From India Sweets and Spices to Paranormal Activity: An Interview with Costume Designer Whitney Anne Adams

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. 

Moulin Rouge! (2001) – Costume Design by Catherine Martin. Courtesy of Everett

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.

India Sweets and Spices (2021) – Bleecker Street Media

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 Luhrmann was 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.

Freaky (2020) – Blumhouse Productions

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. 

Freaky (2020) – Blumhouse Productions

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. 

Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin – Blumhouse Productions

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.

Whitney Anne Adams and Assistant Costume Designer, Lauren Driskill

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. 

Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin – Blumhouse Productions

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.

India Sweets and Spices (2021) – Bleecker Street Media

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 Addams Family 30th Anniversary: Costume Legacy

The Addams Family started as a cartoon created in 1938 by Charles Addams. Later on, the family starred in a live-action television show for ABC from 1964 to 1966, and after a couple more productions in the ‘70s, the family hit the silver screen in 1991. For the 30th anniversary of Barry Sonnenfeld’s adaptation, we are looking back on the creative minds who brought these spooky, hilarious, and freaky characters to life and The Addams Family costume design!

Left to right: The Addams Family by Charles Addams (1938), The Addams Family (1966)Photo: © ABC


Since its origin, Morticia’s black tight-fitting dress and Wednesday’s black dress with a white collar have been staples that have only gotten stronger with time. The impeccable legacy and aesthetic of the family, we owe it mainly to the incredible costume designer, Ruth Myers. She based her designs on the original illustrations by Charles Addams. By bringing together his aesthetic and combining it with stunning textiles and silhouettes, Ruth created the looks for the characters that have stayed with us for three decades. She also received an Oscar nomination for her outstanding work.

The designer thought the family of being their own kind of aristocracy with an inclination towards Eastern European fashions. Their wealth, taste, manners, and culture made them stand out from the rest and gave them these mysterious but respectable looks. The costumes incorporate Edwardian and Victorian details. Each character has a particular silhouette and texture that make them unique but at the same time look like a group. Ruth used a lot of vintage fabrics, mainly because she didn’t want the family to look contemporary. In addition, many of the pieces were built for the film, which allowed Ruth to achieve her exact designs.

Anjelica Huston as Morticia Addams, The Addams Family (1991) Photo: © Paramount Pictures

Morticia’s black tight-fitting trumpet dress covered with semi-precious stones has undoubtedly become a staple, in addition to having the outstanding Anjelica Hudson play this character. Her costume included a corset, which was necessary to achieve the desired silhouette. It restrained her movement a little bit, but Huston used this in her favor for the character’s movements. Ruth ended up designing over 20 dresses for Morticia. Her costumes include jet trimmings and intricate embroidery that make her look elegant and exclusive. 

“I always had this fantasy that Morticia…would have a day dress, [a] dress for the afternoon, and a dress for dinner. It was always the same silhouette, but there were slightly more subdued ones for the morning. By the afternoon, she was getting more exotic and by the evening, she was a peacock encrusted in jet and beautiful lace.”

Costume Designer Ruth Myers shared with ELLE magazine

In addition to her dresses, her jewelry and shoes were carefully designed and picked for her. The velvet cloak she wears also resembles a coronation cloak used in the Edwardian period in Russia. It was an impeccable design that made her look absolutely stunning. 

Anjelica Huston as Morticia Addams, Raul Julia as Gomez Addams, The Addams Family (1991) Photo: © Paramount Pictures

On the other hand, Gomez has a very lavish and eccentric wardrobe. He has the most colorful costumes from the entire family and always mixes different patterns and textures. His elegance and fun details give the character the complete appearance of the wealthy leader of the crew. Ruth incorporated tunics, suits, robes as well as velvet, striped and floral patterns. Gomez, played by Raul Julia, balances Morticia’s black wardrobe, and together they have become a timeless couple.

Raul Julia as Gomez Addams, The Addams Family (1991) Photo: © Paramount Pictures

“Women are beautiful props all the time. Quirky teenagers, all the time. But to have men … with that sort of male elegance, it was a very fun job.”

Costume Designer, Ruth Myers. The Rogue Runway.

