After graduating from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising with a degree in Fashion Design, Spencer realized that his love for fashion was not entirely found on a runway, but seen on screen through film and television. As a Los Angeles event planner, Spencer began to organize panels of costume designers benefiting students who were fascinated by costume design. As Spencer’s connections within the costume design field began to grow, so did his love for the craft. Then in 2019, Spencer decided it was time to share his love for costume design on an international level and launched The Art of Costume.
On display at the FIDM Museum exhibit are costumes worn by Lady Gaga as Patrizia Reggiani and Adam Driver as Maurizio Gucci. Photo by Alex J. Berlinger/ABImages.
Have you seen Ridley Scott’sHouse of Gucci yet? What a silly question, of course you have! I am sure you are as much in love with the costumes as I am. If that is the case, then drop what you are doing and run, don’t walk, to the FIDM Museum in Downtown Los Angeles!
Metro Goldwyn Mayer (MGM) and United Artists Releasing have partnered with the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising for a limited time House of Gucci exhibit at the FIDM Museum from November 23 – December 4, 2021 (10AM – 5PM PT).
Presenting an exclusive mix of never-before-seen House of Gucci photography, film footage, and costumes curated by costume designer Janty Yates, this exhibition offers audiences an immersive experience and backstage access to director Ridley Scott’s crime drama starring Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, with Salma Hayek and Al Pacino.
With exhibition curation and creative direction led by Melina Matsoukas’ De La Revolución, in conjunction with MGM and United Artists Releasing, you are invited to explore the world of the House of Gucci through exclusive new film stills, unit photography shot during film production, behind-the-scenes photography and cast portraits shot by photographer Cuba Tornado Scott.
I’ll be completely honest, I felt quite emotional walking through the exhibition. The detail and construction was quite moving. Janty Yates did an incredible job as costume designer on this film, certainly one of my favorite films of the year! This exhibition is a must see for any costume design fan… or all around Lady Gaga fanatic like myself…
The museum is open from 10AM – 5PM PT from now until December 4th so get going! Admission is free. Masks and Proof of Vaccination are required.
They’re creepy and they’re kooky. Mysterious and spooky. They’re all together ooky… why this week we are watching, The Addams Family! In this week’s episode, we are celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the 1991 film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, The Addams Family. Listen along as our cohosts talk about their favorite costumes by Ruth Myers, macabre children’s plays, the history of The Addams Family, and don’t think we aren’t doing The Mamushka. Don’t torture yourself, that’s our job.
Today I am so excited to speak with Jane Holland, costume designer from one of my new favorite shows, Cowboy Bebop. The live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop takes place in 2071 and follows Spike Spiegel (played by John Cho) as he wanders the galaxy in search of jobs as he begins leading a group of ragtag bounty hunters to chase down criminals across the solar system while trying to earn different rewards. I speak with Jane Holland about her inspirations and the process behind translating some of our favorite characters from the anime to this live-action adaptation.
Spencer: Thank you, Jane, for joining me. I’m so excited to talk to you, I love the show. I powered through it so quickly, I just couldn’t put it down.
Jane: Thank you so much for having me. I am excited to be here!
Spencer: It’s my honor! Every time I have a new guest, I love to hear about their journey to becoming the costume designer sitting in front of me.
Jane: It makes complete sense to me now, but it wasn’t straightforward. I didn’t know that costume could be a profession so I did a science degree because my passion was with words, drama, and performance; and an English and drama degree. I was interested in storytelling; that’s always been my passion.
Through drama, I ended up on a film set, and I was watching and talking to people behind the scenes, and I just thought, that’s where I belong. I want to be doing that. So I got involved in the costume department! I’d always made costumes for production while studying drama, so it wasn’t completely unfamiliar to me. That’s when I realized that there was a job there.
I was fortunate. to have foundd myself working on Jane Campion’s film, The Piano, as a standby. I looked after Anna Paquin and Holly Hunter primarily. I kind of looked after all the women. It was just extraordinary, that film that was so pivotal in so many ways. From a design perspective, working with that costume designer, Janet Patterson, really opened my eyes to what you can do in costume as a storyteller.
So I went from there to the Australian Film Television and Radio School in Sydney and studied costume design there. I came back and found my feet as a costume designer. Being in New Zealand, I’ve had a real diversity of projects!
Spencer: I love this story, and I feel that it is so relatable to so many in the costume field. I can hardly wait; let’s get into Cowboy Bebop. You did such a brilliant job with the show. I loved it. But have to ask, though, the anime is such a massive hit that is so beloved by fans. I have to imagine this was a bit of a daunting project to take on?
