The High Note Movie

How Costume Designer Jenny Eagan Crafted a Music Biz Look for ‘The High Note’

Costume Designer Jenny Eagan dresses Tracee Ellis Ross' character in this story, the aging star, Grace Davis. Grace's style is aspirational. She is a woman in control, and her clothing reflects that. Her wardrobe screams she can walk onto any red carpet and own the room. Every detail matters to her, from the perfect hair to the exact right accessory. Even her 'casual' looks are pulled together and well thought out.


In contrast to Grace's high-power style, Maggie (played by Dakota Johnson) is an aspirational music producer from the Midwest. Dakota's everyday look is more relaxed, featuring denim and bomber jackets, graphic tees, and sneakers. Her style is all about comfort and ease, with a little bit of edge.


When costuming the two lead characters, Jenny Eagan says, "It was important to me that their styles reflect their different backgrounds and aspirations. Grace is a Hollywood legend, and her look needed to convey that. Maggie is just starting out in the industry, and her style is more casual and approachable. Even though their styles are very different, they both need to look like they belong in the same world."


Maggie (Dakota Johnson) is her overextended assistant who has little time for herself and is not into high-fashion like her gold-lamé loving boss. A natural introvert, it is clear that Maggie is happier behind-the-scenes. She is all about the music, like her DJ dad. For Maggie, the love of music is not about the glitz and glamour of stage performing or the challenge of sustaining a celebrity profile.


The film juxtaposes the two styles throughout, highlighting the clash between the old and the new guard in the music industry. At one point, Maggie tries to give Grace a music makeover, but the results are disastrous. Grace Davis is not interested in following trends or changing her style to appeal to a new audience, and is confident in who she is and what she represents.


Grace Davis is at the transition point of her decades long career: Should she rest on her past glories with previous hits and take a prestigious Las Vegas residency (as her management pushes her to do) or take a chance and write new original music that could flop (as Maggie urges her to do)?


Constantly on call as Grace's assistant, Maggie's wardrobe is practical, affordable, and flexible. For example, her Margot hoops by Bonheur seen throughout the film are $58, lightweight, and ultra-versatile. Unlike Grace, she does not have time to shop for 150 pairs of shoes. To her, work is the most important thing and pursuing her ambitions of becoming a music producer in a harsh, mostly male industry. Runway fashion must take a backseat. Maggie even looks shell-shocked when she discovers the price of Grace's $3,000 Saint Laurent jacket.


The re-wearing and styling of pieces reflect Maggie's realistic budget. Maggie's fashion range includes perfectly fitting vintage Levi's, authentic throwback concert tees (Crosby Stills & Nash), and her everyday essential Margot hoops by Bonheur. 


Dakota Johnson Movies
Dakota Johnson Movies


In the end, both Maggie (Dakota Johnson) and Grace (Tracee Ellis Ross) learn to respect each other's differences, and they come to appreciate that they each have something unique to offer the world of music. Through their shared love of music, they find common ground and mutual respect. And although their styles are very different, they both manage to look fabulous doing what they do best.