers. They all had their own individual patterns for different towns, so that people would know, if there was a shipwreck, [where they were from] in order to identify them. So we created a sort of world where we designed our own fisherman’s jumpers.
You had to wear something underneath clothes in those days, because you didn’t have a bath. People weren’t as clean as they are [now]. So you would wear something linen, which was expensive in those days. You would wear it against your skin, then you would put your other clothes on top of that. For men, it was a shirt. For women, it would have been a chemise, like a slip, and then you would put all your other clothes on top of that. They didn’t go against your skin, so they didn’t need to be cleaned so often.
All the time, I’m thinking, what can she realistically wear? There was a point where you think, she’s literally going to go out like a man. And you can’t really be like that, because she’s in public. The beach was private, but people can see things. The idea was to make stuff that would cover the trousers. She wore a skirt [over the trousers]. I imagine the skirt had been left over from a dress, where the top of the dress had shredded. As you can see in the film, the skirt is patched. And then when she got down on the beach, she hitches the skirt up.
I had lots of conversations about how it’s very cold down there, so she’ll need fingerless gloves, and all these layers to keep her warm. It was a great way of putting in some femininity, of having the skirt. But the practicality was that the skirt would get in the way. She’d have to get it up. And then you wouldn’t want stockings getting caught and damaged on the beach. What you need is a pair of strong, sturdy trousers. The logical thing was sailors’ trousers.
7R: How long was your prep process to put all this together?
Michael O’Connor: Not very long. It’s about seven weeks or so from the start of getting the job: your first day with your script and your pencil to the first day of shooting. But as you’re going through [the shoot], you’re still making stuff.
That [prep time] includes finding materials, finding a place to set up, talking to Francis, going to meetings with the rest of the production, getting hold of the actors, talking to them, seeing them, getting it close to where it needs to be, and waiting for the cast to be decided upon. Kate and Saoirse were there at the very beginning. That’s always a blessing, because sometimes [on a film], one of [the actors is] there and the other one they’re still deciding on. That really creates a lot of trouble. But in this case, they were there from the beginning.
7R: You said that you had a meeting with each actor before the fitting. What kinds of things did you talk about with them?
Michael O’Connor: The good thing is I had worked with Kate before [on Quills], but also many, many years ago, and not as the designer but as an assistant designer. So we had a sort of relationship, or we knew each other. I’d never worked with Saoirse. But the makers that I was using had made for Saoirse before, so they were aware of important things like her body shape.
As time is of the essence, the best thing is to talk to Francis to find out his ideas, because Francis was really keen and involved. Then, go to the actor and get their take on it. This gives them something solid to react to. Francis was always keen that the actors would have a strong involvement.
7R: How much of the wardrobe in the film was made versus sourced?
Michael O’Connor: All of it is made. All the principal costumes are made. No one wears anything that existed before. Even though there are places that have clothes from that period, it never seems to be exactly what you want. You want something new.
An important aspect of getting this period right, without having to do too much, is to make sure that [the clothes] fit in a real way. Because sometimes clothes don’t always fit so well. If they’re hired, you’d have to take them in, and you see that they’ve been taken in before from some other previous job, and they’re not just the right colour, or just the right thing. Plus, obviously, in this [film], quite a lot the costumes needed doubling.
7R: You said that you had an early meeting with Francis where he pointed out some things that he didn’t want for period clothing. What were those things?
Michael O’Connor: Well, if there was a picture of a bonnet… I mean, even if you dip a small toe into bonnets of the 1830s or 1840s, they are quite fantastic. They’re quite big and over-decorated. I showed him a very tasteful, small, brown bonnet, with a tiny yellow flower on it. Francis was slightly horrified at the sight of it, like, “Christ almighty, they’re not going to be wearing that.” I thought, “Well, I’ll take that information and go away and see what we can do, knowing that his instinct is not for that.”
There were occasions when we were getting close, and he’d be looking at the fitting footage — because most fittings were filmed live on WhatsApp, which was kind of awkward, but it’s easier that way. Francis was already down on the south coast, waiting for the actors to come to start their rehearsal period. It’s good to get [him watching the fittings] because you get a lot of sign off. And Francis was unlikely, once he agreed to something, to change his mind.
I explained, “Here is a very flamboyant, florid bonnet from that period. And here is the very simplified, non-obtrusive, non-distracting version.” Here is the real period, and this is also nodding to what’s [real]. If you’re going to set the film in that period, then we need to be in that period, because we’re going and finding locations for that period. We’re doing all sorts of things: pens, knives, quills, candles, candle holders, crockery. Why are we not having costumes of the period? They don’t have to be fancy. They can be much more simplified.
7R: How much do you value absolute truth to the period, versus taking creative license? How do you balance that?