Jane: Yeah, there’s a responsibility for sure. So, going back to when I came onto the project, the enthusiasm was a bit quieter. I was aware of the fans, but I always felt my responsibility was to the anime. If I could find a connection and draw the threads and sensibility of the anime and bring that into the live-action costuming, I felt that if I could embrace the spirit of the anime, then maybe the fans would embrace the live-action costumes.
You have to be open, exploratory and you’d have to be brave. If you’re second-guessing everything and wondering what people are going to think, it can be stifling… So you have to be free! I was sort of feeling that I had a connection and that I was coming from the right place. There’s something about the anime. When I first saw it, I was blown away. The story is just so wacky, different, and surreal. I loved the cacophony of the soundtrack combined with the visuals.
My base place was asking myself the question, what was the movement of Cowboy Bebop? Bebop was about breaking free from restraint. It was about improvisation. It was about moving forwards and finding a new way. I embraced that spirit and the storytelling, which became the lens that I applied to my design process.
Spencer: That’s beautiful. I love the dedication, and I know that your embrace of the spirit of the anime came through in the live-action series on Netflix. Now, taking it from a technical perspective, how do you approach translating characters from the animation and bringing them into the live-action.
What sort of references besides the anime were you taking in when developing these characters? The show is really unique and stylized, and it’s set in a futuristic time period, but it’s also not futuristic at the same time.
Jane: Right, it’s very retro. We talked collectively about developing the “Bebop Mashup.” The anime has this mesh up, which, as you said, is futuristic, but then it’s retro. So it’s retro sci-fi. It’s full of these collisions; this dissonance then kind of just finds this place. So I think that that was always the challenge, was to find that place. For me, that was the Cowboy Bebop twist.
Spencer: Right, so then how did you apply that Cowboy Bebop twist to our main character, Spike Spiegel?
Jane: I started with Spike Spiegel and the blue suit because that is sort of the heart of this story. As you begin to drill down into that suit and its relation to the anime… when you really look at it and the shape, it’s kind of unusual. There’s a single boxy lapel that sort of disappears. He’s got this extra long leg, let’s say there’s this real stylized thing about it, but what is with the sleeves rolled up?
I looked at Japanese designers and Japanese tailorings, such as Yohji Yamamoto and Comme des Garçons. I looked at the tailoring from these designers because there was something in Japanese sensibility, which does precisely what Cowboy Bebop does. It sort of takes something conventional, and then it just gives that bit of twist we see in Cowboy Bebop.
I also looked at some Japanese and Korean designers who are making contemporary clothing, but they’re kind of reaching into traditional dress. When you look at that kind of tailoring, the way that a jacket does up or that off-center fascinating… that’s in the anime! There’s a link. I found a thread, which led me to work out how to create something that had that single lapel and then make it disappear and come around the other side. So these designers gave me a way to find out how to make Spike Spiegel make sense.
The suit is a very bright blue, and it’s unusual. We had to create something that embraced the character of Spike Spiegel, who is effortlessly cool, who then turns into this incredible fighting machine. Spike has this depth to him, with his entire past. But then goes back to being cool and heartbroken as well. I built all of that into the costume.
In the anime, his fight style is described as water. I took that as has as a motif that can be seen on his trophy buckle in a beautiful moment of triumph. You get this flash of this trophy buckle where you can see t’s a tidal wave, a symbol of water. The trophy buckles, made by our in-house jeweler, also are a nod to the Cowboys. This followed through to the buttons that are engraved with the Japanese symbol for water.
Then on the inside of the jacket, I ended up printing a tiny pattern of falling roses on the lining of his jacket as a motif for Julia. Julia has a lot of hand-painted roses in her costuming. The same person who hand-painted those roses drew the roses that we replicated inside of his jacket. That’s just a little secret in there. Spike has Julia wrapped around him because he’s a guy with a broken heart, and Julia is his lost love.
Cowboy Bebop was all about finding the essence of the character and bringing the anime together to work out how it might work on a real-life person. Then from there, drilling down how to add as much storytelling in those signature costumes as I could.
Spencer: That’s so magical and why I love costume design so much. All of the detail you put into everything from the lapel to the lining… It’s really inspiring.
Jane: The anime was really our concept art. You look at a lot of concept art for costuming, and often it really doesn’t make sense. The concept art doesn’t tell you how to make it. You can focus on design concepts, but it doesn’t always work when it comes to actually making the costume.
The anime gave me the concept art, and my job was to work out its design. How does it actually work? How is it going to function? There is a difference between art and design; created design has to function. As a costume designer, I want that artistic freedom, but ultimately it has to function.
Spencer: Moving on to our other main characters, the idea of function was something you kept in mind when translating them. Let’s talk about Jet Black, shall we? Jet feels as though he came right from the anime, but it still has that apparent twist you mentioned.