Wednesday Addams, played by Christina Ricci, has indeed bewitched us all with her unique obsession for death and darkness. It is impossible not to feel the empowerment of this little girl and love her outfits. She also had different designs that she would wear throughout the day, all allusive to the same silhouette of a black patterned dress with a Barrymore collar. 

Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams, The Addams Family (1991) Photo: © Paramount Pictures

The pattern of her dress gave Wednesday her own identity. Ruth didn’t want to put her in all black mainly because she was still a little girl and because there was so much black in the other characters. The only time Wednesday is wearing all black is at the ball, where she wears a mini version of Morticia’s gown. Pugsley has his own identity, too: his black and white striped t-shirt. Even though it is a relatively simple piece, we immediately recognize Jimmy Workman as Pugsley Addams when paired up with his shorts. Both the kids balance each other and undoubtedly have their unique identities.

Christina Ricci as Wednesday Addams, Jimmy Workman as Pugsley Addams, The Addams Family (1991) Photo: © Paramount Pictures

Lastly, we have Uncle Fester and Granny. Both characters have a broad silhouette which is rather simple but complemented with a unique hairstyle look. Uncle Fester, played by Christopher Lloyd, is characterized by his black, long sleeve, collared velvet coat, and bald head. As he was playing around to pretend to be Fester, his costume is working more as a disguise. He doesn’t have many textures, or details except for the costume he wear on the ball scene: Mumushka!

Grandmama, Judith Malina, has a long black dress with tons of bits and pieces hanging from her. Since she is all the time cooking or searching for something, she certainly needed somewhere to hide it or hang it. Her dress looks hundreds of years old and with time she has added more interesting pieces that complement the costume. Finally, Lurch the sinister Butler, portrayed by Carel Struycken is always wearing a too small suit. The odd way in which the suit was fitted and styled gives him a much more weird appearance.

Left to right: Christopher Lloyd as Uncle Fester, Carel Struycken as Lurch the Butler, Judith Malina as Grandmama, The Addams Family (1991) Photo: © Paramount Pictures

With the use of dark colors and timeless pieces, Ruth Myers created icons. Each costume is so well thought and tailored that it flawlessly contributes to the story and brings this freaky family to life. The costume legacy of The Addams Family has undoubtedly pushed the boundaries of time and has become a classic.  


References:

‘Respect’ and Costume Design: From Jennifer Hudson to Aretha Franklin – Exclusive Clip

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.

Video Courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Experience the cinematic music event of the year featuring Oscar® and Grammy® Award winner and vocal powerhouse Jennifer Hudson (Dreamgirls) as legendary singer Aretha Franklin in the inspiring true story RESPECT, available to own for the first time on Digital now and on Blu-ray and DVD November 9, 2021 from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment.

Haunted Favorites: The Best Costumes in Horror

With spooky season coming to a close, horror aficionados and Halloween lovers everywhere are sobbing, either preparing to launch themselves into the holiday spirit, or back into a year-long slumber until next year’s spooky season rolls around. But the fun’s not over yet, and in celebration of the second-most-festive season of the year, I’ve compiled a list of a few of the best costumes in horror.

So, without further ado, and in no particular order, I give you my Haunted Favorites:

Pennywise: It


Oftentimes, the villains of horror don more simplistic costumes. With Pennywise, however, the opposite is true. As a clown’s persona is already extraordinarily over the top, of course they’re going to need a costume to match their vivacity. Costume designer Janie Bryant is the woman responsible for bringing Pennywise to life in this 2017 version of Stephen King’s It. As a big fan of horror costumes and someone with a love for period clothing, Bryant was especially excited to design the Pennywise costume.

Some of Bryant’s initial research for the character of Pennywise consisted of images of Victorian clowns and acrobats, Renaissance clothing, and even Elizabethan clothing – hello ruffs! Bryant stated that she “really wanted to include elements of all the different periods,” considering that the lifespan of Pennywise stretches across hundreds of years. She also wanted to create a quality similar to that of an exoskeleton, to correlate the concept of Pennywise being a spider in King’s original novel. Janie added elements such as pleats to give Pennywise “that organic, caterpillar, creepy feel,” and used a dupioni silk as the primary fabric for the Pennywise ensemble, washing and distressing it in order to achieve that vintage look.

I think it’s fair to say that the end result is a masterpiece, no?

