Lock up your children! The witches are back. In September of 2022, the highly anticipated sequel, Hocus Pocus 2, was released on Disney Plus. Unless you live under a rock, Hocus Pocus has always been required viewing, especially in the Fall. It has everything! Legendary actors, great music, witty comedy, and fabulous costumes. So when I heard costume designer Salvador Perez would be designing the costumes for this sequel, I knew we were all in for a treat. I was honored to speak with Salvador Perez about the legacy of Hocus Pocus, honoring the original costumes of Mary E. Vogt, the process behind creating the costumes for the Sanderson Sisters, the new generation of witches, and that wild Halloween scene!
Spencer Williams: I am so pleased to welcome costume designer Salvador Perez!
Salvador Perez: I’m glad to be here. Thank you for having me.
Spencer Williams: Of course. I’ve been wanting to do this for a long while. First, congratulations are in order! You were just nominated for a CDGA in Excellence and Sci-fi fantasy film for your work designing the Hocus Pocus 2 costumes. How does it feel being nominated for this award by all your peers?
Salvador Perez: It’s so flattering. You do the work, and have fun doing it! But when your peers recognize it, it’s icing on the cake.
Spencer Williams: Let’s get into everything Hocus Pocus 2. I can’t imagine the excitement you had when you realized that you’re actually doing the costumes for Hocus Pocus 2!
Salvador Perez: The first emotion was excitement, and then the second one was horror. I mean, look, it’s an iconic film! We have to credit Mary E. Vogt first and foremost, who did the costumes for the original film. She laid the groundwork for what I did. When I got the call for the meeting, I called up Mary. I wasn’t going to interview against her! But she wasn’t interested in repeating her work thirty years later and told me to take the meeting. We talked for a while about how she did the costumes back then and the techniques she used.
Spencer Williams: Ah, I love that. So much love and respect going out to Mary. There are obvious similarities to the original Hocus Pocus costumes by Mary E. Vogt; it did feel like you gave it a bit of a contemporary Salvador Perez touch. For example, the runes on Winifred’s (Bette Midler) costumes look fantastic. How did you find that balance between that signature Sanderson sister style while also making it your own?
Salvador Perez: Things organically happened, such as color changes, the way I finished trims, the chiffons, and the fabrics. Having the knowledge of what Mary did and why she did it was so valuable. The original symbolism on Bette’s costume, for example, was pretty much made up. There wasn’t much meaning. I started to put myself in a space where if I had thirty years to think about the costume, what would I have done?
There was a lot of edict from the studio. The concept of the costumes could not change. But we still want them to be new and different? Our director Anne Fletcher wanted everything to have a meaning, and we couldn’t arbitrarily put something on the costumes.
We talked about what the symbols were on the costumes and their meaning. In the original Winnifred Sanderson costumes, there was a bit of a print technique used, and I thought, well, it’s the 1650s; we could have done lavish embroidery. I started investigating embroidery and found out how expensive it was. But when I got the samples, I didn’t care… they were so beautiful! Spend the money.
Spencer Williams: It’s Winifred Sanderson; she deserves the best!
Salvador Perez: Yeah! It was a multi-step process because, of course, beading is difficult. Beading on velvet is the most difficult thing you can ask for. I didn’t know that at the time. I started by going to Francine LeCoultre, a silk screen artist, who I knew had printed on velvet before. We did experiments and figured out a plan. We did show Bette samples, and she fell in love with this deep chartreuse. So we bought a bright green velvet that we over-dyed in chartreuse, and then it went to Francine to silkscreen.
Once it was silkscreened, we took it to another pattern maker who would thread mark the pattern pieces before they went to Sylvia’s Costumes for embroidery. Western Costume made it and then sent it back to us, where we would age it and add the last bits of embellishments and crystals. The steps that it took to get there added up to months of work.