Jane: Right. Jet Black is more straightforward. He’s wearing overalls that are kind of utilitarian. The design lines you see in the anime I carried through. It is very similar, but there’s a lot more detail in the costume we made as we translate the anime into real life.
Spencer: It’s an interesting point because the anime is very flat in color; there’s not a lot of stitching detail. So that’s also part of the challenge too.
Jane: I think it’s great if you think it’s the same as the anime because, well, that’s a job well done, isn’t it? Then he has that robot arm, which was a costume piece as well. We made that. We have a great costume department with and costume props area. The arm was made in the process of sculpting.
Spencer:We have to talk about my favorite character. I love what you did with Faye Valentine because it’s reminiscent of the anime, but it’s functional, as you talked about earlier. Personally, I feel that her anime costume could not be translated onto a real woman and be functional. What you did with Faye’s live-action costume was functional but still mirrors the anime’s essence. Walk me through your work on this character.
I think it was clear to me that the Faye Valentine of the live-action series needed to do a lot more practically, functionally, than what that costume of the anime would allow her to do. I did the same with Faye as I did with Spike.
I took the character from the script, and I found the resonance. She’s a bounty hunter; she needed to be able to move, to fight, to kick! There was a whole function that was part of it, but there was also something about realizing the design lines of the animation.
It might appear that I’ve moved a long way away from the anime, but actually, I haven’t. The top, that’s not that different. We did quite a bit of trial. We had a full yellow two-piece; and a full black two-piece with yellow stitching. So we’ve still got the color in there. It was about finding the gravitas of the character and what she needed to do.
It was essential to me was that it shouldn’t be gratuitous and overtly sexualized. Those aspects of her character, that’s up to the actor to deliver rather than me imposing that restriction on her. We’re past that in terms of how we present a leading female character in a show.
So the design lines are actually very similar. Like the stocking, she’s got those high leather leggings. She’s also wearing tights underneath. There’s a lot that is similar, and I pretty much guarantee that if she just shrugged that red leather jacket off her shoulders and struck a Faye Valentine pose from the anime, you’d say she’s exactly the same.
Spencer: I agree, one thousand percent. If the jacket fell a little bit, then viewers would’ve thought it was exactly the same. Faye doesn’t need to be stuck with being this overtly sexualized character. I feel like your costuming helped give Daniella Pineda the room to bring life to this character. What you did with that costume was quite brilliant.
Jane: Daniella, she’s just so super cool. We needed something that’s got a little bit of street and a bit of sass. She had to be in something that she could do all of this stuff in.
Spencer:I love to hear that. Did you feel like you collaborated a lot with the actors and actresses on this project?
Jane: Yeah! I think that they’re critical relationships. They are to me because it’s a very intimate space. I was lucky, being in New Zealand and being so far away, that I was in the states right at the very beginning. I was in Los Angeles, and John Cho and Daniella were in Los Angeles. While I was there, I met both of them. I measured them. We talked about the characters. John and I sat down in a café, and we just talked about concept. We talked about ideas, the feeling of the character, and specifically what the costume would be. I think it was very valuable.
When I arrived in New Zealand, we had to work fast. When John arrived, we had put the suit on. There were so many things we talked about. From the beginning, and maybe in that first conversation, we talked about how Spike stands; it was really important to him. There’s a particular angle with his hand in his pocket. A classic anime pose! It’s the more information you have to be working together, the better.
Spencer: You’ve talked about aging and dyeing a little bit. There’s a lot of blood, dirt, and action in this show. I’m notoriously obsessed with aging and dyeing. Can you just give me a little vision of this fun project?
Jane: *laughs*There’s this thing where you kind of build this beautiful costume. Then the first thing that happens to it is that they have to walk out, get hit with a bullet, and now there is blood on it. They trash it completely.
The trashing of the costume is part of the beauty; it’s another angle to costuming. It’s part of the craft. You have your pristine new thing, and then how do you make it look lived in? There is such an art to that. The textile artists who work within that have a painterly approach. There’s very little that ends up on screen without going through the aging and breakdown department.
Spencer: What I appreciate, especially when I think of space-oriented movies and television shows, I think of very minimalistic, clean, futuristic silhouettes. But you made Cowboy Bebop feel very real through the aging process.
Jane: It’s suspending disbelief, isn’t it? I mean, there’s a theatricality to any show that is not a representation of daily life. So what happens is Spike goes out, and he gets completely roughed up, and then next episode, he’s sort of clean again. We staged it where Spike has a closet on the Bebop where he opens the closet, and there’s a whole line of blue suits. That’s what you buy into with costume. It’s part of who they are. If they change out of that, there’s a reason. There are a few moments where characters are in a different costume, and there’s a reasoning behind that. But they come back to that signature costume as a place of comfort.
