Layers : Clothing in Only Lovers Left Alive by Jim Jarmusch – Text by Emmanuel Pierre

When Jarmusch introduces us to his pair of livid lovers, he also subtly defies the standards of vampire films. In spite of their disheveled hair and typical emaciated features, Eve and Adam are far less flamboyant than, for instance, John and Miriam from Tony Scott’s the Hunger or any character in Coppola’s Dracula. No shoulder pads, cat-eyes sunglasses or garnet-coloured silk capes here.


Instead, there is a rather understated romanticism at play which reflects on their effortless apparel. Throughout the movie, Eve is mostly dressed in white and light beige hues while her lover opts for darker tones, in black and brown – a colour dichotomy that somewhat echoes their tastes and temperaments. Wistful Adam indulges in music and science when light-hearted Eve revels in nature and literature. They nevertheless share the same delicate sensitivity as well as an unconditional love of silk – found on their dressing gowns – and leather – on their gloves and jackets.


This bloodthirsty duo traded the velvet of coffins for embroidered silk sheets, and wherever they dwell, fashion sprawls to their surroundings. Not only their beddings (in which they spend so much time), but also the wallpapers, upholstery, curtains and carpets are tinged with a similar aura of faded splendour. Interestingly, their looks become much more detailed within the realm of their homes, where they can safely be themselves, than in the outside world, where they wish to remain unnoticed. Besides, their outdoor outfits respectively recall the whitewashed walls of Tangier and Detroit’s disused buildings.

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Just as their other prized possessions, their garments are a mark of times passed and must bear the remnants of precious memories. Adam still sports a dressing gown from the early 19th century and Christopher Marlowe, won’t part with a jacket that was given to him in 1586.


But the figure that obviously stands out – best embodied by Adam’s dark, slender silhouette and neurasthenic behaviour – is that of the quintessential indie rocker, who withdrew from the world to better write his melancholy, saturated songs. And the music that pervades the film’s atmosphere seems to give the tone and pace to Eve and Adam’s lonely quest for life’s very best.


In the end, fashion in Only Lovers Left Alive is just part of the couple’s refined aesthetic universe, almost inconspicuous but no less meaningful.