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10 Movie Costume Details That Are as Important as the Screenplay

Costume designers work with the crew so that the characters in a film have an identity that fits the story. From creating custom pieces to visiting vintage clothing stores to take back to the studio, they must make the overall production a success or even a movie classic, like some of the films on this list.

1. Devil Wear Prada (2006)

20thCentFox / Courtesy Everett Collection / East News

For the costume designer, the starting point for creating the looks for fashion magazine editor-in-chief Miranda Priestly, played by Meryl Streep, was the white hair that the actress herself suggested. They had to show couture outfits, so a creative way to work on a shoestring budget was to collaborate with fashion houses like Chanel.

2. Titanic (1997)

During the filming of Titanic, most of the cast had wetsuits under their clothes to allow them to stay longer in the water tanks. However, Kate Winslet was one of the few who preferred not to wear it.

3. Cinderella (2015)

Lily James did not wear the glass slippers devised by the costume team. It was impossible, as they were made of real glass, each weighing more than 2 pounds. Instead, she wore leather shoes, later replaced with CGI to look like the classic glass slippers we all know.

4. Atonement (2007)

The dress worn by Keira Knightley in Atonement is considered a classic. Per the director’s orders, the costume designer knew they would need it to be long, light, and green. The color was chosen to represent jealousy and to remind the audience that it was the hottest day of the year. The secret of its success is that everything, from the lighting to the photography, was designed around the dress.

5. Pirates of the Caribbean — The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003)

Jack’s hat looks like leather, and in principle, it is. But, because it had to be replaced every time it was lost overboard, they decided to make one that could float and resist water, so they used a rubber one instead.

6. Dune (2021)

The evolution of Lady Jessica’s character was logically reflected in her wardrobe. Thus, at the film’s beginning, she wears a black dress that helps us understand her role at court: to remain hidden and read emotions. Then, the veils she wears illustrate her position as a concubine and not a noblewoman, she is chained, and there is a hierarchical difference that her clothes show very clearly.

7. Beauty and the Beast (2017)

Emma Watson played a modern Belle. That’s why the costume designer and the actress devised a closet with outfits that would reflect that. For instance, her cape is eco-sustainable and organic. In addition, they chose to have her wear boots instead of the ballerinas that the Disney character wore in the classic animated version.

8. Black Panther (2018)

Black Panther’s costume includes a triangular-shaped necklace that looks imposing on his neck. But it was made of light rubber instead of metal so that the actor could move easily. That way, it was easier for him to wear it in other scenes and remove it as needed.

9. The Fifth Element (1997)

For the birth scene of the character Leelo, played by Milla Jovovich in The Fifth Element, the costume team was inspired by hospital gowns and bandages used to cover wounds. According to the actress, they thought that, as if she were in a health center, she should “have as little as possible, but for the sake of modesty, you have to cover up....”

10. Cruella (2021)

Designers came up with around 47 outfits for Cruella. The script mentioned, for example, that the villain would wear a white cape that would catch fire (to reveal a red dress), which was finally achieved using special effects, although they considered choosing special fabrics to make it happen without CGI.

Another challenge was to make a red skirt that was heavy enough to cover a car yet light enough to be wearable. The solution was to hand-sew 5060 petals with the help of costume design students.

If you’ve ever dressed up, we’d like to know what you’ve dressed up as and what it was like. If you haven’t, what character would you choose and why?

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