Spencer: The last character that we’re going to want to talk about is Vicious. I loved his black suiting. It’s, I think, one of my favorites.
Jane: When you look at the anime, you’re trying to work out what something is. It can be difficult because, a lot of the time, it’s pretty abstract. There was reference; you can see the design lines that come from the images of the anime. There’s a theatricality to him in the tailcoat that I interpreted.
I tried to find a musical kind of resonance with everybody. I found myself in a bit of a punk world with Viscious, but more heightened and stylized. I ended up drawing from real-life for Viscious by looking at the Antwerp six, such as Ann Demeulemeester, all amazing designers.
When Alex put on that costume, I wanted him to feel the power of the costume. Vicious has that straight leg and these big boots with this beautifully tailored coat. It’s got movement to it, so when he fights, there’s movement. The detailing of the chains that hold the coat together, they were made by our in-house jewelers.
He’s got a trophy buckle as well. His trophy buckle has the cormorant because, in the anime, he always has a cormorant on his shoulder. So I took that cormorant and put it into his costume and on his ring as well.
Spencer: This has been so much fun, and I’ve had such a good time talking with you. I feel like I’ve learned so much, and I just feel like rewatching the series now. What can we see you doing in the future?
Jane: I hope for a second season! There’s so much ground to break. The second season is always where it feels like you start to take flight. I mean, you’ve got a warehouse full of stuff, a whole load of reference. It’s such a fun show. I mean the world-building… just oh my God! We had so much fun mixing vintage pieces, mixing different eras. There’s so much more that I want to do with Cowboy Bebop if I have the opportunity!
Spencer: It’s almost like every episode is its own movie. There’s always something different. World-building sounds like an understatement to me.
Jane: It’s a crazy train! It is exactly like that. It’s like doing movie after movie, and it just doesn’t stop. That’s traveling as well. This is the fun part of it, to create the look of that world.
Outside of Cowboy Bebop, we’re just finishing off this beautiful half-hour drama piece, which is a Māori supernatural story. Filmmaking and storytelling on a much more personal level, which I’m interested in doing as well. So I’ve kind of got this other little world alongside my career as a costume designer.
There’s a film that’s just come out in New Zealand called Juniper with Charlotte Rampling in it. There’s always some storytelling to do.
Spencer: Jane, thank you so much for joining me. This has been a lovely interview, and I’m really happy and excited for you. Cowboy Bebop was incredible, and the costumes, peak storytelling! I just want to thank you for your work on this project.
Jane: It was really great meeting you and nice to talk about the process. The creative process is such a fun thing. I mean, that’s the beauty of it.
The live-action adaptation of Cowboy Bebop is now available on Netflix!
Afraid of being alone during the holidays? Never fear, The Art of Costume Blogcast is here! In this week’s episode, Elizabeth and Spencer watch the Netflix original starring Emma Roberts, Holidate. Listen along as our cohosts talk about the festive costume design by Helen Huang, Sloane’s holiday wardrobe, and least favorite gifts. And yes… a majority of this episode is dedicated to Kristin Chenoweth, as it rightfully should be!
Look, I know it is almost time for the holidays, but I miss Halloween. So you could probably imagine my excitement (or dread) when I saw the words “Paranormal Activity” pop up in my inbox. As I started to prepare for this interview, I quickly realized, this was a costume designer after my own heart! Whitney Anne Adams, the brilliant costume designer behind so many horror films of recent date such as Happy Death Day 2U, Piercing, Freaky, and most recently, Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin. Plus, Whitney has a new film now in theaters, called India Sweets and Spices.
I was honored to meet Whitney for an interview about her fascinating beginnings, friendship with Eiko Ishioka (yeah you read that right), horror films, Paranormal Activity, India Sweets and Spices, and so much more!
Spencer:Whitney, I am so excited to speak with you finally. I’ve been following you forever, so this interview feels long overdue. Plus, I’m having a hard time putting spooky season behind me.
Whitney: Right! Me too!
Spencer:This couldn’t happen at a better time. Before we get into all of the great projects you have been working on, I would first love to hear a little bit about your journey to becoming a costume designer.
Whitney: It’s funny because I was a complete jock in high school. I was all sports, no fashion. I was even captain of my golf team. But I was in theater and the drama class all through high school. So I loved it, but I had horrible stage fright; I loved the theater, and I couldn’t square the two. It’s like, I love this, but I hate being on stage.
