Turning around to see a figure in the dark and wearing a stark white hockey mask will make any young trick or treater run and scream. Much to the amusement of whoever decided to dress up as Jason on Halloween night. This is Designing Fear: Jason Voorhees
With the spectacular success of John Carpenters, Halloween, everyone in Hollywood was scrambling to create a hit slasher of their own, featuring a new masked killer that would captivate and horrify audiences. Then in 1980, Friday The 13th gave slasher fans a new masked killer to haunt their dreams and destroyed the reputation of hockey masks in society.
However, Jason wasn’t even the killer in the first film of the franchise. The first Friday the 13th, saw Jason’s mother slashing her way through the counselors of camp crystal lake. Only her death at the end of the first movie spurs Jason’s revenge-filled slaughter in the subsequent films. In, 1981, Friday the 13th, part II, he wore a burlap sack with a single eye-hole over his head. While the image is unsettling for the third installment, in 1982, the writers and director Steve Miner wanted Jason to have his own iconic mask.
Surprisingly, a hockey mask wasn’t exactly on their list of terrifying options. The introduction of the hockey mask to film was thanks to Martin Jay Sadoff, the 3D effects supervisor who was an avid hockey fan and had a Detroit Red Wings goalie mask with him. When Miner called for a lighting check, nobody wanted to put make-up on Jason, played by Richard Brooker, so Sadoff offered up his hockey mask. Miner loved it and had the one used in film modeled after it creating one of the most iconic images in cinema.
A tall, description-less figure seems to be following behind you. But, whenever you turn around, the figure slips just out of sight, causing you to doubt your own vision until the moment that figure is upon you, and in those final moments, you regret not trusting your instincts.
The fear of faceless killers gripped the American imagination through the late 1960s and 70s as a seeming epidemic of serial killers dominated the news cycle. As always, Hollywood responded to this fear with a new kind of horror film, the slasher.
While the origins of slasher films can be found in the high body counts of early Agatha Christy films and the crazed killer in Alfred Hitchcock’s, Psycho and the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Many mark John Carpenter’s 1978 Halloween as the first true slasher film. Halloween’s story of teenage babysitters being senselessly murdered by a faceless, unstoppable assailant terrified audiences and established a horror icon, Michael Myers. Halloween’s tale of teenage babysitters being senselessly murdered by a faceless assailant terrified audiences and established a horror icon, Michael Myers.
The infamous killer is now a Halloween costume staple for those aiming to celebrate the horror genre on the scariest night of the year. Michael Myers’s featureless mask and generic navy blue jumpsuit turn one into the perfect non-descript individual that can blend into the crowd and spook unsuspecting passers-by just as Michael did on the streets of Haddonfield.
Carpenter’s inspiration for the character of Michael Myers came from an experience he had in college, where one of his courses took a trip to a mental institution in Kentucky, and he saw a patient with a “blank, pale, emotionless face and blackest eyes.” This description became the basis for the character, but in the script, he states Michael Myer’s mask has “the grotesque features of a man,” but Carpenter knew they didn’t have the money to create the mask he described. So instead took inspiration from the French film Eyes With Out A Face directed by Georges Franju, deciding that the mask should be blank and featureless. Bringing how he imagined Michael under the mask to the mask, it’s self.
With a budget of only $300,000, Carpenter and his team were forced to get creative with making the mask. More precisely, it was down to production designer Tommy Lee Wallace to bring that blankness, featureless mask to the screen. So Wallace went to a mask shop on Hollywood Boulevard and picked up three options. First, a clown mask to reference the clown costume he wore as a child, the second a Star Trek Spock mask, and the third a William Shatner Captain Kirk mask that he ironically picked out because he thought it didn’t look like anyone in particular. Then after Wallace had modified in under an hour to look precisely as Carpenter described.
At long last, The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will open its doors to the public on Thursday, September 30, 2021. Located in Los Angeles, this exciting new museum is the largest in North America devoted to exploring films and film culture. This brilliant new museum also emphasizes the importance of costume design and costume designers’ essential roles in the film industry. I was honored by The Academy Museum with an invitation to tour the exhibitions before the public, and I’ll just say, it was worth the wait!
It felt like a dream walking through the halls of The Academy Museum, full of costume surprises around every corner. Though I walked in with an idea of what I would see, I constantly came across acquisitions that made the hair stand up on my arms.
We first moved into a large gallery containing a chronological walk-through of Academy Awards history from 1929 to the present, an overview of the origins of the Oscars and the Academy, memorable wins and infamous snubs, Oscars fashion, and wraparound screens showcasing significant acceptance speeches.
The moment I knew I was in for quite the magical evening was when I came across the infamous 1986 Bob Mackie ensemble Cher wore to present an award at the Oscars. I was standing in the presence of one of the most famous outfits to grace a red carpet! Me being a Cher super-fan, I felt like I could have passed out. Luckily for me, Assistant Curator J. Raúl Guzmán (and my brilliant guide for the evening) was there to catch my fall.
We then proceeded on to The Identity gallery. The Identity gallery was the museum’s shining North Star for those who love and respect costume design art. Within this gallery, there are more than forty costumes and costume design sketches on view representing a wide swath of film history from the last century, including Lady Sings The Blues (1972), The Wiz (1978), Frida (2002), Us (2019), and Rocketman (2019). In addition, there is a display highlighting a single costume designer, which opens with costumes designed byMary Zophres. And yes, you will see The Dude’s bathrobe ensemble worn by Jeff Bridges in The Big Lebowski (1998).
There was one costume; however, I could not take my eyes off. Honestly, I never imagined myself stepping into the presence of the famous May Queen gown designed byAndrea Flesch worn by Florence Pugh in Midsommar (2019). Honestly, images don’t even do this gown justice, and I would say just seeing this gown is worth the price of admission.
The fun continued as we made our way through The Academy Museum and into The Encounters gallery, full of unique costume design. This gallery looks at the artistry that brings the worlds of sci-fi, fantasy, and horror to life, featuring original set pieces, costumes, and iconic characters, including C-3PO, E.T., and R2-D2. There were some showstopping costumes in this exhibit that I have always wanted to see, such as the iconic Edward Scissorhands costume by Colleen Atwood. Of course, no exhibit would be complete without the famed Dora Milaje armor worn by Okoye (Danai Gurira) in Black Panther by Academy Award-winning costume designerRuth Carter.
One of the most magical moments within The Academy Museum took place in The Encounters gallery as I approached a costume that still sends chills down my spine. Why it was none other than one of the infamous gowns worn by Gary Oldman in Bram Stoker’s Dracula. What else is there to say? It was powerful and actually brought me to quiet tears. I was happy I snuck away from Assistant Curator J. Raúl Guzmán for a moment so that he couldn’t see me quietly having an emotional moment.
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures dedicates quite a lot of space to the legendary costume designer, Eiko Ishioka. On my tour, I got to see Ishioka’s Oscar she won for her costume design work on Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the envelope and card to announce her well-deserved win, and even the Japanese poster for Francis Coppola’s 1979 film Apocalypse Now, designed by Eiko Ishioka.
Aside from all of the fantastic costumes I have shared with you, the seven-story, 300,000-square-foot museum will open with:
the 30,000-square-foot core exhibition Stories of Cinema, offering celebratory, critical, and personal perspectives on the disciplines and impact of moviemaking, past, and present
the temporary exhibition Hayao Miyazaki, the first museum retrospective in North America of the work of the acclaimed filmmaker and Studio Ghibli
The Path to Cinema: Highlights from the Richard Balzer Collection, with selections from the world’s foremost holdings of pre-cinematic optical toys and devices
Backdrop: An Invisible Art, a double-height installation that presents the painting of Mount Rushmore used in North by Northwest (USA, 1959)
And The Oscars® Experience presented in the East West Bank Gallery, an immersive simulation that lets visitors imaginatively step onto the stage of the Dolby Theatre to accept an Academy Award®.