Michael O’Connor: It really depends from film to film. But in this instance, and on other films, I’ve seen no need to. The real stuff is interesting. I find it fascinating when I hold real things in my hand: the shape of them, the materials they use, why they did it. They’re beautiful things. Even the simpler things, especially the things that Kate wears, like the jacket, they’re all authentically real. You don’t have to find another way. The thing looks great. It looks real. It’s practical. It’s a great material. It’s worn for comfort, worn for warmth, and all the colours are available. They don’t have to be reinvented. I mean, we were taking the fussiness out of dresses and bonnets and things.
Obviously, you can’t use original materials [because] they don’t exist. So you find things that reflect them. That’s always the challenge. When you’re with an actor, and [they] put the thing on, sometimes the question comes up, “Why does this work?” And they’re thinking, “There’s something really right about this.” And you say, “Because it’s real.” The chair is real. The bed is real. The linen on the bed is real. Let’s embrace it.
7R: Speaking of bonnets and Francis’s distaste for them, you did actually end up using a few bonnets in the final film. There’s a bonnet in Mary’s final outfit, and Charlotte wears a few, as well. How did you negotiate those choices?
Michael O’Connor: If you like, there could have been more. There could have been hairdressing; there could have been ribbons in hair and flowers in hair. That’s Francis. He’s the director; that’s his vision. I abided by it. I’m going to offer [those items] because I believe that it existed. The decision is his to say yes or no.
My argument is, if you imagine the film without one, you’re looking at a completely different film. But if you see them here and there, it gives you the weight of where you are and gives you the sense of it. When you wear the bonnet, but then you take the bonnet off, it thereby allows a moment of intimacy. Without that bonnet, you don’t have the moment to change something and [trigger] that emotional change.
7R: What was your collaboration with production designer Sarah Finlay and the director of photography (DoP) Stéphane Fontaine like?
Michael O’Connor: The production designer is the first person, after Francis, that you go and see. Normally, they’re the people finding the places [where you are going to shoot], so they’re ahead of you. What you don’t want is to have a production where the two don’t work together. I like to know from them, because it inspires me. On [Ammonite], it was slow to get started. Normally, it happens earlier where you see the way they’re decorating the room, and then it’s for me to add, and not go off in a completely different direction. You have to be aware of what the production designer and the art director are doing all the time.
Of course, with the DoP, we’re listening to what he says and his reaction to colours, patterns, and textures. It’s not necessary to run everything by him, but it’s always interesting to know what his initial reaction will be. You want to know, if I use this shade of blue with this black, is that going to look really strong? Or is that going to look like it’s almost grey? Sometimes, the note can be, just up it slightly, take it further, because of the [film] stock we plan to use.
7R: What kinds of conversations did you have about colour amongst the team? I did notice strong colour themes in the costumes. Mary mostly wears blue.
Michael O’Connor: At the initial meeting, Francis said he doesn’t want red [to appear in the film] unless it’s in a moment of passion. It is there to describe passion. That colour was in quite a lot of use in those days.
There’s one little illustration of Mary Anning, a very quick sketch of her on the beach, and she wears this sort of plaid thing. Obviously, [that pattern is] very typical of the time. You think of pioneers going out in America in the 1840s and 50s [wearing] this plaid, for want of a better word, gingham. So I had many different versions and samples of how big the check [in the pattern] is, how blue it is.
She wears a dress when she’s in the shop, which we called her front-of-house dress. There’s customers coming in, so there has to be some sort of presentable, feminine garment. It’s in the same vein as what she wears on the beach, and people probably look at the skirt and think it’s the [same] skirt [she wears on the beach]. But the top part isn’t. It’s another blue little check dress, which, in truth, is a modern Japanese fabric. It was in shades of blue. She also has a dress to go to the party, which was a purpley-blue, muscle colour. Again, it’s all about the sea and the beach.
She has the red dress [that she wears at the end of the film when she goes to London] because it’s a moment of passion, going to London. That’s direction from Francis. If you were to watch [the film], no one’s wearing a yellow waistcoat, or yellow trousers, or a yellow dress. It just doesn’t happen. When Francis meant red, he meant anywhere near red. Even if it was a sort of warmish brown, there was no way. Unless there was a logical reason. It sounds like [the process was] full of obstacles, but it isn’t really, because it’s clarity. It just tells you, that’s the brief, this is the way to go, so you won’t be confused.
For Charlotte, green is her thing. There’s greens, and there’s neutrals. You’ll see it at the moment when Kate comes to London. She takes her bonnet and cape off, and she’s sat in her red dress, and Charlotte has a dress which is trimmed with red. That’s the note of passion. I remember putting that on and saying to Francis, “This is passion.”
7R: One of the most important things about Mary’s fossil hunting dress is that you can really tell it’s one of the only dresses she has. It’s worn down and dirty. How did you make it look worn?