I was really sick in high school, and I had to get a bunch of organs removed. When I was in the hospital, waiting for the surgery that would save my life, I watched Moulin Rouge! over 300 times. I watched it every day to escape to this world where I wasn’t really sick. I just fell in love with the clothes and the visual world of that movie.
I then went to college, and I was pre-med. You know… because that makes sense.
Spencer:*laughs* Right. We’ve all been there.
Whitney: I had to take chemistry and calculus, and then I could choose one fun class, and it was an intro to theater design. Well, I changed my major three weeks later, and I’ve never looked back. It just all sort of clicked into place. That was the beginning of my journey!
Spencer:At one point, you were acting as Liza Minnelli’s personal seamstress during this time. I also heard a crazy rumor that you were the personal seamstress of famed Oscar-winning costume designer Eiko Ishioka… I mean, is that true?
Whitney: Absolutely true. I met her. I had just moved to New York. I answered a Craigslist ad for somebody needing a costume intern. And I was like, perfect. I just graduated from college, and I just thought, “I’m ready, put me in coach!” Then that designer, Camille Assaf, knew Tracy Roberts, Eiko’s studio manager; she knew that I was a tailor and put me in touch with her, and I ended up doing all sorts of tailoring for her.
I sewed tons of skirts. Her entire apartment was white, and she wanted a white TV cover to go over her TV so it wouldn’t take away from all of the other white things in her apartment. I also made seat cushions, and she was so exact on the seat cushions. I think I went through 12 different mock-ups before she was happy.
Spencer: I am OBSESSED with this. I am sure any regular person reading this is probably confused, but costume nerds like me are probably dying.
Whitney: I just loved the fact that literally, every single thing in her house was white. It was on the 73rd floor, I believe, right above the Russian Tea Room, looking out on Central Park, and it was absolutely beautiful.
She was working on Spider-Man at the time, so she had all of her Spider-Man renderings hung on the wall. It was all you could look at in her house because everything was stark white besides those renderings. So it was more of a focusing tactic for her, which was fascinating. That’s incredible.
Spencer: I love that. This is a vision I want to keep in my head forever.
Whitney: I worked for her for two years, and I remember every time I would come over, we would get our work done, and afterward, she would make a pot of green tea. We would sit at her table, and she would talk about stories from Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Stories of Grace Jones and she would just tell me her life story over a pot of green tea every single time.
Spencer: Absolutely beautiful. But then another dream seemed to come true for you because you ended up becoming the costume design assistant for four-time, Oscar-winning costume designer Catherine Martin, who worked on Moulin Rouge!
Whitney: It was such a crazy moment in my life because she’s the reason I am a costume designer, and I also met her in a completely insane way. I won a costume design contest for the movie Australia. I had to design a costume for Nicole Kidman’s character.
Spencer: Oh, you got this in the bag.
Whitney: Well, I freaked out cause I didn’t put a hat on Nicole’s character. I was like, I’m not going to win. I didn’t put a hat on her. I won the whole contest. I won a trip to Australia. So I go to Australia, and I email Catherine’s website. Her assistant, Silvana, emailed me back and said, “Hey, do you want to come by? Catherine isn’t here, but you know, we can hang out.” So we had tea, and we are good friends now. I went back to New York, and two years passed by.
Then in 2010, Baz Luhrmannwas going to be the chairperson of the New York Musical Theatre Festival. I bought a ticket to the gala, and I emailed Silvana. I was like, “Hey, I happen to be going to the same gala. Can I meet them?.” She said she would set something up but then sent me an email an hour asking what I was up to? Six hours later, their producer in Australia called me and asked if I could work for them for three weeks?
It was on the workshop for The Great Gatsby and those three weeks turned into working on and off for them for a decade. So they’re like my family now, and I adore them. It’s been a few years since we’ve gotten to work together, but I hope we get to do something again in the future.
Spencer: I love that. You just got to do what you got to do to get your foot in the door sometimes. Sometimes a little goes a long way, and now it’s been like a decade-long relationship, that is incredible.
Whitney: They’re so generous are a huge reason why I have a career today. You know, I busted my butt on The Great Gatsby, and I learned so much. It was an incredible experience that I still pinch myself that actually happened.
Spencer: That brings us today. I noticed that you’ve been working on a lot of horror and thriller projects lately. Are you a fan of horror, or did you just fall into it?
Whitney: I’m a huge fan of horror. I remember I was Ghost Face for Halloween, like three Halloweens in a row, and scared people at my middle school, Halloween party by refusing to take the mask off. I was obsessed with the Fear Street series and every single teenage slasher novel that existed. So much so that my fourth-grade teacher called a parent-teacher conference.