I cannot recommend this experience enough. I could have spent all day in this museum. Actually, I kind of did spend all day, and I still don’t think I saw everything I wanted to. This museum recognizes the importance of costume designers and gives proper credit to the incredible designers around the world, past and present, for their imperative contributions to film. Tickets are available now, so please head to the website for The Academy Museum and reserve your spot today!
Thank you to The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures for inviting me to experience this brand new museum, and thank you to Assistant Curator J. Raúl Guzmán for sharing your infinite knowledge with me as we explored this one-of-a-kind experience.
When the opportunity came to me to interviewSpace Jam: A New Legacy costume designer, Melissa Bruning, I immediately said yes! Look, I grew up on the first Space Jam. I remember often camping out in the backyard as a kid. My father would always wheel out the tiniest tv with a VHS player, leaving it up to my brother and me on what movies we would watch. My choices were always The Fifth Element (one of the greatest films of all time) or the original SpaceJam with Michael Jordan! So obviously, when Space Jam: A New Legacy came out, I was stoked!
I get it; when you think of Space Jam, costume design probably wasn’t the first thing to cross your mind. Rabbit season, duck season, basketball, Martians, Tweety Bird… what role could costume design really play in this film? In this week’s episode of The Art of Costume Blogcast, Elizabeth Joy Glassand I sat down with costume designer Melissa Bruning to talk about her work on Space Jam: A New Legacy.
Melissa told us her immediate response to the initial outreach over being costume designer of Space Jam: A New Legacy was “hell yes!” Imagine the opportunity! While she was, of course, excited, there was a task ahead. This task would be pretty daunting for any costume designer, giving the “Toon Squad” basketball uniforms a modern redesign. I asked Melissa about this task and her relationship with the animators. “They were my best buddies,” says Melissa and continued to say the main concern was that “not only would the uniform [have to] look good on Lebron, it had to look good on the toons.”
Melissa had to take a lot of things into consideration when creating the concept. While “Daffy Duck could pretty much wear anything, same with Granny,” not all of the Looney Tunes look great in whites or orange. Remember, the Looney Tunes play basketball in the crazy, video-game-like world of the Serververse… so it is very dark with bright neon accents. With that being said, Melissa and the team settled on the blue color with a new, modern twist of the classic Warner Bros. circle. The new uniforms incorporate all of the same elements of the traditional uniforms while breathing a new modern life into them.
Images of Tune Squad uniforms.. Illustration by Christain Cordella. Photos Courtesy of Melissa Bruning
There were many fun costumes we saw on screen, such as Lebron James appearing in the crazy world of “Mad Max: Fury Road,” “The Matrix,” and the 1942 film “Casablanca.”
Costume Concept Illustrations for the various looks of LeBron James by artist, Christain Cordella
There were costumes made for so many other of our favorite movies and television shows. But one that got away still hurts my heart! Elizabeth and I thought to ourselves, wouldn’t it be cool if we saw Lebron James as a Game of Thrones character? Turns out, the costume was made, but it didn’t make it on screen. My heart! “It was a replica we had made of The Hound from Game of Thrones. It was amazing. We did three fittings in it, and it was heavy as hell,” said Melissa Bruning. Elizabeth and I both screamed, “OH MY GOD!”.
LeBron James in armor inspired by Game of Thrones. Illustration by Christain Cordella. Photo Courtesy of Melissa Bruning
Imagine reading on the script as a costume designer, ‘all of the Warner Bros. villains show up to watch the game’. Where do you even start? Melissa told us she “tried to clear about 250 different categories”. If you look closely, you’ll see Batman villains, Lord Voldemort, The Wicked Witch of The East, Baby Jane Hudson, and Pennywise the Clown from “It.” I could write an entire article on all of the characters seen in this film. “I had one separate costume shop and one separate assistant who, for about 15 weeks, was just making background,” said Melissa Bruning.
The wonderful Don Cheadle played Al-G, a rogue A.I. The costumes on Don’s character were some of the more fun costumes we saw; Elizabeth even mentioned they were her favorite! While you might think costuming Looney Tunes would be the more difficult part of the job, Melissa had a different idea. “I think that the Al-G clothes were the hardest of the movie. What does an algorithm wear?” Melissa decided to focus on things that would make Al-G “shiny,” concentrate on circuitry and sparkle, like the sparkly tracksuit. But also, Al-G adapted to the different personalities relevant to the situation, such as a studio head or a Hall of Fame coach. “He would do whatever was the most pleasing for whoever was looking at him,” said Melissa.
The costume design process behind Space Jam: A New Legacy was incredibly fascinating. For more behind-the-scenes details about the film, please enjoy our interview with costume designer Melissa Bruning. She goes into detail on her ideas behind the uniforms, working with Lebron James, and all of the crazy cameos that took place! That’s all folks!
It’s been 20 years since Elle Woods (played by Reese Witherspoon) graced the big screen. Even though I didn’t know what movies were when this came out, I’ll never forget how much I fell in love with Legally Blonde – especially after seeing it for the first time, many years later in my government class.
Legally Blonde is a film for the underdogs. It’s also a feminist classic, representing the many women fighting for a voice and the chance to get the same opportunities as their male counterparts. And Elle does just that, but with clothing! We’re going to look at Wood’s outfits by the talented costume designer Sophie de Rakoffand see how they not only impacted her life but paved her way to success! You may not have realized it, but fashion played a massive role in Woods’ story.
TheL.A Sorority Girl
We’re first introduced to Elle Woods in an amusing and playful opening scene. Elle is preparing for a very special date with her boyfriend Warner Huntington III (played by Matthew Davis). She’s wearing a hot pink, cloud-patterned, fitted halter dress with a tie around her waist. The dress is paired with pink heart heels. She’s the President of CULA’s (California University of Los Angeles) Delta Nu sorority, so she proudly wears a gold pin on her dress.
For accessories, she has a bright sunflower pin in her hair and three significant reoccurring pieces of her costumes: silver studded earrings, a silver chain heart pendant necklace, and a matching silver chain heart pendant bracelet. I call this her “3-piece signature set”. This is the first outfit that Elle wears in the film. It’s established that Elle absolutely LOVES pink and is a very happy, bubbly, and lovable person. She also LOVES her adorable Chihuahua, Bruiser Woods (played by the late Moonie), who has various matching outfits with Elle throughout the movie.
Here’s a fun game: Count how many times you see the 3-piece signature set throughout the article!
Low Viscosity Rayon
In the next scene, Elle heads to the store with her two best friends to pick out a special outfit for the date — in hopes that it ends in an engagement! She tries on this gorgeous, blue sequin dress with straps and a silver chain belt. Elle also has on pink heels. Assuming that she’s unintelligent, the store employee walks over to Elle with a stunning, one-shoulder red gown and tries to scam her by claiming that it’s new and one-of-a-kind.
Elle’s knowledge pays off, though, when she stumps the employee with a fashion-related *question, letting her know that the dress was in the June edition of Vogue a year ago. Elle makes it very clear in this scene that she’s into fashion. She also has extensive knowledge of it and can use it to her advantage—this is an important detail to note. You’ll see why!
*Note to self: You can’t use half-loop top stitching on the hem of a low viscosity rayon dress. It will snag the fabric!
Later that night, while on a date with Warner, Elle shows her love of pink (and halter dresses) by wearing another fitted, hot pink halter dress with a black pattern across it. The high-low dress has a beautiful ruffled hemline that falls almost to the floor as it meets Woods’ black, backless open-toe heels. You’re able to see the entire outfit later on in the date, but unfortunately, it’s as Elle stomps away, upset because Warner broke up with her.
Post Break-Up Makeover
After Elle’s breakup with Warner, this is where we start to see a slight change in Elle’s style. Elle steps away from hot pink halter dresses and turns to a more casual style. Because Elle has been in her room all day torturing herself with romantic movies and chocolate, her friends decide to take her out to the spa to get manicures and pedicures. Elle can be seen wearing a rainbow tie-dye spaghetti strap top with light pink pants, a red belt, and blue high heels. While at the spa, Elle gets an idea! To win Warner back, she decides that she should become a Harvard Law School student.
