Behind the scenes of Angelina Jolie’s September 2017 Vanity Fair cover shoot https://t.co/Hrna47VoAm— VANITY FAIR (@VanityFair) July 27, 2017
Styling an Icon
“This is a proper icon claiming her place in the firmament of Hollywood.”
Whether rolling up her sleeves behind the scenes and calling the shots from the director’s chair or stepping into the spotlight as a leading lady, Angelina Jolie is constantly playing different roles. So it was natural that her chameleonic persona came into play in Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott’s cover shoot for the September 2017 issue of Vanity Fair, which finds the 42-year-old in her element on a backlot in Burbank, California.
“It was really all about the idea that she’s not one thing—she’s not a director, she’s not a humanitarian, she’s not a mother, she’s not an actress,” says V.F. fashion and style director Jessica Diehl, who styled Jolie for her cover appearance. “She’s all things, all at once. And she’s not really defined by one more than the other.”
The portfolio cements Jolie’s status as a modern-day Hollywood Renaissance woman. One shot finds her channeling her inner femme fatale against a spooky, twilight sky, wearing nothing but luxurious, black leather Sermoneta gloves as a delicate cobweb of black lace drapes across her face; in another, she eyes the camera head on, beaming with preternatural confidence and dressed à la Katharine Hepburn in Alexander Olch suspenders, a bespoke white shirt by Emma Willis, Ralph Lauren pants, and Parlanti riding boots.
An equally striking shot opens the portfolio, with Jolie posed as an elegant cinematic swan, wearing a wide-brimmed hat by relatively little-known Georgian designer Djaba Diassamidze and a shimmering choker by Tiffany & Co. Of her choice to include a major millinery moment, Diehl notes, “There’s not that many people making hats. Philip Treacy, Stephen Jones, and Albertus Swanepoel come to mind. But that specific shape that would allow a little light through the weaving was really important, and [Diassamidze] happened to have done it.”
Reference points ranged from classic film noir stills to snapshots of the most glamorous actresses of all time. Most important to Diehl, though, as it is for each Vanity Fair shoot she styles, was conjuring a perennial appeal. “That’s always the challenge for us. Whether or not it’s a style issue is irrelevant. I still don’t want to look at those images and go, ‘Oh, that was fall/winter 2017,’” she explains. “I think it’s important for the images we have in this magazine to—sure—reflect the times, but to sit just a little outside of true fashion pictures.”
Even a shot that features a decidedly of-the-moment designer like Gucci’s Alessandro Michele—whose irreverently playful dress strewn with black sequined ribbons Diehl paired with a jade-green Charvet headscarf and Cartier earrings—maintains a timeless quality befitting a woman with true staying power in a notoriously fickle industry.Diehl was pleased to encounter an eager and active collaborator in Jolie, whose keen director’s eye rendered each shot distinctly her own. “Angelina’s very engaged,” Diehl says, calling Jolie’s instincts “very spot on.” “It’s not like she shows up on the day and that’s really the first time you talk about it all. She’s involved from the word go. And that’s what actually made it really, really fun.”
Setting the shoot at Warner Bros. Studios (on the same stage where Casablanca was filmed, no less) tied the concept together—and even led to some unexpected moments of backstage magic. As Vanity Fair photography editor Cate Sturgess, who produced the shoot, reveals, “Mert [Alas] even tried on one of the extra’s costumes at one point, making his cameo as an astronaut.”
Having also worked with Jolie for her star turns on V.F.’s October 2011 and December 2014 covers, Diehl found it refreshing to watch Jolie fully embrace the mantle of Hollywood icon this time around. “I think it was important and fun for her to reacquaint herself with that side of herself, without the sort of early, young woman angst around Hollywood,” she says. “This is much more a proper icon claiming her place in the firmament of Hollywood.”