Spencer: I could tell through your work that you have a love for horror. The first film I want to talk about is Freaky. Freaky stars Catherine Newton, Vince Vaughn, and my crush Misha Osherovich. It was so campy, fun, and so colorful. It was pretty fashionable too.
Whitney: I’m so proud of this movie. This is my second collab with writer and director Christopher Landon. One of my favorite people. We just decided from the get-go that everyone felt like a real developed character. Because that is one of the things that horror movies always run into.
We wanted to make sure that everyone had a very distinct point of view. We don’t have time in the movie to dive into people’s backstories, so we wanted to tell everyone who they were through their clothes. Josh and Nyla have such a point of view. Millie; she’s trying to figure out who she is, especially pre-butcher. She’s wearing a hand-me-down sweater from her mom. Her dress is from the discount store. Every single piece in the movie has its backstory.
When it came to The Butcher and switching into Millie’s body, we wanted to figure out a storyline that made sense. Where did these clothes come from? So we figured that Millie’s older sister is a bit of a club-goer. She’s a police officer during the day, but she wants to let off steam at night. So when the butcher looks through Millie’s closet, he hates all of the grandma sweaters. He heads over to her sister’s closet and pulls out this leather jacket, black bodysuit, and these jeans. We wanted to make sure that it felt very genderless with a strong silhouette.
Spencer: It’s almost like the butcher was becoming a costume designer in the moment. Okay Whitney with the plot points!
Whitney: Right. I also want to make sure it was affordable for the family too. That jacket came from Amazon. It was a $180 leather jacket. So it’s attainable. I wanted to make sure that every single piece made sense. I don’t want to get some $5,000 jacket. It needs to be something that makes sense.
Spencer: I love that. Ugh this movie was so fun, and yeah that red jacket… I mean, that jacket is going to stay with me for a long while.
Whitney: I’m so happy about that. I know that Catherine and I wanted to create something as iconic as possible!
Spencer: Mission accomplished! Speaking of iconic, let talk about Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin. I’ll be honest, when I saw the words “Paranormal Activity” in my email inbox… I was kind of thinking “oh hellllll no”.
Whitney: *laughs* Right!!
Spencer: If there’s one horror movie that scares the absolute *redacted* out of me, it’s the Paranormal Activity series. Of course, I loved the film as always. It was quite the costume design heavy film as well! I hear that you had to travel to a real Amish farm that was in the middle of nowhere.
Whitney: Yeah. So that was so challenging! We were based in Buffalo, but we were filming five weeks on this farm. It was an actual vacated Amish farm about an hour and a half from Buffalo. So our closest hotels were about 45 minutes to an hour away from the farm. So were driving back and forth in the blizzard, in the mud, there are no lights in Amish country.
Spencer: It was like you were living the movie every single day. Let’s dive into the cult that lives on Baylor farm who are passing as Amish. It appears you took a pretty authentic approach to designing their costumes. I mean, they came off to me as Amish up until the last 10 minutes of the movie.
Whitney: You’re like, whoa, what happened now? That was the main goal, to make them as Amish to the outside world as possible. They don’t want anyone coming close to them. This cult, they’re actually the good guys. They’re striving for as much authenticity as possible, but when they’re at their farm, they can let their guard down a little. So, they can do things that are not necessarily Amish.
I wanted to also use that same idea that with what they wear. For example, vests are usually not worn except for church or ceremonial purposes. So we added those into the film because that is not how the Amish wear vests. Then for the men we uses hundred percent cotton. When it comes to the real Amish, almost everything that they have has polyester in it because of the lower drying time. It’s easier to take care of and lasts longer. But for me, I wanted to do all of the sorts of wear and tear,aging and distressing. This cult, they go to the outside world as little as possible so their clothes show more wear.
Spencer: That is incredible. I love that through costume design, people may notice these little clues that were there the entire time.
Whitney: Right, that they’re not exactly as they seem. So there are little things like that, that we put in there to show that they’re not actually Amish. But, still made it as close as possible. For example, all of our suspenders were made by a local Buffalo leather maker so it’s as close as we possibly can get it.
Spencer: Unfortunately for you, I am a considerable aging and dying fan. So I have to ask you to give me a little window into what was happening here.
Whitney: I knew going into this project, it was going to be such a process. I needed someone who could take this stuff down and it’s really tough. Every single piece in this movie was distressed and aged. The women are wearing bloomers and underskirts plus their dresses, capes and caps. The men have their broad fall pants and their shirts, vests, coats and hats. I mean, everyone has so much stuff, thousands of pieces! I had a lead ager and dyer, Jessica Wegrzyn, who’s the absolute best. She’s such a dreamboat, and was working so hard all day, every day, to make sure everyone looked as distressed as I wanted them to be.