Bill Skarsgård as Pennywise; It (2017)


Crimson Peak


When we think of horror films, the word ‘beautiful’ rarely comes to mind, but that’s exactly the word I would use to describe Crimson Peak. With it’s gothic aesthetic alongside it’s impeccable attention to detail, Crimson Peak is visually stunning in every aspect.

Bringing that gothic beauty to life alongside director Guillermo Del Toro and production designer Tom Sanders, was costume designer Kate Hawley. Hawley states that Guillermo already had a very strong vision of the color coding he wanted to use for the settings and costumes, using rich, warm hues for the New York setting and harsh, cold hues for Allerdale Hall.

Mia Wasikowska as Edith Cushing; Crimson Peak (2015)

Learn more about the costumes of Crimson Peak with The Art of Costume Blogcast!

The pre-production for Crimson Peak was five months long, followed by shooting which lasted three months. Before pre-production, Hawley also did a month of her own research. According to Hawley, the project started off with a note from Guillermo that said, “It’s just Victorian.” Which she found ironic because, having worked with him before, she says in an interview with Inverse, “it’s never just anything.”


Grace’s Wedding Dress: Ready Or Not


The transformation of Grace’s wedding dress is the star of Ready Or Not, and no one can convince me otherwise.

“Lace… uh, reads blood really beautifully.”

Avery Plewes, costume designer

Samara Weaving as Grace Le Domas; Ready Or Not (2019)

What begins as a chic, yet relatively simple gown, transforms into something else entirely by the end of the movie. Thus, the slow evolution of the wedding dress became the star that helped to tell the story of Grace’s struggle, to put it lightly. Costume designer Avery Plewes drew parallels between the character of Grace and her marriage into a wealthy dynasty, and familiar figures such as Grace Kelly and Kate Middleton marrying into royalty, which inspired the original design for the dress.

Though the lace is beautiful and entirely fitting for a wedding gown, Plewes states that there was another reason for the use of lace. “Lace… uh, reads blood really beautifully,” says Plewes.

When a costume goes through the sort of transformation that Grace’s wedding gown goes through, a costume designer has to strategically plan out every aspect of that costume’s deterioration. They also have to prepare for multiple variations of that same costume. For this purpose, Plewes created a color-coded flow-chart containing everything that could happen to Grace’s dress throughout the script, and then reverse-engineered it. So, just how many multiples did they have to make? The answer: 24. 17 of which were worn by Samara, and seven of which were worn by her stunt double, Jackie Geurts.


Bram Stoker’s Dracula


Bram Stoker’s Dracula should never not be on a list of best costumes in horror. Or best costumes in any genre for that matter. With costume design by Eiko Ishioka, Francis Ford Coppola‘s 1992 adaptation of Bram Stoker’s Dracula won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design.


Monica Bellucci, Michaela Bercu, & Florina Kendrick as Dracula’s Brides; Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992)

Learn more about the costumes of Bram Stoker’s Dracula with the Art of Costume Blogcast!

“The costumes will be the set.”

Francis Ford Coppola

After being told that his budget for the film was much lower than he desired, Coppola decided to put a vast majority of his budget into the costumes, declaring that, “the costumes will be the set.” A rather uncommon choice when it comes to the film industry.

Throughout the design process, nature became a primary source of inspiration behind many of Ishioka’s designs, from Lucy’s wedding dress, inspired by the Australian frilled lizard, to Lucy’s party dress that’s embroidered with intertwining snakes.

Ishioka also uses color and silhouette to show a characters evolution throughout the film. Mina, a rather innocent and modest character throughout the movie, is wearing a seductive red gown in the scene where Dracula finally seduces her. A color choice Eiko claims was to “tie the two lovers together in a burst of passion that cannot be contained.”

With Eiko’s background as a graphic designer, Coppola believed that Ishioka’s lack of roots in the costume design world, would give her the advantage in creating costumes that were entirely different than what was already associated with the Dracula legend. If the Oscar win isn’t confirmation enough that she succeeded in that endeavor, then I don’t know what is.


Midsommar


Have you ever spent two months creating a gown comprised of 10,000 silk flowers? No? Well, costume designer Andrea Flesch and her Midsommar team have!