Elle meets with the Admissions Advisor at CULA, wearing a blue tank top, silver belt, and bright red pants. This look is similar to what she wore at the spa: a sleeveless top, belt, and pants. Because Elle is majoring in Fashion Merchandising, the advisor tells Elle that she’s not the best candidate for Harvard. But due to Elle’s persistence, the advisor gives her information anyways on how to get in. When she gets back to her dorm, Elle starts to return to her cheery self. She’s sitting on the floor studying for the LSATS wearing a blue, gray, and white striped tank, red and white belt, and black jeans. She continues to model the style of the last two outfits.
Welcome to Harvard
After telling her parents about her new plan while wearing a blue sequin bikini, Elle creates an admissions video essay for Harvard. Elle’s original style of wearing hot pink starts coming back as well. In the introduction of the video, Elle wears a hot pink, sequin, halter bikini top in her backyard pool. She wears another sequin dress in the next scene, but this time it’s gold. She’s explaining her strengths to Harvard, noting how she’s “skilled at commanding the attention of a room,” which she certainly does while wearing this gorgeous dress. To me, it looks very 1920s-inspired.
While in the pool again, Elle wears a green, sequin, halter top bikini, the same as the pink and blue one. These first four sequin looks remind me of the blue sequin dress that Elle tried on earlier for her date. But what truly reminds me of her original style is a hot pink halter dress that she wears. It gives me 70’s vibes, especially with its deep V-neck. The outfits in this admissions essay tend to be shiny and attention-grabbing, which most of her outfits are.
This last outfit isn’t in the admission’s video, but it appears in the scene where Elle is opening up her final LSAT scores. She’s wearing a hot pink shirt with dark wash blue jeans. This gives a hint that Elle is returning to her happy self. She’s no longer in a funk and feels more optimistic, especially since she’s one step closer to getting Warner back. Now I won’t say her final LSAT score but let’s just say Elle’s heading to Harvard!
The Gemini Vegetarian
People don’t take too kindly to Elle when she first arrives at Harvard. She’s way different from everyone else, and it clearly shows through her clothes. While the other students and faculty are wearing neutral and monotone colors, Elle shines through — literally. Elle arrives, with Bruiser, of course, in an all-pink outfit. It consists of a pink long sleeve jacket with faux fur and a matching pink pencil skirt with a front slit. She has brown, pointed high-heeled boots and carries a red purse with a patterned scarf tied around the strap. Like the 3-piece signature set, this purse also becomes an essential staple in many of Elle’s outfits and her habit of tying scarves around bag straps.
It’s evident, though, that Elle’s outfits have impacted the way people view her. A student describes her as a “Malibu Barbie” as she enters the school. She’s not taken seriously and gives off a vibe to everyone that she’s unintelligent and only cares about clothes. This idea continues in the next scene, where Elle is checking in for her class materials. She walks up to the desk wearing a very bright outfit. She has an off-the-shoulder, purple, dark blue, and pink striped shirt with a pink newsboy hat and pink pants. She’s wearing a silver belt and is carrying around two bags: A red purse with a scarf tied around the strap and a tan and brown purse that she takes Bruiser in.
The student who is at the desk looks her up and down, giving her a strange look. He also makes a rude, sarcastic remark when she asks about Warner, telling her she should “check with the cruise director on the lido deck.” Despite his comment, my favorite outfit in this scene is where Elle sits around with the other Harvard students. You can clearly see the contrast between their outfits. While the students wear solids and darker colors, Elle’s outfit is the complete opposite, filled with patterns and exciting color choices.
After her unsuccessful welcoming, Elle attempts to fit in with the rest of the students by toning down her style and wearing an outfit that will make her “look the part” of a Harvard law student. She wears a long, teal, black sweater that reminds me of a mix between a Hogwarts uniform and a mermaid. Elle also wears a teal and black pencil skirt and brown boots. She carries her signature red purse with a scarf tied around it and black glasses to finish the Harvard student look.
Elle attends her first law class that day in this outfit. Still, she gets a reality check from Professor Stromwell (played by Holland Taylor) and fellow student Vivian Kensington (played by Selma Blair) when asked to leave due to not being prepared for an assignment. After class, Elle meets up with Warner, who introduces her to his fiancé, Vivian! Elle is speechless and storms off. We later see the pink button-up shirt and entire purple, blue, and yellow plaid tie that’s underneath Elle’s sweater when she breaks down and rants to nail technician Paulette Bonafonte (played by Jennifer Coolidge) at Neptune’s Beauty Nook Hair and Nails.
Third Time’s A Charm?
After her talk with Paulette, Elle is inspired to win Warner back from Vivian. She starts wearing more pink again, similar to the beginning of the movie. Trying to get Warner’s attention, Elle shows up to one of Warner’s football practices in an eye-catching outfit. Her pink, cropped faux fur coat stands out the most, along with her pink, sequin, halter bikini top that she wore earlier in her Harvard admissions video essay. She also wears pink pants that are secured with a pink belt and beautiful silver wedges.
For her second attempt, Elle wears pink again while trying to win Warner’s heart (and tummy) at the library. She brings a basket full of muffins to his study session, wearing a sleeveless cheetah V-neck top that pairs nicely with her pink pencil skirt. But it’s not enough — at least for Vivian — and she’s turned away. Attempting one last time to impress Warner, Elle accepts a “costume” party invitation from Vivian. Elle arrives in a playboy bunny-like costume with a pink lace corset, and a strapless bodysuit with pink faux fur lining. The bodysuit is paired with hot pink fishnet tights and pink metallic heels. She wears a thin, hot pink choker, a huge bunny ears headband, and a light, fluffy bunny tail. To finish off the look, she carries a small pink handbag with a fluffy pink lining.
The outfit is cute, but everyone’s reactions aren’t. As soon as Elle steps into the room, she’s met with a surprise – she’s been lied to. No one else is wearing a costume. Elle confronts Vivian then finally meets up with Warner. But after he offends her, telling her that she can do something more valuable with her time instead of law school, Elle realizes that she’s never going to be enough for him. She sets off to prove him wrong.
I’ll Show You
Elle gets more serious about law after her revelation with Warner. Her other professor, Callahan (played by Victor Garber), has mentioned that not only will the class be competing for the highest grade, but for an internship spot at one of his firms, where they’ll get to assist on actual cases. Determined to prove her worth, Elle starts studying more. She also begins to wear less pink and more purple, orange, blue, and red.
She briskly walks past Warner, Vivian, and their friends on her way to the library. She’s wearing this dark blue velvet jacket with a long-sleeved purple sweater underneath and dark blue jeans. Around her neck is a long, purple, red, and pink fringe-edged scarf. She also wears a lavender beanie with a white stripe across it and a big purple flower on the side. And, of course, she’s carrying around her signature red purse with a scarf tied around it. This color scheme continues in the next few scenes. She wears a lavender top in class, an orange top while working out, a red top while she’s at the salon, and a 70’s inspired red, pink, and purple dress shirt with a red sweater over top of it while she’s in class again.
Lastly, Elle ends up taking on her small case. Paulette’s ex-husband has her dog, so Elle tags along with her to get the dog back. Elle wears a very similar outfit to the one that she wore in the library. Her outfit consists of a long, purple fuzzy coat, black pants, a red turtle neck with a pink design, and the same lavender cap with a flower and white stripe across it. Elle adds black glasses this time, though, to create a “lawyer” look.
After all of Elle’s hard work, she earns one out of the four spots for the internship at Callahan’s firm! She’s even going to be working on one of the most prominent cases at the time. With significant milestones come big changes as Elle starts to switch up her style again, making it look more professional. She continues to wear button-ups but incorporates blazers and darker colors into her outfits. This time though, her outfits are less forced and more Elle! It’s almost as if she’s reverting to her “Harvard law student” outfit that she wore earlier when trying to blend in with the other students.