I want it to show the wear and tear that they’ve experienced on this farm because they are so isolated. Every single piece had like a six-step process. It just took forever, and of course, we didn’t have enough lead time. We also brought in another ager and dyer to help, Troy David, who was incredible. The last week of prep, the first week of filming, we were just aging and dying like maniacs. We didn’t finish aging and dying until our last day of filming. She was also a costumer as well so she was doing double duty. I owe so much of this movie to her.
Spencer: That is an insane amount of work, I am exhausted for you. Towards the end of the film, things start to spiral out of control. It’s funny, I had to go back and watch this part again before we talked because the first time, I had my eyes closed. I thought… uh oh I didn’t even see that part!
*Spencer and Whitney laugh together*
Spencer: This costume that Lavina is wearing, it appears to be a ceremonial robe. It stands out amongst all the other costumes.
Whitney: I wish that we got to see it a little better because for me, it’s the most important costume in the movie because it helps tie together the history of group. We learn that they descended from a Norwegian town. I wanted to sort of dip into Pagan and Wiccan mythology and take symbols that made sense to our story.
All of her veils are embroidered with this gold thread. We wanted to make it look like both this red robe and veil had been passed down through generations. So we wanted everything to look really old and worn. All of the symbols were very representative of the story like the main symbols we use for the triple goddess where you have the waxing full moon and waning – three stages of womanhood, which is what happens to the women in this culture, the ones who have to carry Asmodeus.
The Witches Knot is the symbol of protection. Especially because the whole knot symbol, you don’t have to lift your pen. So it’ like this long line of protection, which is what happens with this long line of women through this family.
Then the Seal of Solomon is also there. I made it a pentagram instead of The Star of David, which is how it is sometimes represented in history. The Seal of Solomon was used by King Solomon to defeat Asmodeus.
Spencer: I love the attention to detail and the story behind it. It made the film really, real. It made me want to do some research too.
Whitney: It was great to dive into all of that and you know, Lavina also has this ring. That’s the triple goddess ring. She wears that the whole movie, but you don’t really get a good glimpse of it. She’s also covered in these tattoos, which you don’t see because she’s fully covered in her Amish clothing. This entire outfit was made by our tailor, Dana Calanan, who was absolutely incredible in making this robe come to life.
Spencer: I’m sad to move on from Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin but me must. Let’s talk about your new film that is quite different than anything we have talked about today. India Sweets and Spices, now out in theateres everywhere! I’m very excited about this one. The film is about a college freshman returning home to her Indian American community for the summer. She discovers secrets and lies in her parents’ past. That makes her question everything. I’m hearing that you only had four weeks of prep for this project?
Whitney: It was wild! I got a call on a Wednesday, got the job on a Friday, and was in Atlanta on by Monday. Idove headfirst into this movie, learning the culture. I immersed myself in it from day one. Luckily our writer, director Geeta Malik was so wonderful. She walked me through her vision for this specific community. It’s not the same for every Indian American community, but we wanted to make her own rules for this community, which is similar to what she grew up in.
We had five giant parties with all of these wealthy families. Everyone had so many costume changes, both day wear and party wear, full of traditional Indian dress. Then we had distinctions. Elderly women and married women wear saris. All of the younger ladies wore a combination of Lehenga Choli, Anarkali, and Salwar Kameez. This was very important to Geeta, to separate the aunties from the younger, unmarried women. Then the men are all in American suits.
Our family who owns the local Indian grocery store who gets invited to this party, they’re all wearing traditional Indian dress and are not as embellished as everyone. It makes this big dichotomy between the two groups. We really wanted to use those pieces, textures and patterns to separate the different groups.
Spencer: Funny enough, you seem to have approached this film much like Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin. That authentic, dedicated approach to familiarizing yourself with the culture. For example, perfecting your Sari skills, the craft and the tradition of it all.
Whitney: Exactly. It’s funny how every movie you approach has the same amount of subject matter. I think you’re completely right, I approached the Amish community in the same way I approached this Indian-American community. I’m an outsider. How do I learn as much as possible and make it as authentic as possible because I want to be true to all of these groups? Luckily with Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin and the Amish community, I could make up my own rules because they’re not traditionally Amish, but this was very important for me to get this right.
It was such a joy, and it was so fun. Luckily, Atlanta has a huge Indian community, and they have great malls there. So that was helpful!
Spencer: Well, I honestly cannot wait to see this movie. It looks so fun, and I’m just really excited to follow along with you and your career. Funny enough, the ghosts are not leaving us because you just wrapped an exciting new project with some heavy-hitting actors and actresses like Jennifer Coolidge.