Needing to make a massive gown that looked like a field of flowers, Flesch and her team started with the base of the gown, which she says was “more of an engineering thing than a designing thing.” So, of course, she enlisted her husband, an architect, for help. After multiple trials and errors, they finally found a design that worked and continued on to the cloak, which also required some trial and error. They then selected the flowers, making sure to be mindful of director Ari Aster’s color preferences throughout the movie, which were primarily yellow, red, and blue.

If that process alone isn’t enough to convince you that this film deserves a spot on this list, then maybe the rest of the costumes will. Following a color code throughout the movie, beginning in white and gradually becoming more vivid as we move through to the final ceremony, where the colors are most intense, we get to see how truly intertwined the costumes are with the plot, and how deeply Flesch’s research actually went.


The Nun


Something about the simplicity of the costumes in The Nun makes them all the more appealing. While The Nun takes place in the war-torn Romania of the 1950’s, the focus of light and dark is prominent. Not only is it seen through the lighting and set design, but also through the costumes designed by Sharon Gilham. A brief example, as shown in the images above, is the costume of Valak being comprised of mostly black, excluding the area surrounding her face, while Sister Irene appears in all white. This contrast not only helps to make Valak appear as a sinister presence lurking against the backdrop of darkness, but also shows the innocence of Sister Irene in comparison.


Edward Scissorhands


You can’t have Halloween without at least one Tim Burton movie, and while it may not be horror, I simply had to include a costume designed by the esteemed Colleen Atwood.

While Edward Scissorhands is arguably considered to be more of a Christmas movie than anything, his costume is most certainly more of the Halloween genre. Unless you find that leather and metal puts you in the Christmas spirit?


Johnny Depp as Edward Scissorhands; Edward Scissorhands (1990)

According to Atwood, while she used old machinery parts and vinyl to embellish and accessorize the iconic character, Edward’s costume was partly inspired by the Victorian Era. She says she “pulled a lot from the 19th century.”


The Horror Classics


Ahh yes, the classic ‘sadistic-murderer-holds-weapon-up-against-conveniently-well-placed-backlighting-in-order-to-further-frighten-the-already-terrified-victim’ pose. Only a classic pose for such classic murderers, am I right? And do you know what helped these fine gentlemen become such classics? That’s right, their costumes.

It would be a dishonor to the horror genre not to include characters as well-renowned as these in such a list. However simple the costumes of these horror staples may seem, they were key in creating such unmistakable villains. I mean, a man wearing a fedora? Gotta be Freddy Krueger. Is that a hockey goalie? Nope, it’s definitely Jason. William Shatner’s face? Absolutely not, that’s Michael Myers.

Confused about the William Shatner reference? Allow me to explain. With the tight budget of $300,000 to bring Halloween to life, production designer Tommy Lee Wallace decided to go to a mask shop and pick up a few potential options for the mask of Michael Myers, one of which was a William Shatner Captain Kirk mask. Of course, this was the option they decided on and, after a few modifications it evolved into the familiar mask we all know today.   

Left: Tommy Lee Wallace in YouTube video ‘Rebuilding the Original Michael Myers.’ // Right: Jason in Friday the 13th Part III.

While Michael’s mask has been his staple since the first Halloween film, Jason’s hockey mask did not make an appearance until the third Friday the 13th installment, when he steals the mask from the corpse of one of his victims. Aw… how sentimental. The decision to use the hockey mask was actually a happy accident thanks to 3D effects supervisor Martin Jay Sadoff.

Another mask that we all know and love is that of Ghostface from the Scream franchise. Costume designer Cynthia Bergstrom says her original sketches of the Ghostface costume were inspired by Edvard Munch’s Scream painting, as well as the Grim Reaper. Bergstrom also stated that, while the mask wasn’t her department, she still did a lot of research for it, “looking back through various historical periods.”


Original Ghostface costume sketch by Cynthia Bergstrom (1995)

The Ghostface mask itself was actually found in a box in the garage of a location that was being scouted. Director Wes Craven apparently took one look at it and said, “this is like the famous scream painting.” After trying to recreate a version of the mask, they decided to just get the rights to the mask they had found and use it.