Elle showcases her new style on the first day of the case. She struts down the hall wearing a black, button-up quarter-sleeve dress. Underneath, she wears a white polka-dotted shirt that has ruffles falling from the collar and a red flower in the center. The dress also has a gold and black striped, ruffled bottom, and Elle adds black stockings along with black heels. She carries a black briefcase that isn’t as colorful as her purses but still maintains her tied scarf tradition.
Elle wears a black V-neck sweater and skirt with a pop of color on her shirt in the next scene. It’s red, black and white with a swirl design. This is when Elle meets the defendant, Brooke Taylor-Windham (played by Ali Larter), who’s on trial for the death of her husband. Elle knows Brooke and believes that she’s innocent, but her fellow interns disagree. Elle’s outfits are primarily black at this time which is an extreme contrast from her previous looks. It seems as though her color palette changes throughout her emotions. She’s in a more serious mood now, so her outfits tend to be on the darker side.
The Bend and Snap
Elle steps out of her internship role for a moment as she meets with Paulette again. In this infamous scene, Elle performs “The Bend and Snap” move to get Paulette and everyone else at the salon to gain more confidence and learn how to grab other’s attention. Even though she’s wearing darker-colored pants, Elle adds brighter colors to this look by pairing it with a hot pink spaghetti strap top and a yellow, floral-patterned, see-through top. Elle is in a more relaxed state at this time, and her outfit perfectly blends in with the vibe and color scheme of Neptune’s Beauty Nook Hair and Nails.
On The Case
Elle returns to work in her business outfits. She’s been spending a lot of time on the case, talking to and interviewing witnesses. Throughout the following few scenes, Elle wears a lot of gray, black, and white. Bright colors have disappeared from her outfits, but she still does manage to feature many patterns. She wears a gray top with a white collar while discussing the case with her colleagues, a gray blazer with a black design on it while meeting with Brooke, and a long black velvet coat with a black velvet skirt, a black belt, and a G-patterned white blouse while she’s out with her colleague Emmett Richmond (played by Luke Wilson).
It’s the first day of the trial, and Elle is ready to take on the world. She’s still wearing business clothes but starts to add subtle hints of color. She shows up with a dark blue jean blazer with a white button-up shirt. On the second day of the trial, she returns with a black blazer, loose black skirt, large fishnet stockings, and black high heels.
She also wears a black, red, and white dress shirt with hints of pink on it. Yes pink! Is this a sign that hot pink Elle is coming back? Well, Elle happens to find out a critical piece of information that will turn this entire case around. But unfortunately, Elle is left with no choice but to leave after Callahan hits on her and tries to take advantage of her. Elle is disgusted at how she was used for her looks and attempts to return to Los Angeles.
After some wise words from Professor Stromwell, Elle returns to the courtroom, but this time as Brooke’s lawyer! The hot pink Elle is back and ready for justice. Elle catches everyone’s eye as she walks down the courtroom in a hot pink dress with a light pink collar and cuffs. Her hot pink heels shine with their glittery buckles. She also wears a glittery belt that ties around her waist and hangs off to the side. And goodbye briefcase, because Elle is back with a matching hot pink purse.
Elle has always been an optimistic and bright person, but here it seems she’s her true happy self, just as she was in the beginning. I love how Elle maintains her love of pink in this outfit and displays a more mature version of herself. And just as she did earlier in the movie, Elle uses her knowledge of glam and fashion to win the case!
What, Like It’s Hard?
Elle graduates from Harvard two years later and will be joining one of Boston’s most prestigious law firms. This is the first time that we see Elle wearing the same thing as everyone else, haha! But we all know that she’s special. Everyone is! And if there’s one thing that this movie has taught me, it’s that you should flaunt your differences and be who you are. Even though Elle was treated a certain way because of how she looked, dressed, and acted, she found a way to turn it into a positive and ended up proving everyone wrong. It’s cool to see how her style went on a journey with her as she found her way back to her roots. Thank you, Sophie de Rakoff, for bringing us this massive collection of costumes that we can cherish forever. You have inspired so many people!
Please check out the Art of Costume Blogcast if you love Legally Blonde and want more of it. There’s a super fun Legally Blonde episode! And I have some great news. Not only is there a Legally Blonde 2, but a Legally Blonde 3 in the works set for May 2022! I can’t wait to see the brilliant costumes.
Costumes in the Heroes Section of the MoPOP’s newest exhibition, Heroes and Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume
I am beyond excited to share with you all an exciting new exhibition of fabulous costuming to visit this summer! Previously, only Disney’s D23 Expo attendees were given a chance to see the Heroes & Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume exhibition. Now, you too have an opportunity to immerse yourself in this brilliant collection of more than 70 original pieces spanning more than 6,000 square feet of museum space!
In Seattle, Washington, The Museum of Pop Culture, in collaboration with the Walt Disney Archives, is currently hosting the new exhibition, Heroes & Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume, open now to the public until April 17, 2022.
I was granted the opportunity to visit the exhibition this month, and I was absolutely thrilled. The exhibition walks you through a magical world of costumes, highlighting some costumes seen on some of our most favorite heroes, and villains too! Some pieces you will see are fresher in memory, such as pieces from 2019’s Dumbo, designed by Colleen Atwood. Other costumes are a brilliant blast from the past, such as the oldest costume on display, Mary Poppins’ traveling dress designed by Bill Thomas and worn by Julie Andrews in the 1964 film. Stepping up to each platform was a real thrill as there was no telling which costume you would encounter next.
“Costuming is an essential element of storytelling, and Heroes & Villains exemplifies the richness of character we hope our films portray. It has been thrilling to collaborate with MoPOP’s curators to bring a selection of the stunning pieces we have at the Walt Disney Archives to Seattle.”
Becky Cline, director of the Walt Disney Archives.
Some of the first costumes you meet upon entry that instantly took my breath away belonged to Brandy and Whitney Houston. That’s right, we are talking about costumes from the film Cinderella, with costumes designed by Ellen Mirojnick. I mean, what a moment! We all know and love the costumes, but there is something magical about seeing Whitney Houston’s Fairy Godmother dress in person!
As I made my way through the exhibit, I was stunned to come face to face with The Sanderson Sisters. Well, not flesh and blood, but their costumes were there for all to see! The three witches’ dresses from Hocus Pocus (1993) worn by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy — all designed by Mary Vogt — plus the vacuum! This, to me, is worth the price of admission alone!
I was extremely pleased to come into contact with one of my all-time favorite costumes—the legendary Queen Narissa dress from Enchanted worn by Susan Sarandon, designed by my friend, Mona May. Honestly, I felt a bit emotional once I realized this dress was here. Somebody, please pinch me! There is SO much detail in this piece; I am not sure I can explain the beauty – you must see it for yourself. The colors and dragon scale textures are a sight to behold.
Look, I don’t want to give away all the surprises, but as a community, we have been talking a lot about the brilliant costumes of 2021’s Cruella, designed by Jenny Beavan. So I was blown away when I realized that costumes worn by THE Glenn Close in 101 Dalmatians and 102 Dalmatians were there! If you are sharing in the Cruella de Vil love right now, then you are going to be excited to see multiple costumes of past Cruellas.
As much as I would love to talk about every single costume (you know I would) with you all, part of the magic of this exhibit is rediscovering some of your favorite Disney costumes you have come to love over the years. Every color, textile, and sketch filled me with such joy and loving memories that only can be tapped by the power of Disney. So please, lovers of costume and Disney, take me up on this advice and run, don’t walk to the Museum of Pop Culture in Seattle, Washington, to see Heroes & Villains: The Art of the Disney Costume exhibition.
Mariana: We are gathered here today to review Cruella’s costumes, darling! More specifically, the costumes of Disney’s most recent film: Cruella. Hello Jada, thank you for joining me in this great piece; I am so glad to review this film together!
Jada: Hi Mariana! We’re going to have so much fun! I’m excited to be reviewing this with you too.