Whitney: I love her. I love her so much. We Have a Ghost has been a big journey. I got to New Orleans in May, and we just finished our 65 shooting days schedule yesterday. We’ve survived COVID, a hurricane, etc. It has been a journey. I was getting through it all with such incredible actors. I mean, I absolutely love Jennifer Coolidge, David Harbour, Anthony Mackie, Jackie Winston, they’re just incredible people and so, I was lucky that we were able to survive this all together.
Spencer: Oh, man! Well, I’m excited about this one. Sounds like we’ll probably be talking very soon. Thank you so much for joining me!
Whitney: Thank you for having me. This has been such a blast.
India Sweets and Spices is now in theaters! Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin is available on Paramount+
The Office: Holiday Special with Carey Bennett – S1.E21
The holiday season is here, and what better way to get into the holiday spirit than hanging out with Michael Scott and the rest of the Dunder Mifflin gang! That’s right, in this week’s special episode, our co-hosts are watching The Office. Specifically, Season 2 Episode 10, Christmas Party, and Season 3 Episodes 10 and 11, A Benihana Christmas. Costume designer for the first four seasons of The Office, Carey Bennett, joins the podcast to talk about her experience on the show and creating these classic holiday wardrobes! Stay tuned until the very end of the episode, where you will learn about an opportunity to score one of the famous garments seen within these episodes.
DEADLINE HAS BEEN EXTENDED TO DECEMBER 5TH – 11:59 PMPST
The Art of Costume is excited to announce our new collaboration with costume designerCarey Bennettin unison with her recent guest feature on our official podcast, The Art of Costume Blogcast. In celebration of Bennett’s four seasons as costume designer on the hit television show, The Office and the upcoming holiday season – listeners are being presented with a chance to take home a one-of-a-kind piece straight from the set of The Office.
During the third season of The Office, employees were given a special holiday gift, a Dunder Mifflin robe. What you might not know is that everyone, including the cast and crew, was given their own robe as a gift… well, except for Toby Flenderson.
Now one of these robes from the set of The Office can be yours just in time for the holidays! To enter for a chance to take home your own Dunder Mifflin robe, read the directions below!
Please do not send personal information – only order number and donation amount are required.
Receipts must be delivered to our email by December 5th, 2021, at 11:59 PM PST.
For every $5.00 (USD) donated, your name will be entered in a drawing. During the season finale episode of The Art of Costumed Blogcast coming out on December 7th, 2021, Carey Bennett will be drawing the name of our winner!
Example of Receipt:
This opportunity is exclusive to our listeners in the United States of America.
You must be at least 18 years of age to participate.
Members of The Art of Costume team are not eligible for participation.
Things are about to get ‘spicy’ on The Art of Costume Blogcast as Elizabeth and Spencer face their biggest challenge yet – a one-way trip to Arrakis. In this week’s episode, our co-hosts dive into the 2021 American epic science fiction film, Dune, directed by Denis Villeneuve with costume design by co-designers Jacqueline Westand Bob Morgan. Topics include the famous ‘Stillsuit,’ the world’s relationship with Timothée Chalamet, the impeccable fashion of the Bene Gesserit, Oscar Isaac’s wardrobe (or lack thereof), and Elizabeth gives a brief history lesson on the world of Dune adapted by the 1965 novel by Frank Herbert.
Imagine being tasked with costuming Jennifer Hudson, one of the world’s most accomplished performers who was hand-picked to play the legendary Queen of Soul herself, Aretha Franklin. Clint Ramos was the talented costume designer responsible for the costume design of RESPECT and took on this daunting task. Now, all we can hear is the sweet sound of awards-season buzz!
Following the rise of Aretha Franklin’s career from a child singing in her father’s church’s choir to her international superstardom, RESPECT is the remarkable journey of the music icon’s path to find her voice. Hudson leads an all-star ensemble cast including Academy Award® winner Forest Whitaker, Marlon Wayans, six-time Tony Award® winner Audra McDonald, Marc Maron, five-time Emmy Award® nominee Tituss Burgess, and Grammy® Award winner and Academy Award® nominee Mary J. Blige.
Please enjoy an EXCLUSIVE clip showcasing Clint Ramos and his costume design for RESPECT and transforming Jennifer Hudson into Aretha Franklin.
Yeah! She knows it’s a multi-pass! This week, our co-hosts are packing their bags and heading to Fhloston Paradise to watch Spencer’s favorite standalone movie, The Fifth Element! Listen along as Elizabeth and Spencer talk all about Milla Jovovich’s character Leeloo Dallas, Ruby Rhod, Diva Plavalaguna played by Maïwenn Le Besco, and the famed costumes of The Fifth Element by French haute couture designer Jean Paul Gaultier. Multi-pass?!