The Scream by Edvard Munch (1893)

Alright, so the masks make sense, but why give Freddy a fedora? With Dana Lyman as the costume designer and mechanical special effects designer Jim Doyle in charge of designing Freddy’s glove, the idea to put Freddy in a Fedora actually came from an experience Wes Craven had as a child, one where a drunk in a fedora “did a mind-fuck” on Wes. Wes says in an interview for The Take that “the idea of an adult who was frightening and enjoyed terrifying a child was the origin of Freddy.” Which is why he made the decision that Freddy would don a hat.

You can read more about the origin stories of these classic horror costumes in the “Designing Fear” series, written by Elizabeth Glass!


What movies or costumes would you like to have seen on this list? Let us know in the comments!


Want to learn more about these iconic looks? Check out my sources!

Designing Fear: Ghost Face

Today it’s easy to ignore a call, especially with cell phones letting us know an unknown number is a spam call or one that simply isn’t in our contacts. However, what if you answered believing you knew the caller, but the voice on the other end is one you don’t know, but it knows you. It knows exactly who you are.

By the 1990s, slasher films had become predictable with a clear formula that at times was almost comical. Because of this, Wes Craven wanted to once again shake up the genre he had helped create and found his inspiration in the Scream screenplay by Kevin Williamson.

Teens who try to out smart their killers with their knowledge of horror films like Halloween and Friday the 13th was a tongue in cheek reframing of horror that intrigued Craven and set the perfect stage for our new horror icon, Ghost Face.

Scream (1996) Promotional Poster

While today, Ghost Face is one of the most recognizable slasher villains of all time, with ghost face masks and black robes so easily accessible and a Halloween staple. However, he almost looked very, very different.

Drew Barrymore as Casey in Scream (1996)

Taking inspiration from Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream”, Craven and costume designer Cynthia Bergstrom wanted a very drawn melting look to Ghost face. Cynthia immediately imagined Ghost Face to be black to contrast the mask and create a grim reaper look for him. However, Craven wanted not just a ghost faced mask but a whole ghost with the killer wearing white robes. While Cynthia respected Craven’s vision and created the robes in white she was not convinced this was the right look.

“We put a friend of mine, who’s a big guy, about 6-foot-2, in the white costume, and he basically looked like a giant Casper the Ghost. And Wes still liked it. And Marianne [Maddalena, the producer] and I are just kind of like looking at each other going, ‘How can we get him away from the white?’ It wasn’t until a couple of weeks before we started shooting that we really nailed the costume.”

– Cynthia Bergstrom, Nylon

And nailed it they did when the director of photography, Mark Irwin, stumbled upon the perfect fabric for the robe,

“He said, ‘I can light it in a way where we get that spark and that glint, almost like the glint of the light hitting a knife,’ and that was it, Wes was sold,”

– Cynthia Bergstrom, Nylon
Still from, Scream (1996)

While the robes were being sorted out to look much more sinister, getting Ghost Face’s famous mask presented some issues, especially with the legal department.

It all started when producer Marianne Maddalena simply stumbled upon the mask while scouting locations. The home was abandoned, but someone had hung the mask on a post at the house. When she showed Craven, he loved it wanted it for the film. However, it turned out the mask’s design was protected by intellectual property laws meaning they would have to get it licensed from its producer, the Fun World company. The mask was initially named “The Peanut-Eyed Ghost,” designed by Brigitte Sleiertin around 1992 for the company “fantastic faces” line. While needing to get a license for the mask was not ideal, the they went to Fun World with a deal for the right to use it. However Fun World wanted much more than they were offering, the deal fell through.

Now needing to make their own mask, Craven enlisted Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger of KNB Effects company, to create a version of the mask that he liked and didn’t violate Fun Worlds’ intellectual property.

Ghost Face concept mask and drawing by Greg Nicotero and Howard Berger

Nicotero and Berger came up with dozens of horrifying designs but ultimately settled on the one inspired by the peanut mask the most. The mask was made and ready for shooting when Fun World came back with a much more reasonable deal. With Craven’s dream mask cleared for the movie, the peanut mask became the Ghost face mask we all know, love, and fear today.

Skeet Ulrich as Billy in Scream (1996)

Want to know more? Check out my sources.

Squires, John. “Original ‘Scream’ Ghostface Mask Concepts Were Way Different.” Bloody Disgusting!, 21 Dec. 2016, https://bloody-disgusting.com/news/3418632/original-scream-ghostface-mask-concepts-way-different/.