Mariana: Let’s get started by sharing our overall thoughts on the film. What did you think about the movie?
Jada: I loved the movie! I thought it would be more similar to the original story we saw in older Cruella movies, but then once I really looked into it, I learned that it was supposed to be Cruella’s backstory, so it started to make more sense. But everything from the fashion to the plot to the entire cast. It was just fantastic!
Mariana: Yeah, same here! First of all, I am a huge Disney fan, so as soon as I saw that Disney was making this film, I was like OMG! I was not expecting the plot to turn out like that! And then I saw that Jenny Beavan would be the costume designer: OH MY GOD x 200!! Also, I really enjoyed how they referenced the animated movie, which I love, and the whole production was flawless. Every single character was so well casted, and the way they tell the story through fashion was just fascinating…
Jada: Yes, there were plot twists at every turn!
Mariana: What a great movie. I could watch it again and again! So let’s start our review with Cruella’s costumes; which one was your favorite one?
Jada: There were a few costumes that really stood out to me. This one in particular, which I’m pretty sure is everyone’s favorite, is the dress from the garbage truck scene. It’s so amazing! It’s made with pieces of newspaper articles about her. I thought that was such great detail. And I was reading that the train on the dress is 40 feet long. That’s insane! It was very heavy, of course, so it wasn’t attached to the dress and was added on at the last minute, but I thought it was just so pretty. Her costumes are really out there, and her style is so…in your face!
Mariana: This dress was mind-blowing! It shows the character at its climax: arriving on a garbage truck to a gala, what an entrance! And speaking of the dress itself, the bodice is so perfectly tailored as well, so beautiful!
Jada: It is beautiful! And I like how they presented a lot of the dresses in this movie. Like with this one, the way that she falls out of the truck was perfect. The dress was revealed as trash, but in reality, it’s the complete opposite.
Mariana: Yes! The way she appears from under the dresses is so great, so magical. And I would like to add something insane about this creation, the 40 feet long train was actually a patchwork made from one of the Baroness’s old, outdated collections! “One woman’s trash is another’s a treasure.”
Jada: Oh wow, it literally is another woman’s treasure! haha
Mariana: Something similar happened with the red flame dress, which we had a glimpse of in the trailer. It was a Baroness’ old design, but she transformed it and made it 100 times more stunning.
Jada: I also loved how they revealed this dress. It shows how innovative she is. Cruella truly made a statement. I call this next dress the military petal dress. It has a military-style jacket with a long ombre skirt. My favorite part of the costume is the hidden decorations. If you zoom in super close to the coat, you’ll see that on the epaulets (shoulder pieces), there are mini horses and carriage pieces. It’s a very royal look. And even if you look at her hair, it’s styled into a crown. I absolutely love that!
Mariana: Oh my God! I didn’t see that before; I love it! There’s also a lot of punk in her style, and this one is the perfect blend between Punk and Royalty. I really love how Jenny incorporated many John Galliano, Vivienne Westwood, and even Alexander McQueen in Cruella’s costumes. And this is also an extremely long skirt, so dramatic!
Jada: I couldn’t find the exact length, but I know that it was apparently one of the most challenging looks to make, and it involved so many people. Mariana: It had over 5,000 hand-sewn flowers. Unbelievable and highly fantastic! Can you imagine how much time it took?
“I think at one point I saw 12 people sitting around the table — students and trainees — hand-stitching petals,” says Beavan referring to the “Military Petal Dress“
Jada: 5,000 hand-sewn flowers!? That must have taken forever. I wonder how long it took to make next this next look which I absolutely love! It’s the “Dalmatian fur” coat. It’s a high-low asymmetrical coat with faux leather and a “Dalmation fur” print. I loved how this was the only dalmatian look in the movie. It was like an ode to 101 Dalmations while still staying true to the plot of this one.
Mariana: Absolutely, it’s like she’s coming to what we know as Cruella with this stunning coat! And here’s an important quote: “please rest assured: No animals were harmed in or during the making of this movie.”
Jada: Yes! That is very important to note! And the last costume on my list that really stood out to me also happens to be the very last costume in the film. It was a simple all-black look: A black tweed blazer with pointed shoulder pads and cape sleeves that attach in the back. I LOVE cape sleeves. Anything with cape sleeves on them I’ll fall in love with, haha. The blazer is also paired with black fitted pants and faux leather gloves. I really liked how sleek it was. The costume was significantly toned down compared to her other looks, but something about it was so bold and fierce. I was just so captivated by it.
Mariana: I feel that moment when she’s walking into the mansion with such determination is so powerful, and her costume is just enhancing that. I will just add two more to Cruella’s list, first the motorcycle costume. The leather jacket and sparkly gold pants look from out of this planet! The texture from the leather jacket is imitating the motorcycle tires, kind of going back to the concept with the garbage dress; she can make an outfit out of anything! And also, her broad shoulders presented here definitely give her more authority. It just bothered me that it only appeared on screen for a couple of minutes!
Jada: I wish there were more time to take in all of the costumes.
Mariana: Yeah! And the last one I liked was the leather skirt and suit. The leather was actually a checkered pattern, which is incredible, and both pieces are so well-tailored. Also, this is her second appearance as Cruella, so without causing too much drama, she looks elegant, powerful but subtle at the same time since I think it has a little bit of Estella.
Jada: I remember a scene in the movie where she walked down the street with Dalmatians in that outfit, and it was so cool. There was so much power in one scene.
Mariana: And to finish our Cruella’s round, although this is actually an Estella creation: The butterfly dress. What a masterpiece! Imagine the people who made that for the film, such a talented crew.
Jada: Very talented! I wonder if anyone wore the dress behind the scenes or what it would’ve been like if the Baroness or Cruella would’ve worn it in the movie. Maybe it was just too perfect for anyone to wear it.
Mariana: Too bad they didn’t get to wear it because it destroyed itself! With that, we finish Cruella’s costumes (we mentioned pretty much all of them). I want to add that I also loved Estella’s costumes. They were not as stunning, but Estella’s style is so punk, fashionista, and elegant, it’s brilliant. I love how storytelling and character creation work so well with these costumes.
Jada: Yes, you can really see her transformation from Estella to Cruella. As you said, they definitely did a great job with storytelling.
Mariana: Let’s dive into the Baroness costumes, shall we?
Jada: Her two-toned black and white dress is stunning! I loved this dress because it reminded me of Cruella’s fake Dalmatian fur coat. It felt like they were paralleling each other where Cruella’s version was more punk and edgy, whereas the Baroness’ was more elegant and classy. And we have to talk about the collar! It was so dramatic. It looked like a sculpture!
Mariana: A lot of drama! And how clean it looks! Of course, it’s white, but the asymmetric neckline is flawless…. She is wearing it with such elegance, and her eye mask and accessories match perfectly. The next one on my list is her “going to work outfit.” It is a brown dress with a gold jacket, and that jacket has a similar dramatic collar; although it’s more subtle, the shape and the drama are there. This is actually the costume she is wearing when she finds the talented Estella.
Jada: Yes, that is the look! It’s one of the first times that we see the Baroness other than when Cruella was a child, so the costume establishes her character and personality very well. You can tell that she’s very into high fashion and is well respected in the fashion industry. And I read that Jenny got a lot of inspiration from Dior, which I can definitely see in this.
Mariana: Yes! Absolutely!
Jada: The Baroness’ red carpet look is definitely on my list. It’s a cream-colored, side gathered dress with an asymmetrical neckline. And it gave me Alexander McQueen vibes because of the fan-like piece in the back. It was just so abstract.
Mariana: And the textile they use in that costume is so beautiful and delicate, is it jacquard?
Jada: It appears so, but unfortunately, I could not get close enough to see the actual print.
Mariana: It has that beautiful train falling behind her…
Jada: It does! It creates a dramatic waterfall drape effect.
Mariana: Such a diva! Do you have ANOTHER favorite one?