I have to say, when the fans first saw glimpses of the costumes through bad, blurry photos in the background, there were some pretty negative comments. A lot of people asking, how dare we change the costumes? They don’t look identical. Then, of course, once people saw the costumes in the film and they got to see the details, their attitudes changed.
Spencer Williams: Don’t you just love when people think they can judge a costume from a blurry, unsanctioned internet photo?
Salvador Perez: Right. “They look so cheap.” Umm… do you have any idea what that embroidery cost? You could have bought a car with the embroidery costs!
Spencer Williams: *laughs* I am so embarrassed for the haters right now.
Salvador Perez: Then we had the broach remade. The original broach had two snakes going in the same direction. This drove the Libra in me crazy! They should have been in opposing directions. I went to a jeweler to have them made, and then I thought, well, why is it a snake? I wanted to give it a lore. So we came up with this broach that had a moon, a star, and a forest that would also harken to the original, which had the malachite stone.
Finding that malachite stone in the middle of the pandemic was also a challenge. But, it so happens that we were in Providence, Rhode Island. Back in the sixties and seventies, Providence was the costume-jewelry manufacturing hub of the United States. So there was a place that had old stones from the sixties and seventies; I went in and found the exact size malachite for the piece.
Spencer Williams: Oh, no way! It was meant to be.
Salvador Perez: There was a sort of karmic universe putting things in front of me! Overall, the details are a little richer and more defined. The patterns all harken to the three moons, three goddesses, and there’s symbolism in the details that tell the story of the witches.
Spencer Williams: Wow. It was all just so beautiful, and those little details really brought the witches such life. I personally loved Sarah’s look. The embroidery on her corset is just unreal.
Salvador Perez: The original corset was made with store-bought, embroidered fabric. So I went to Eric Winterling, who has a phenomenal workroom. I showed him samples of what I wanted, and I found a few original pieces from the 1600s with embroidery that I loved. We started working on a sample, but we had to make sure to add some spiders to it. Remember, this should be thorns! The original one was pretty and floral. No! This has to be thorny and mean; there should be spiders and bugs. What would Sarah Sanderson have made in the 1600s?
The first film was done in the nineties, so her sleeves were mesh. Of course, they were mesh because that was popular in the nineties! Our director said maybe they should be spiderwebs. So I called up my friend Krista Ann from Knitsy Knits, who’s been knitting for me forever. I asked her if it was possible to embroider spiderwebs and make sleeves out of them. She had to do them by hand and then join them. After she made one sample, I loved it! She then made the first set, then she made three more sets and shipped them to us. But somehow, in shipping, they disappeared? So somewhere in the universe, there are three sets of these beautifully embroidered sleeves.
Spencer Williams: Someone’s walking around with Sarah Jessica Parker’s sleeves right now. They are probably reading this right now!
Salvador Perez: Right! *laughs* Ah, that’s what those sleeves were for.
Spencer Williams: Let’s talk about the new characters we meet in Hocus Pocus 2 and their costumes, Becca, Izzy, and Cassie. They are teenagers who show a lot of similarities to the sisters, and you can see a lot of that in their costumes.
Salvador Perez: It wasn’t by accident. Our director and producer wanted them to harken them to the originals. But it had to be very subtle, so it’s not in your face. Izzy is in burgundies, Becca is in greens and purples, and Cassie’s in pinks and lavenders. I wanted them to be very subtly tied to the witches. For example, Izzy had on that red hooded coat with plaid that related to Mary’s skirt.
Cassie had that great tye-dye shirt which I thought, “oh my, it’s Max!” Then she had on the cardigan, which was very Allison. I wanted to put these little subtle bits in there that I thought the true fans would get.
Spencer Williams: I loved the “easter egg” moments, especially the tye-dye. I also always loved the Halloween scene in Hocus Pocus and the armada of costumes. In this film, it got even more massive! How did you pull all these little Halloween costumes together? I imagine it must have been the perfect, beautiful nightmare.