Cronin, Brian. “What Is the Spooky Real Life Origin of Scream’s Ghostface Mask?” HuffPost, HuffPost, 7 Dec. 2017, https://www.huffpost.com/entry/what-is-the-spooky-real-l_b_7686112.

Fletcher, Rosie. “This Is How the Iconic Scream Mask Nearly Looked.” Digital Spy, Digital Spy, 13 Nov. 2018, https://www.digitalspy.com/movies/a817554/what-scream-iconic-mask-nearly-looked-like/.

LaSane, Andrew. “18 Interesting Things You Probably Didn’t Know about the ‘Scream’ Movies.” Insider, Insider, 13 Oct. 2021, https://www.insider.com/scream-movies-cool-facts-you-may-not-know-2021-10.

Lodi, Marie. “8 Fashion Moments You Might Have Missed in ‘Scream’.” Nylon, Nylon, 22 Oct. 2021, https://www.nylon.com/fashion/scream-movie-costume-designer-outfits-fashion.

Meghan, and Jules. “S01 E01 – Ep 1: Cynthia Bergstrom ‘Scream.’” Lasting Looks, 27 Oct. 2020.

Atkinson, Alex James. “3: Episode Three – Cynthia Bergstrom, Scream Costume Designer.” The Woodsboro Podcast, 9 Sept. 2021.

Drew Barrymore as Casey in Scream (1996)

Costuming Stillwater: Bringing Matt Damon’s Character to Life – Exclusive Clip

Costume design has the power of bringing real, everyday characters from page to picture. Costume designer Karen Muller Serreau was given an interesting challenge when she took on costuming the new film, Stillwater, where she brought Bill Baker’s (played by Matt Damon) oil-rig worker, Midwest Americana image to life.

Stillwater is a powerful and moving film that follows a father and daughter from the small town of Stillwater, Oklahoma to the posh streets of Marseille, France. With his estranged daughter (played by Abigail Breslin) imprisoned in Marseille for a murder she insists she did not commit, unemployed oil-rig worker Bill Baker makes periodic visits overseas to try and prove his daughter’s innocence.

Please enjoy an EXCLUSIVE clip showcasing Karen Muller Serreau and her approach to costuming Stillwater and Matt Damon’s Bill Baker.

Video Courtesy of Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

From Academy Award winning director Tom McCarthy, Stillwater starring Academy Award winner Matt Damon and Abigail Breslin, will be available for purchase via VOD on October 12, 2021 and will be available on Blu-Ray and DVD on October 26, 2021!

Designing Fear: Freddy Krueger

Sleep is the one place many of us find solace and rest at the end of each day. We’re comforted by the fact that for a few hours, we can leave our cares behind and be unbothered by it and drift into our dreams. Even with the prospect of nightmares tearing us from our rest once awake, we know there is no true threat to our lives, or is there? In this week’s Designing Fear, we are talking about the Freddy Krueger costume.

In the early 80’s the popularity of slasher films and their crazed, masked, killers skyrocketed with many studios trying to recreate the success of Halloween and Friday the 13th. However, writer and director Wes Craven wanted to create a new kind of killer for his next slasher film, one that reminded him of the monster movies and straight-up monsters he’d grown up with.

Inspired by the true story of a young Cambodian refugee who had died in his sleep Inspired by the true story of a young Cambodian refugee who had died in his sleep following a string of nightmares, Craven decided that a killer who haunted the dreams of their victims was the perfect concept for his new film A Nightmare On Elm Street. So with some inspiration from the news and the name of his childhood bully, Craven’s new villain was imagined into existence as Freddy Krueger.

While now a pop culture icon that has inspired many other monsters in movies and tv, Freddy Krueger, played by Robert Englund, was drastically different looking from his slasher contemporaries of Micheal Myers and Jason Voorhees when he first hit the screen in 1982. This was because Craven wanted a new kind of slasher villain. One that didn’t hide their emotions behind a mask but was still terrifying to look at. So Craven enlisted the skills of special effects make-up artist David B. Miller to create the otherworldly burned visage of Krueger. While Miller and Craven worked through many different concepts for Krueger’s look, they ultimately found inspiration in an unusual place.