Jada: Of course! Haha. This dress was very simple, similar to how Cruella’s last look in the film was. It was an all-black, one-shoulder dress. However, it had a horn-like piece, or as you said, a spiral, attached to it. And I thought it was interesting that, if we think back to the Baroness’ two-toned dress with the asymmetrical collar, it looked like some of the dresses were trying to focus more on her face or aim towards her face rather than the actual dress. You mentioned earlier how we see many of her costumes from the waist up, which may have been their intention.
Mariana: Emma Thompson’s facial expressions are so great, so I guess they focus a lot on her face and character creation. As much as for Cruella, it was like the long dramatic trains and broad shoulders. For the Baroness, it was more her face, neck, shoulders, and hands. Actually, the next piece that I want to point out is a turban she wears with different outfits, making her look marvelous—also, most of the time accompanied by gloves that give her that final elegant touch.
Jada: She does! That costume looked very professional. Everything about her is so organized.
Mariana: There are many bold shapes that we don’t expect, and they worked so perfectly for her. Whenever she is not wearing the turban, her hair is made up, so it creates this column effect and gives her authority. They did a brilliant job.
Jada: They did. And this last look was a little different than most of the costumes we’ve seen. It’s a metallic blue and gray dress. It had these long draped sleeves, which I LOVE, and a silver piece on the front, too, resembling an armor plate. It looked like it was inspired by medieval times.
Mariana: Yes, that’s what I thought! I related a lot to one of Cersei’s costumes in Game of Thrones. As soon as I saw that dress, I said: YES! This is armor because she’s protecting herself!
Jada: Oh wow, I didn’t even make that connection!
Mariana: Yeah, she has to protect herself somehow. So, she has chains, the metallic piece, and the collar is high, which at the same time can mean that she is choking herself with her actions. There’s a lot of symbolism. Most of her costumes are black, brown, gold, and then this grey is kind of the coolest tone she wears. I think that works well for storytelling purposes because it has the same meaning; at this point, she’s doomed, and there is no way she can get out of here…
Jada: Yeah, that’s true. It’s almost as if the costumes were giving us a warning as to what was coming.
Mariana: I have to say that I think it’s my favorite movie it’s going to be one of my favorite movies for a very long time until someone else or something different
Jada: Oh yes, that’s what I said as soon as I finished the movie!
Mariana: Both of the characters have such dramatic costumes. The Baroness had a lot of asymmetrical, avant-garde, architectural costumes stylishly. And then Cruella has a lot of out of the ordinary (also avant-garde) but with her own identity and creative vibe.
Jada: They do! I love how opposite they are; it’s almost like they incorporate each other’s personalities and styles into their costumes. For example, they both feature a lot of asymmetry in their outfits which could be seen as more disorderly and Cruella-like, but they also both wear gloves which could be seen as more delicate and the Baroness’ style. So it’s cool to see them use these elements in a unique way that fits their character.
Mariana: Absolutely! Also, I heard in an interview with Jenny Beavan that her research was picking at her memory because she grew up in London in the seventies. So she was just going back to what was in trend, what she wore, and how people wore things. And also, she mentioned she was surprised she got picked for this film because she doesn’t have a fashion background like other costume designers. Still, since she grew up in London and is extremely talented, everything connected so well and ended up being perfect.
Jada: Oh wow! I’m so thankful that she was picked for this because she did fantastically! One of the best things about costume design is when you can really take inspiration from your own experiences so that must have been so great for her to do. I remember reading that Jenny’s favorite costume is the rat costume for the dog. It’s just so cute.
Mariana: OMG, that is adorable! Such a great character, that tiny dog, I loved it! I can’t imagine how it was fitting that costume though, haha… We could keep on talking about these costumes forever…
Jada: Did you have any final closing thoughts?
Mariana: I’ll say that this film fulfilled my designer spirit. All the textures, silhouettes and colors are just magical… Everything was perfect, I enjoyed every single piece of it, and I want to thank Jenny Beavan and her entire wardrobe team for giving us such amazing costumes! To be honest, I am still taking in everything that I saw in this movie.
Jada: Exactly! Now I have to go back and watch everything again and study it, haha. I don’t even have anything else to say. The movie speaks for itself! Like everyone just has to go and watch it. It’s perfect in every way!
Mariana: Well, thank you for your time! For sharing your thoughts and passion for costumes with me! I had a great time!
Jada: Thank you so much for letting me collaborate with you!
Mariana: If we didn’t make this clear already, please go and watch this movie! You can find it on Disney+ with Premiere Access or in the theatres. And, if you are a nerd like us and need more in-depth conversation about the costumes, please go and listen to The Art of Costume Blogcast.
After endless months of being stuck indoors shrouded in comfortable layers, we wish to see the world in our chicest attires. Without a mask when possible! A job that pays to travel, and a European backdrop with the James Dean of our dreams. Netflix’s Rebecca is the perfect wardrobe inspiration.
It’s safe to say that we are still dumbfounded by Lily James portrayal in last year’s release, Rebecca, who played the timid yet appealing Mrs. De Winters as she adorned 2020’s most celebrated trends. Her wardrobe breathed cottage-core aesthetics from lacey details to soft hues and fabrics. No shortage of Peter pan collars and puffed sleeves. The audience was basking in the beauty of the French Riviera like an Old-Hollywood style diva.
Adapted from the novel of the same name, “Rebecca” by Daphne du Maurier is a chilling story with a scenic visual representation. A lexicon of period-authentic styles, inspired by the style icon of the eras and beachwear photography, as the costume designer of the movie Julian Dayexplains in an interview with Fashionista, “Even though it’s period correct, it was the idea that anyone literally could go out now and buy the outfit of each character” which is literally the case as we spotted Harry Styles favored knitted cardigan and pearl detailing on Mrs. De Winters, and retro bowling shirt on Mr. De Winters.
The story unfolds with a clumsy and awkward Lily in an ill-fitted skirt suit making her way through a lavish interior. In cue to attract the most influential man of the crowd Mr. De Winter; soon enough, Lily’s sartorial choices developed. Her blonde bob hair-do is adorned with variations of berets, raffia, and bucket hats, her wardrobe saw a rich amalgamation of fabrics from tweed to delicate silks and cotton to lightweight knits as she indulged in summer silhouettes.
From cascading blouses to pussy-bow collars and balloon waisted tops with blowing palazzo pants, Julian explains in an interview with WWD “her style develops with the blossoming of the love she has with Maxim, she takes on a romantic silhouette”. Another detail that we connected with was the repetition of outfits. Leads rarely repeat outfits, which made her more into a girl next door further appealing to our likes.
As her journey shifts from a plain shy girl to a country lady after setting foot in Manderley as Mrs. De Winters wearing a gray collarless wrap-front coat. Soon enough, her closet hints at the transformation too from regular blouses to more twinsets and feminine silhouettes. You see edgy silhouettes washing off the colors from bright and pastel to dark and subdued. One such fit was that of a tweed pantsuit paired with a turtleneck (a reviving and most donned trend) for which Julian got inspired by the silver screen legends of the era like Katharine Hepburn, Greta Garbo, and Marlene Dietrich who historically gave birth to androgynous fashion by wearing pants in the 30s.
Julian explains her look further to Vogue UK by adding, “I studied a lot of Wallis Simpson’s looks, and also Coco Chanel’s, particularly during the period when she was having an affair with the Duke of Westminster and would wear a lot of men’s oversized tweed jackets”. One of the more riveting looks was the Chanel inspired custom-made golden boucle suit. Rebecca proved to be a fashion-forward watch and the perfect wardrobe inspiration. At times it is necessary to bring a book alive and give the audience a visual treat. This was one of those times!
Computer-animated films, just like other types of animation, don’t have an established role of a costume designer, or at least that is how it is in most cases. Creating costumes has been part of the character design process, which the animator or character designer will do. However, this is slowly changing, and costume designers are starting to gain their own spot in animated films. After all, the main purpose of a costume designer is to help bring a character to life and tell its story through costumes.