Michael O’Connor: It’s something that [the character has] worn for a while; the sun’s bleached it. If you wear something, and it’s a favourite thing of yours, it’s not long before the knees go through or the elbows go through or it starts catching. You have to imagine where the rocks would have been caught.
I’m a great believer in trying to gradually do it. It’s very, very difficult. One of the most difficult things to do is to make something new, and then to make it look old. You can paint it; you can sand it; you can burn it. The camera, in my view, cleans things. It makes things look much cleaner than they are. Even on the jacket, where we had holes, you could only just about notice them. [You’re always wondering,] could we have gone further with things like that?
7R: What fabrics did you choose to make Charlotte’s outfits?
Michael O’Connor: In those days, you had [certain clothes] for an occasion. For Charlotte, obviously, the idea was to start her off in mourning, which I thought was great, because it’s simple. You don’t know anything [about her from her clothes]. She has a dress on when she comes downstairs in the hotel for dinner [early in the film]. In those days, they would make a dress in silk that would be an evening dress or be off the shoulder with short sleeves. And then, they would make a pair of long sleeves that they would attach to the short sleeves. And they would have a little cape that would then be made of the same material that would go on top. That becomes a complete day costume. A funeral costume is a short sleeve dress, but it actually has detachable sleeves, and it’s what she ends up wearing when she first goes to the beach. So what she sits in the restaurant with is what she actually sits on the beach in. You’re not supposed to notice it.
Obviously, she has the more silky costumes, but also she has cotton. A lot of cotton. She knows she’s going to the seaside. She knows she’s going down there with her husband. So the dresses she has in her suitcases are dresses [for the occasion]. There were these sea colours, greens, waves in the design.
Those fabrics are bought from companies that reproduce fabrics based on original designs from around that period. The only problem is they’re thick because they’re for furniture. (laughs) You have to spend a lot of time washing them to soften them up. They’re made for tough wearing cushions and things like that.
Even in her London dress, when she’s wearing the red bow, there are things about the sea. That dress has little designs [related to the sea]. You don’t see it. The camera doesn’t pick it up. But sometimes, that’s not the point. The point is that Saoirse will know it’s there.
7R: What fabrics did you use for Mary’s outfits?
Michael O’Connor: Apart from that practical gingham skirt on the beach and in the shop, Mary’s outfits were always going to be plain. She’s not thinking about clothes. She’s not thinking about fashion. It was simple. Her other dresses are [made of] rough materials. If you had printed fabric, or a woven fabric with a pattern in it, that was very expensive.
7R: I really loved Fiona Shaw’s character, Elizabeth Philpot, who lives in the same town as Mary and is her ex-lover. The first time you see her in the film, you instantly know so much about her just by looking at her. How did you approach designing her clothes?
Michael O’Connor: The sexuality of these characters is key in the film. There were many conversations with Francis, Kate, and Fiona about, what are we saying here? Are we putting shirts and ties on women? You have that with Gentlemen Jack, which is factual; it’s what she did. But for these women, that is not the life they’re leading.
[Elizabeth Philpot is] one of the leaders of the society down in Lyme. When you first meet Fiona, she’s with her partner and the doctor, and they’re in the street. I think they’re going to church in their Sunday best. They’re a bit flirtatious. She stays feminine, Fiona, except for when she’s in her own house in her own garden. That’s the moment, when there’s a conversation between the two of them [Elizabeth and Mary], when you see her [wearing] a much different look. She’s in her gardening clothes, with her loose jacket. There’s patterns.
Fiona, obviously, had a lot to say about her character. With Fiona, there’s no way you’re going to make anything for her without her seeing it clearly first. She will have done rehearsal time with Francis before they ever came to me, or at least [they would have] had a long conversation. That would be information I would get from her. I would have options of fabric, and then, I would lay them over the actress, and we contemplate it like that. Is this material too bright? I think Fiona’s word was “celebratory.” When [Elizabeth is] at the party, in a social setting, she’s in an evening dress, which is a plaid, very much using the sort of Victoria and Albert type inspiration. There’s lots of tartan and plaid around at that time. And Fiona’s the only one in anything like that. You say, “Maybe, as an older woman, she would be [wearing] darker [clothes]?” But she said, “But why? It’s a celebration. It’s a party.”
She’s great, you know. She’s a great woman to work with. We’d also worked together on Harry Potter, so we’ve known each other for a long time. I like listening to what [the actors have] got to say. They’re the ones that are going to wear it and perform in it.
7R: Did you get more time to talk with the actors on Ammonite than you might typically?