“The final design for Freddy that went through, and this is a true story, is pepperoni pizza,”

– David B. Miller, Bloody Disgusting
Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

While the inspiration may have been unusual, the result is terrifying to the audience because it causes you to wonder is he real or just a nightmare? With Krueger’s deliciously disgusting prosthetics baked and ready, it was time to decide what he would wear. Dana Lyman was the costume designer on the film, but Freddy’s hat was heavily influenced by an encounter from Cravens childhood.

“The hat was the kind worn by men when I was a kid, and there was a particular man who scared me when I was little. He was a drunk that came down the sidewalk and woke me up when I was sleeping. I went to the window wondering what the hell was there. He just did a mind-fuck on me. He just basically somehow knew I was up there, and he looked right into my eyes. – I literally ran toward the front door and heard, two stories down, the front door open. I woke up my big brother; he went down with a baseball bat—and nobody was there. Probably the guy heard him coming and ran; he was drunk, having a good time. But the idea of an adult who was frightening and enjoyed terrifying a child was the origin of Freddy.”

– Wes Craven, The Take
Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

With this terrifying memory further feeding the lore and look of Freddy, the design of his unsettling sweater not only pulled from Cravens memory but was grounded in science. In 1982 Scientific America published an article about the most abrasive color combination, red and green. With this harsh and upsetting combination in mind, Judy Graham, now known for her sweaters featured on The Big Bang Theory and her popular YouTube channel, was hired to craft her most iconic piece, Freddy’s sweater.

Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

The combo is tough to look at and makes the audience want to look away from Freddy, but you simply can’t because his final accessory is the most terrifying part. With Freddy’s wardrobe shaping up nicely, thoughts of what his signature weapon would be. Craven decided on knives and not just your run-of-mill kitchen knives but a glove of knives that integrated the weapon into his physical appearance to convey a more organic fear.  

“Nature is full of stabbing instruments: claws, teeth, horns. I thought the claws of the cave bear must be buried somewhere in our subconscious, so that claw which is from nature or animals was combined with what is one of the most specifically human parts of our anatomy, which is our hands. – So that became the instrument; rather than anything he would leave someplace and then pick up, it was something that he actually had on him.”

– Wes Craven, The Take

Jim Doyle, the mechanical special effects designer on the film, was tasked with creating Freddy’s glove, which wasn’t only dangerous to the teens of Elm Street.

 I sketched a few gloves, then built a “hero” glove. You know, the sharp one. If you’re actually gonna cut something, then we use the hero. The rest of the time, we had “stunt gloves.” The hero glove was dangerous. Every time someone put it on, they hurt themselves, because if you closed your fist, the blades cut your forearm. Oops.

Jim Doyle, Vulture
Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Original sketch of Freddy Krueger’s glove by Jim Doyle
Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

With Freddy Krueger opening up the possibility of what kind of killers could be in a slasher, the possibilities became endless for this new sub-genre of horror, and Freddy seemed always to be able to pull people back for another nightmare.

Want to know more? Check out my sources.

Miska, Brad. “Here’s What Freddy Krueger Almost Looked like! (Exclusive).” Bloody Disgusting!, 30 Oct. 2015, https://bloody-disgusting.com/exclusives/3368027/heres-what-freddy-krueger-almost-looked-like-exclusive/.

Marchese, David. “Behind-the-Scenes Photos of a Nightmare on Elm Street – Slideshow.” Vulture, 20 Oct. 2014, https://www.vulture.com/2014/10/nightmare-on-elm-street-behind-scenes-photos.html.

Dressler , Jacob. “The Reason Why Freddy Krueger’s Sweater Is Red and Green.” ScreenGeek, 29 Sept. 2021, https://www.screengeek.net/2019/12/21/freddy-krueger-sweater-red-green-reason/.

Craven, Mimi. “Freddy Lives: An Oral History of a Nightmare on Elm Street.” Vulture, 20 Oct. 2014, https://www.vulture.com/2014/10/nightmare-on-elm-street-oral-history.html.

Saporito, Jeff. “What Inspired ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ and Freddy Krueger?: Read: The Take.” What Inspired “A Nightmare on Elm Street” and Freddy Krueger? | Read | The Take, 29 May 2020, https://the-take.com/read/what-inspired-a-nightmare-on-elm-street-and-freddy-krueger.