With the technological advances from the past years, computer-animated films are now as real as they have never been before. We are witnessing the most glorious moment of technology, where computer-animated films look so real you feel that you live in that same world. Textures, shapes, and colors are now so close to reality that the digital-animated world becomes almost palpable. Costumes on their own have gained a lot more importance as details are now more essential to the audience, and in the same manner, they have become a stronger part of storytelling. Each seam, trim, stitch, jewel, buckle, and button are so precise that you want to grab those costumes from the characters and put them into your wardrobe. To get these details as precise as the animation demands, costume designers must step into this process, just like we saw in the past article from this series “Costuming the Animated World: Stop-Motion Animation” with productions like LAIKA.
“The costume design is an essential part of this process: the clothes the characters wear reflect their personality and support the narrative in many ways”. -Maarit Kalmakurki
Computer animation has not always been as we know it today, it started around 25 years ago, and it is evolving at an impressive rate. Pixar Animation Studios is a pioneer and leader in this technology. Back in 1995, the company released the first computer-animated feature film: Toy Story. In those days, animating clothes was very time-consuming, so there are many hands and feet shots from a toy’s or children’s perspective. But things started to change, and from learning to animate humans, fur, hair, water, and certainly fabric, making costumes gained more importance and recognition. With time, Pixar has developed stitching, lace, leather, mesh, and veil textures. They even developed software to “sew” the garments together to achieve a real approach to costume construction.
Left to right: Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, John Lasseter, and Joe Ranft. Photo: Michael Ansell – Courtesy of Pixar Animation Studios
In Toy Story (1995), despite the main characters being toys who never change their costumes, all contribute to storytelling. Woody’s costume certainly rings a bell in all of us: a mustard checkered shirt, blue jeans, cow-print vest, hat, boots. The intricate details, such as his red handkerchief, buttons, belt, gun holster, and sheriff plaque, contribute to character creation. In terms of storytelling, his cowboy hat, for instance, is the only accessory that he can take off. Whenever he doesn’t have it, he is missing part of his identity, and it is something that he misses, but his owner does too.
“The last step is the fitting process, where we lay the garment on the character and make her walk just to see how it fits, how it lays, and then go back to the original 3D model and make any changes. At Pixar, which may or may not be different for other studios, we still flatten the meshes into 2D texture. That 2D pattern is what we send to the simulator. This way the simulator understands the grain direction of the cloth which is very important to represent sewing in real life”. Claudia Chung, Pixar (Interview: Clothes on Film, 2012)
In Brave (2012), to create the tartan kilts, which used around 8 yards of fabric, a draping process had to be implemented. This meant creating pleats manually around the character’s waist in the fitting process so that the fabric would lay properly and thus, create a real effect of a kilt.
Later on, with Coco (2017), a different challenge came along: there were many skeletons, and dressing them was certainly different from dressing humans. Besides having differences in body shapes, the costumes would often get caught between individual bones creating an irregular drape to the fabric. This was a detail that animators thought crucial to the story, and it worked so well that to the audience, it looked real.
The Incredibles 2
The Incredibles 2 (2018) brought together a group of amazing designers that contributed deeply to the film’s costumes, including the beloved character Edna Mode. The immense amount of research that involved the costume design started by researching the time period that inspired the film around the 1950s and ’60s and giving the costumes an iconic twist. Some of the things that the team did consist of analyzing sewing patterns and garments from this time and diving into magazines to learn about family customs and behaviors. This not only helped them design the main characters but also the background characters’ costumes. “I took note of the boldness of shape, and the silhouettes, the perfectly tailored fit. This was the most defining quality I found,” said Deanna Marsigliese, character designer at Pixar Animation Studios.
With a fifteen-year span between the first and second movie, the details incorporated into costumes are evident and exquisite. In the case of superhero suits, they were actually part of the character’s skin in the first movie, which made the logo stretch unusually. However, all supers have a separate costume for the sequel, which has been observed and perfected by Fran Kalal, character tailoring lead, Bryn Imagire, shading art director & costume designer, and their team. They supervise that every seam, every fabric, and texture are as close to real-life as possible. They even have some garments at the studio to imitate the textures, creases, lights, and shadows.
As mentioned before, there was an immense amount of time dedicated to background characters. They are actually the ones that enhance this 1950s decade. There was a lot of mix and match between men’s suits and women’s skirts and blouses, but that made it possible to have more than 60 unique designs for males and more than 60 unique designs for female background characters.
The Incredibles 2 had an important addition, the character Evelyn Deavor. She is not only the smart and creative mind behind the entire plot but has a bohemian and luxurious style to die for. Her entire wardrobe is a mixture between masculine and feminine details, bold prints, and faux zebra coats. Evelyn is actually the character with most costumes changes throughout the film, with 20 costumes which are insanely huge for an animated character. The detail on her costumes is flawless.
Finally, there is Edna Mode, the famous superhero designer who not only served as an inspiration for the creative team at Pixar, but they had to get into her mind to design a fashion show for a scene (which unfortunately didn’t make it to the final piece). However, creating this scene served during the character creation process where animators had to dive deep to design Edna Mode’s costumes and her own creations.
“She says she wants things to be ‘bold, dramatic and heroic.’ So I figured Edna would use her fashion line as a vehicle to celebrate superheroes and her powers. Once I realized that, the designing fell into place on its own.” Deanna Marsigliese, character designer, The Incredibles 2
In Toy Story 4 (2019), Pixar animators included recently extraordinary storytelling with the costumes of the beloved character: Bo Peep. In movies 1 and 2, she wears a pink polka-dot skirt, a pink bodice with a blue camisole underneath, a bonnet, and her cane. Her skirt is full, and she is wearing layers of petticoats underneath, probably a crinoline, and blue bloomers.
When she is presented again in Toy Story 4, her character has undergone many changes; she has transformed into an adventurous lost toy. In the same way, she transforms her costume. Now her skirt is a cape, which is worn inside out, displaying a dark purple lining, her blue bloomers and camisole are now used as a blue jumpsuit, and the cord she used to lace her front bodice is now wrapped around her cane. The latter item is now used for much more practical purposes. Her bow, belt, and button are probably items she has collected through the years to complete her outfit. For the Pixar Animator’s team to understand and finalize Bo Peep’s costume, they had to make the costumes in real life to see how they would look like a doll’s size.
Other studios have created amazing computer animations with incredible detail incorporated into costumes. DreamWorks Animation’s How to Train your Dragon trilogy (2010, 2014, 2019) is an amazing example of a costume being used for character creation and transformation. Hiccup starts as a timid boy wearing a long shirt, trousers, boots, and a fur vest. His costume is simple, with dull colors and textures. In the first movie, he starts incorporating some accessories to appear braver and prepared for battle. Slowly, as his character becomes more mature and fearless, his costume basically transforms into armor that provides him strength, protection, and empowerment. His silhouette broadens, giving the character a much more determined look.
The classic textures and elements from Vikings, such as fur, leather, and helmets, are enhanced with metallic and dragon-scale texture. This texture was actually real dragon scales that Hiccup and the rest of the characters incorporate into their armors to have a scarier look. Also, they evolve the helmet shape into a mask that hides their identity with not only horns but scallops, wings, and fins. By the end of the third movie, we witness the final growth of the character. His costume is now a mixture of all stages of his life, incorporating details that he used in the past that define his own character.
Walt Disney Animation Studios started releasing their own computer-animated films not a very long time ago. The development in detail approach has also been astonishing, but the movie that got the bar higher than ever was Frozen 2 (2019). The evolution of the two main characters, Anna and Elsa, through their costumes is absolutely impeccable. This is due to the extraordinary research and dedication that the team put into this. They traveled to Norway, Finland, and Iceland as part of their creative process to get design ideas and inspiration for the film’s overall look. In the costumes specifically, the Norwegian and mystic elements are evident both in Anna’s and Elsa’s outfits and the rest of the characters.