Salvador Perez: It was literally the perfect, beautiful nightmare. I have to thank my friends at The Halloween & Costume Association, who hooked me up with several brands who gave us products because we couldn’t use anything licensed. I couldn’t even use Disney characters. They had to be non-specific costumes. Yet, I needed a thousand of them because we would have crowding, and you couldn’t reuse the costumes.
We bought some and made a bunch of stuff in the office. This needed loving hands because we kept in mind that people make their costumes.
Spencer Williams: I also did notice The Supremes and a potential Madonna enjoying the performance.
Salvador Perez: Respect has to go again to Mary E. Vogt, who designed the original film and really set my groundwork for this. Back then, she found those costumes in stock. As the story goes, she ran out of money by the time they got to the costume party. So, Mary used all the stock from ABC Costumes. So did I. Ironically, we found pieces of the original costumes in the stock there this time around. That’s how long clothes have been at ABC Costumes. I’m sure a few of the pieces I used to dress the background were probably used in the original film.
Spencer Williams: Now that is movie magic. All right, so you’re working on the costumes for Hocus Pocus 2. That means you have to work with Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy. What was that process like? I would have been intimidated, for sure! I get chills just thinking about it.
Salvador Perez: I was very intimidated! Especially since I knew Bette Midler is infamous for having great relationships with her costume designers. It’s Bette Midler. She loves costumes. Unlike you and I, who watched the movie forty times throughout our lifetime, she hadn’t seen it in twenty-five years. So I brought original pieces, and I had tons of research and archive photos from the studio. There would be times when she would say, “I never wore that.” Then I would take the movie and fast-forward it to where she’s on stage! *laughs*
But we stay in contact. She was very excited when I told her about the nomination. All three of the ladies have just been so lovely. Sarah was in the middle of shooting And Just Like That, so she couldn’t come to the fittings. So I would take the train from Providence up to New York and meet her at her house. We’d go up to her bathroom in her house and have the fittings. She was just lovely.
Going to an actor and remaking the costume they wore decades ago required a lot of conversation. The one thing Kathy said was that the original costume was just so heavy and uncomfortable. The costume had to be lighter. I went into this trying to make them better! We made adjustments so that they were comfortable in the costumes. Sarah put the costume on and just immediately started twirling in it. You see that she’s constantly twirling on camera. She wanted to see the movement and freedom in the costume. Whenever all three of them put the costumes on, they immediately started to move like their characters. Even though they hadn’t played the characters in thirty years, they immediately went back into their characters through the movements and details.
Spencer Williams: This really talks to the reason why we love costume design, right? The costumes really helped these legendary actresses feel their character again. By putting on that costume, twirling around in it, feeling the lightness of it, the story in the fabrics, and the embroidery. It all matters. That’s why I love costume design
Salvador Perez: There were so many magical moments. Not just for me as a costume designer but as a fan, especially of these three ladies. Being able to work with them and collaborate at this level was just… If this was the last design job I ever got, I could go out happy. I had a great time.
Spencer Williams: Don’t make me cry! This brings me to my last question. You’re now a part of this magical Hocus Pocus legacy. What did this project mean to you?
Salvador Perez: I just got a Costume Designer Guild Award nomination for this film. It’s my first nomination in twenty-five years. I think I’ve been a very well-respected costume designer, but for my peers to acknowledge my design work… The notes that I’ve gotten from fellow costume designers have been amazing. This could have gone either of two ways. They’re either going to love it, or they’re going to hate it.
But I think people saw that I really put a lot of love and respect toward the legacy of the film and the costumes. I did not want to completely change the colors or the silhouettes. I wanted to honor Mary’s contribution but in my own way. I made it my own.
Spencer Williams: You did a brilliant job. I am so happy for you. Salvador Perez, it’s been such an honor having you here. I loved talking about this film. This is such a well-deserved nomination. Thank you for joining me!
Salvador Perez: I appreciate that. Thank you.