Robert Englund on the set of A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Robert Englund as Freddy Krueger(Left) Heather Langenkamp as Nancy Thompson (Right) in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)
Robert Englund (Left) Heather Langenkamp (RIght)
Jsu Garcia(Top Left) Amanda Wyss (Top Middle) Johnny Depp (Top RIght) Robert Englund (Bottom Right) Heather Langenkamp (Bottom Left) in A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

Designing Fear: Jason Voorhees

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.

Friday the 13th movie poster
Richard Brooker as Jason Voorhees
Richard Brooker as Jason Voorhees
(Top) Richard Brooker as Jason Voorhees (Bottom) Paul Kratka as Rick

Want to know more? Check out my sources.

Tyler, Adrienne. “Friday the 13th: How Jason’s Hockey Mask Changes in Each Movie.” ScreenRant, ScreenRant, 14 Feb. 2021, https://screenrant.com/friday-13th-movies-jason-voorhees-mask-differences-explained/.

Delgado, Melissa. “16 Behind the Scenes Secrets from the Friday the 13th Franchise.” TheRichest, 6 Oct. 2016, https://www.therichest.com/entertainment/16-behind-the-scenes-secrets-from-the-friday-the-13th-franchise/.

Tyler, Adrienne. “Why Friday the 13th’s Creators Gave Jason a Hockey Mask.” ScreenRant, 5 May 2021, https://screenrant.com/friday-13th-jason-voorhies-hockey-mask-bts-origins/.

“Jason Voorhees.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 11 Oct. 2021, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jason_Voorhees.

Designing Fear: Michael Myers

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.

Halloween (1978) Promotional Poster

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.

Nick Castle as Michael Myers in Halloween (1978)
Nick Castle as Michael Myers in Halloween (1978)
Nick Castle as Michael Myers in Halloween (1978)

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.

Tommy Lee Wallace recreating the Michael Myers mask
Source: (screenrant.com)

In 2014 Wallace demonstrated how he created the original mask during an interview with Sean Clark. The Process boils down to five simple steps.

  • The Captain Kirk Mask
  • Sprayed the Back Hair
  • Remove Side Burn and Eye Brows
  • Widen Eye Openings
  • Spray Paint White

It’s hard to imagine that five simple steps and $1.95 were all it took to create one of the most terrifying and iconic killers in all of horror.

John Michael Graham as Bob (Left) Nick Castle as Michael Myers (Right) in Halloween (1978)

Want to know more? Check out my sources

Cerulli, Mark, director. Halloween: Unmasked. Anchor Bay Entertainment, Inc. , 1999.

Clark, Sean. “Rebuilding the Shape/Halloween Michael Myers … – Youtube.com.” Youtube, Malfuncsean, 3 May 2020, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzhM8Ut3cRc.

Elizabeth, Hilary. “Halloween: 15 Hidden Details about the Horror Movie Costumes You Didn’t Notice.” ScreenRant, ScreenRant, 28 May 2021, https://screenrant.com/halloween-10-hidden-details-horror-movie-costumes-didnt-notice/.

Felthousen-Post, Cyn. “How the Movie ‘Halloween’ Was Made, against All Odds.” Groovy History, 25 Oct. 2019, https://groovyhistory.com/halloween-john-carpenter-making-of.

Hutchinson, Sean. “15 Terrifying Facts about John Carpenter’s Halloween.” Mental Floss, 26 Oct. 2018, https://www.mentalfloss.com/article/59788/15-terrifying-facts-about-john-carpenters-halloween.

Hedash, Kara. “Halloween: The Real Life Story behind Michael Myers’ Mask.” ScreenRant, 19 Oct. 2019, https://screenrant.com/halloween-michael-myers-mask-origin-story/.

Nick Castle on the set of Halloween (1978)
Nick Castle on the set of Halloween (1978)
Nick Castle on the set of Halloween (1978)

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures: A Costume Design Dream

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!

©Academy Museum Foundation

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.

Academy Awards History gallery in Stories of Cinema, ©Academy Museum Foundation/Image by WHY Architecture

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 by Mary 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 by Andrea 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 designer Ruth Carter.

©Academy Museum Foundation

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!

Reserve Your Tickets Today at AcademyMuseum.Org