In addition, Anna and Elsa are now on an adventure into the unknown, which means they need comfortable costumes that will allow them to run, swim and jump, which wasn’t as simple as rising hemlines. Since the first movie, both characters had a defined style, which helped designers Brittany Lee and Griselda Sastrawinata-Lemay.
In Frozen 2, they are older and braver, and thankfully the technological advances in computer animation helped add more details to their costumes that contributed to character creation and storytelling. Part of the film’s realistic approach is the way the fabric moves and drapes in different situations. This is possible once more due to the technological advances in CGI, which imitate different fabrics, and animators can determine their movement depending on its weight, composition, and medium. “Something that is meant to be a velvet shouldn’t be moving as if it was tulle or if it was cotton,” Lee explains.
“On this film, we could really be elaborate and add a lot of extra bead work or sequins that wouldn’t have been possible to do on the first film. We really tried to meet technologies’ needs in creating more art work and more design where appropriate.” – Brittany Lee, visual development artist, Frozen 2 (2019)
Anna’s costumes always have warm colors and a playful and classic silhouette. For most of the film, she is wearing her travel costume consisting of a deep purple cloak, a black dress with long sleeves, mustard high-neck blouse and pants underneath, a brown obi belt, and tall black leather boots. Her costume is inspired by the traditional Norwegian folk wear known as the “bunad,” a long A-line dress made of wool with embroidered flowers. In this case, she has wheat and crocus (Arendelle’s national symbol) designs embroidered through the dress and cape. “Anna is all about Arendelle,” Sastrawinata-Lemay said. The addition of pants, which Elsa wears as well, allows the characters to get involved in really adventurous journeys without being the main focus of attention on their costumes.
On the other hand, Elsa has a cool color palette since almost everything she wears was created using her magic: ice. Her outfits are always enhancing her mystic, sensitive and powerful character, and she has an elegant and linear silhouette, perfect for the Snow Queen. Elsa’s gowns are actually inspired by haute couture fashion houses, like Alexander McQueen and Ellie Saab, “just in their mystic grand silhouettes and bold statements,” Lee says.
Her travel costume consists of a light blue tailored coat with a belt and a paneled veil cape that hangs from the shoulders. These have jewels encrusted, forming a snowflake and an angular-broad shape, giving a look of “militaristic epaulettes,” which undoubtedly provide her with authority and determination. As mentioned before, she has pants underneath and sparkly snowflake adorned blue boots. Her costume respects that linear silhouette that gives Elsa her stamp as Queen of Arendelle, but it now shows her transformation towards a more confident and fearless woman.
Lastly, Netflix Animation’s Over the Moon (2020) has some jaw-dropping costume designs created by the internationally acclaimed fashion designer Guo Pei. Director Glen Keane knew he needed someone with costuming experience to take the lead on what the costumes of Chang’e were going to look like. Since the movie has so many elements from China’s culture, it was reasonable that a Chinese designer would be the one jumping in for the process. Guo Pei has always embraced her culture in her designs, and Over the Moon was no exception to this.
The costumes of Chang’e demanded a lot of attention to detail, symbolism, and sophistication since she is no other than the Moon Goddess. As it was her first time working in animation, she spent a lot of time with artists to ensure that they were animating the entire costume just as she had envisioned it. Part of the process involved lots of research by going to museums and making several sketches to achieve the desired costume design. This last process was, in fact, the perfect way of communicating their ideas since Guo Pei doesn’t speak English and Glen Keane doesn’t speak mandarin.
The most iconic costume worn by Chang’e is her royal gown, made of red silk and intricate embroidery. This gown is bold, vibrant, and powerful. It enhances the Chinese culture in every aspect, including the embroidered motifs on her back, which actually tell her dramatical love story. “I designed some elements of ancient Chinese royal dresses in Chang’e’s costumes, such as wide cuffs, long tails, and a stand-up collar like the tail of a phoenix. These elements all strengthen the dramatic tension and contrast her image as a god and as a human being,” Guo Pei shared in an interview.
Costume design in animation is slowly gaining the recognition it deserves. Even if a costume designer is not leading the process, the research and dedication incorporated into it must be recognized and respected. The entire team’s effort and dedication to costume design for the films mentioned here is absolutely astonishing and sometimes underestimated. Since it has always been part of designing the character, costumes are not appreciated the way they should. On the other hand, with such amazing, fantastic worlds created in animation, costumes are sometimes plain or abandoned. Having unlimited possibilities in terms of technology and imagination on the way costumes can help with storytelling by introducing superpowers in characters or being extremely detailed in the time period where the story is taking place. Sometimes, costumes do not enhance as much as they should, and it’s at this point when the expertise of a costume designer is much needed in the animated field.
However, things are really starting to shift. With films such as The Incredibles 2, Frozen 2, and Over the Moon, where costume design undergoes deep research and construction, it is necessary to dive into its process and understand its importance. Even more than that, make sure that future animated productions follow suit and involve costume design the way they are supposed to make their animations even more amazing than they already are.
“People tend to think of costume design in terms of an end product. It’s a garment. But costume designers think of costume as part of the character that they’re creating, so it’s the hair, the costume, the props, the makeup, the way they move, whether these costumes and props are ever physically made or not.” – Camille Brenda, CalArts Institute
The day is April 26th, the day of one of my absolute favorite holidays, Alien Day! Why is today Alien Day, you might ask? The film Alien is a 1979 science fiction horror film directed by Ridley Scott and written by Dan O’Bannon. The story starts as the crew of The Nostromo touched down on LV-426 to investigate a mysterious transmission. Once on LV-426, a downed alien ship is discovered, filled with thousands of unidentified eggs. When one of these eggs hatch and ends up onboard The Nostromo with the crew, things go horribly wrong. This tragic sequence of events leads to one of the greatest horror movies of all time. In celebration of Alien Day, come along with me as we explore this twisted horror and the groundbreaking costumes of Alien, with crew costume design by the legendary John Mollo and the monstrous Xenomorph costume by H.R. Giger.
Throughout his career, John Mollo was fascinated by military uniforms and was known as quite the professional on this subject. Mollo’s passion for military uniform led to his experience serving as a realism advisor on the sets of films such as Charge of the Light Brigade (1966), Nicholas and Alexandra (1971), and on Stanley Kubrick’sBarry Lyndon (1975). What Mollo did not know was that one day, his passion was going to change the world. One day, Mollo was contacted by George Lucas, who later went on to make John Mollo costume designer on a little film called Star Wars: A New Hope. This film led to Mollo’s first of two Academy Awards.
After the surprising success of the first Star Wars film, John Mollo moved onto the Alien movie, where once again a science-fiction film would need his eye for structured, utility garments. Seven crew members served aboard the Weyland-Yutani star freighter, the USCSS Nostromo. The crew consisted of Captain Dallas, Executive Officer Kane, Navigator Lambert, engineers Parker and Brett, and the deceptive android Ash played by Ian Holm. Finally, let’s not forget our legendary leading actress, Warrant Officer Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver.
Mollo gave each crew member his signature touch by incorporating Weyland-Yutani Corporation patches into everyone’s costumes and using military-utility silhouettes. The costumes for each of the crew members were representative of each of their personalities.
The costumes were also aged to give a lived-in look to all of the garments. While the crew might be working on a futuristic spaceship, it’s clear that it is hard work keeping the Nostromo in top shape. For example, engineers Parker and Brett’s costumes are unique and also very casual. The costumes also look worn, like they have been sweated in a lot while performing maintenance on the ship. For a bit of comedic relief, Brett is even wearing a Hawaiian shirt.
Ash, being an android, is wearing a more sophisticated outfit compared to the rest of the crew, almost signaling Ash’s deception. Interestingly enough, Ash’s costume feel’s as though it was in the best shape of all the costumes compared to every other crew member. Ash was even wearing a clean, white undershirt with seemingly no dirt.
While Dallas and Lambert wear similar costumes, Lambert’s is unique. Lambert, being the navigator of the ship, is wearing cowboy boots. This speaks to Lambert’s sense of adventure and her sense of direction.