The most ubiquitous presence in last year's sartorially perfect Good Night, and Good Luck was never even mentioned for Academy Award consideration despite appearing more often than George Clooney and David Strathairn combined. It is, in fact, in every single scene. It's impossible to imagine the film without cigarette smoke (a health hazard, yes, but historically accurate) and, more winsomely, the White Shirt. As the CBS newsroom fought against Joseph McCarthy, they did so with elegance and style, thanks in no small part to what they were wearing. "In [Edward R.] Murrow's day, a dark suit, white shirt, and tie was the uniform for the professional workplace," says Dan Rather, a CBS news legend in his own right. "Wearing this signaled a certain respect. It said 'This is important' and did so without calling attention to the messenger."
To get the look just right, costume designer Louise Frogley turned to Anto Distinctive Shirtmaker. The Beverly Hills atelier, founded in 1952 by the late Anto Sepetjian, is now run by his sons, Jack and Ken. Over the years Anto has created tens of thousands of shirts for private clients (producer Robert Evans and former Disney CEO Michael Eisner are two) and period clothing for hundreds of movies, among them Casino (remember Ace Rothstein's starched pastel shirts perfectly coordinated to his pink suits?) and American Psycho (in particular, the creepily pristine wardrobe of Pat Bateman).
For Good Night, and Good Luck, Frogley needed shirts that reflected fifties styles but also distinguished the newscaster from his "boys." "A man like Murrow would have gone to Europe for bespoke shirts with Parisian-style point collars," she says. "The younger guys would have bought them off the rack, with button-down collars, the cool new look in the early fifties." For Strathairn (as Murrow), Anto used Italian cotton piqué with an exaggerated three-inch point collar and rounded French cuffs. The boys—including George Clooney as Fred Friendly—sported button-downs in plain English sea island cotton.
After decades of catering to such discerning clients, Anto has developed a set of shirtmaking commandments: Cuffs should cover the wrist, even when driving; the collar's tips should just touch the chest; fabrics must be Italian, Swiss, or English cotton; all finishing, from pockets to collar tips, must be hand-done. But the key rule is to have every aspect of the shirt tailored to the individual. That means the shape of the wearer's face determines the collar width while the slant of his shoulders dictates the angle of the shirt's slope and the sleeve's width. It's this attention to detail that transforms a simple garment from bit player to top-of-the-marquee star.
Shirts start at $250. At 268 N. Beverly Dr., Beverly Hills; 310-278-4500; antoshirt.com.
A Star is Worn
How Anto shirtmakers customized the perfect white one for Edward R. Murrow
The point collar on the "Murrow" shirt in Good Night, and Good Luck is three inches rather than the more standard 2 3/4. "Some companies label this a French or Italian collar," Anto's Jack Sepetjian says. "We call it a classic three-inch American."
The sleeve is cut slim and the point where the shoulder meets the sleeve is measured to within one sixteenth of an inch to accentuate the angle of the client's shoulder.
The shirt's length is determined by measuring from a client's shoulder to waist. A shirt to be worn with a suit (as here) needs 10- to 12-inch-long tails. "Nowadays people like to wear them untucked, with jeans," says Sepetjian. For that look, 6- to 8-inch tails are recommended.
Like everything else on an Anto shirt, the label is personalized. The owner's initials and the date the shirt was completed is monogrammed below the company name. David Strathairn's shirt label for the movie reads D. S., FEBRUARY 2005.
Anto insists on Italian mother-of-pearl buttons. "But believe it or not," says Sepetjian, "we have a few customers who still request plastic, but these shell buttons just look so much better."
The French cuffs for the "Murrow" shirt measured a statement-making 3 1/4 inches rather than the usual 2 3/4. "We made them larger so they'd show even when he was in a suit," says Louise Frogley, costume designer for Good Night, and Good Luck.