Michael O’Connor: It’s similar. Some actors don’t want to say anything. It’s not even a male or a female thing. Some actors will just say, “I’ll let you do it.” And others will say, “I really want to get involved.” I don’t know why that is. And maybe it varies from project to project. Some actors won’t even look in the mirror. It’s not that they’re not interested. I think they don’t feel like they can contribute.
On Ammonite, it was very clear that Francis wanted them to have a view. It was part of the process that they had a view on the clothes. Which is great for me, because, as you can tell, I could speak for hours about how you folded [the clothes], why you chose them, who made it, where it came from, and everything like that. Which some actors will love and embrace. It just worked on Ammonite.
When Saoirse went into the sea with that bathing costume, it was [originally] more like a flesh coloured thing. She just said, “I get the feeling that it would be better if it was a deeper, darker, stronger colour.” I know in the references of those things, they look like prisoners’ outfits. So we went with that, from her guidance.
On the jumper that Kate wears, there’s a pattern that stops at a certain point on the body. In most cases it would have been higher, but Kate’s looking at herself and understands her body and says, “Hang on, wouldn’t that be better lower down?”
7R: It’s interesting that both you and Francis had worked on a Mike Leigh film. We wrote a book about Mike Leigh’s process and have spoken to him a few times. Francis’s process does sound a lot like Mike Leigh’s idea of involving actors in discussions about their character.
Michael O’Connor: I suppose, in a way. I think Francis knows Mike quite well? Mike’s process is… for one, it’s much, much longer. You have much more time. Even on Topsy-Turvy, there was like six months. And even though they were real people, they still had to find other characters in modern day life that had something to do with their character. That was a cast of about seventy. It was a more inclusive thing.
You could literally say to someone in a Mike Leigh fitting, “Do this as the person you’re playing,” and they would do it. You can have a conversation [with an actor in a] Mike Leigh film where they will put their shoes on and go, “Absolutely not. This person would not wear these shoes.” And it’s very hard to contradict. After months of process, you have to believe those things.
7R: I wanted to ask about James McArdle’s character, Mr. Murchison (aka Charlotte’s husband), whose clothes are very impractical. He has that top hat, which looks quite funny when he’s walking on the beach. It’s not ideal clothing for what he’s doing.
Michael O’Connor: It’s not, but the truth is that it’s something people did. There is reference of women, a decade or so later, out in crinolines in the late 1850s. These are photographs of women scaling the hills and the mountains. Or women riding sidesaddle with a great long train. Mary, in one of the illustrations, had a small top hat. And we made top hats for Mary, these things that were painted with tar, so they were waterproof. They were real, based on sailors’ hats, but it was a bit too far. If we had the bonnet and the top hat, then we have the whole circus, as you like. So that was the decision to take that away.
In a funny way, the [Mr. Murchison] character is a little bit ridiculous, so he’s got to have everything, and it’s got to have just been made. And likewise, when Charlotte and Mary are becoming comfortable, Charlotte goes to the beach, and she has an outfit similar to Mary’s in shape, but more fashionable and paler, something that she would have packed that would have gone with her husband’s outfit. It’s a sort of masculine-type short frock with a hunting jacket.
At that time, sports hadn’t been defined. Rugby, football, those things were just about to be invented. They had cricket. There was no golf. There’s no swimming. So you don’t have sporting outfits. The only thing you had was a country and a town outfit. The most you could have done was go shooting and hunting. So everything, like Charlotte’s jacket which she wears on the beach, is based on the sort of fashionable hunting jacket of the time.
7R: What about the doctor character played by Alec Secareanu, who treats Charlotte and develops a crush on Mary? He’s a bit of an outsider.
Michael O’Connor: It’s funny with the men. Men’s clothes at this time are always undervalued, but I think there’s something really beautiful about them. In the film, in most cases, what I did was emphasize the men from the waist down: their legs, their hips. Both Alec and James have got good bodies. So what the men were doing in those days, his coat was a darker colour, and the trousers [were paler]. [They’re emphasising] where their masculinity lies, in their reproductive area.
You can’t do it with the woman, apart from on the top of the body, because the skirt is a bell, for want of a better word. You don’t know what’s going on there, on purpose. But with the men, you’re supposed to know what’s going on there. The trousers are cut over by the hip and the bottom and the thigh, to help the shape of the legging in overall. They had to keep the trousers straight and tight, so they’d never crease and never bag. For evenings and things, they would wear black trousers.
I always think that that way of the top half being in the dark and the bottom half in the pale is kind of elegant for a man. What Francis said was, “I don’t want Alec to have too many clothes. He’s literally got to be the doctor. You see him in that sort of stuff.” And then, of course, there’s a moment when he comes in, and I think he’s inviting [Mary] to the party. He has a bluish cravat which stands out to me, but there’s a reason for it, because it’s like it’s to say, “I’ve come to invite Mary. I’m wearing a Mary colour.”
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