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“Look at you. Swanning ’round like you’re Al Capone” – 1920s/30s costume design in Lawless.

Recently, during the opening trailers at the cinema I’ve noticed this particular film a fair few times – it stuck out to me. Naturally, as you do, I was doing the typical “yes!” or “no!” throughout the opening trailers, deciding whether or not the films look good or bad and/or if I’m going to pay to go and see it. Of course, I’m a huge fan of the prohibition era and having had a sneak peak at the wonderful costume designs during those couple of crucial minutes deciding on whether I am going to spend a few bob at the cinema watching it  – all I could think was – yes, yes yes!

After watching the trailer I thought Lawless had a very Johnny Depp in Public Enemies kinda look which obviously can’t be bad. Also with my one true love Boardwalk Empire also showing strong similarities, in particular the attractive men in swanky, expensive suits living the American gangster lifestyle – all in the name of (illegal) alcohol I knew it would be right up my street.

Before I start expressing my love for the wonderful costume design – let me just say that as a whole this film is brilliant. I left the cinema feeling extremely happy and wanting more, it’s one of those films that I could watch over and over again but do let me know whether you agree or disagree? The film, based on Matt Bondurant’s ‘The Wettest Country In The World’ tells the story of the infamous Bondurant brothers, known to their community as some sort of misunderstood, mysterious superhero trio with such a large collection of legends and myths associated with them that even their grandkids would get a little bored hearing about.

Costume designer Margot Wilson’s previous work on 2009  post-apocalyptic drama The Road despite being brilliant, I can imagine didn’t give much freedom with costumes. Lawless on the other hand set in Depression-era Franklin Country, Virginia with an array of world class actors, all very individual in their characters and the way that they present themselves on screen. Tom Hardy, Shia LaBeouf and Jason Clarke – the Bondurant brothers who to me, clearly have some sort connection with ridiculous  rapper 50 Cent – if you’ve seen it, you’ll know what I mean.

First up, Tom Hardy, aka Forrest Bondurant – the ‘middle’ brother and the leader of the 3 man wolf pack just loves a cardigan and doesn’t care much for the tailored suit wearing people he sometimes crosses paths with, he has far more to worry about than how his clothes are perceived by others – his strong family values in particular. Despite this, the choice of clothes Margot has put him in works perfectly for his build, almost an Incredible Hulk kinda moment – his inner Bane from The Dark Knight Rises is just waiting to be unleashed onto passers by who cause trouble between him, his family, his lady friend and most importantly – his home grown moonshine. Typically seen wearing a well-loved or more appropriately, beaten-up fedora hat, a high necked shirt, an oversized cardigan and some loose fitted trousers his character is perceived well – a laid back, casual approach yet with his hat low and when needed, his intimidating body language in check he has the menacing look down to a t.

Howard, played by Jason Clarke is the mad one of the three – the alcoholic, howling Bondurant brother is a little scruffy in the way that he presents himself physically. Also rocking the beaten up hat look alongside a tatty shirt and a heavy woolen coat his clothes are definitely falling apart and could do with a little wash but are glued to his skin just like a moonshine filled mason jar is glued to his hand. Despite his clothes requiring a few amends, they will no doubt be handed down to the younger brother, the runt of the litter, Jack.

The only one of the three that has a clear transformation costume wise in the film, Jack played by Shia LaBeouf gets thrown a lot of his older brothers hand-me-downs and isn’t happy about it. The baby brother wants to be just like his older brothers and show some sort of authority and intimidating characteristics yet feels a little out of place at the start of the film. From the hand-me-downs leads to wearing his dad’s fancy, tailored suits to impress a girl (Mia Wasikowska) until he gets the money to purchase his own swanky ensembles. After earning some dollar he splashes out on some 3-piece suits and even buys Bertha (Mia) a yellow, floral dress that flows perfectly on her petite frame.

Of course, no prohibition-era based film would be complete without a villain. Rakes, played by Guy Pearce isn’t one of those characters that you love to hate, it’s just pure hatred towards him. The moment he steps on to the screen with his quirky, unusual fashion sense, his ugly hair cut, his irritating voice  and a face you just want to punch you immediately know that he’s trouble. His dodgy deal with the Bondurant brothers doesn’t go the way he liked which spirals out of control into a long feud between the corrupt law and the legendary family. Sometimes he looked like he is dressed for a dinner party in The Great Gatsby with his bow tie and thick, pin-striped suit and other times looking like his just about to wait a table at a restaurant with ridiculous white and black trousers and suit jacket – there is a lot of depth to his wardrobe. Oh and I can’t not mention the gloves that complete his pretentious look and that are always wiped clean from the blood shed at the hands of his annoying character. There’s a clear barrier between Rakes and the Bondurant family – in particular, the colour palettes are completely opposite to each other. The warm tones of the Bondurant brothers – the browns, beiges, greys contrast well against the bold colours that Rakes is draped in.

Not quite as extravagant and luxurious as 1920s prohibition television drama Boardwalk Empire and no one in particular giving Steve Buscemi and his flowered lapel a run for his money, yet the period costumes Margot Wilson has used in the film are used so well between the characters that the difference between each character’s clothes is clear and even those people that aren’t particularly used to paying attention to the costume design in films will probably notice it.

Basically, what I’m saying is – go and see it.

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A look into the costumes in The Hunger Games

I have been meaning to do this post for a few weeks now, I even tweeted about it after I watched it at the cinema but alas, other commitments have gotten in the way. It goes without saying, well, for anybody who has seen the first installment of The Hunger Games that the costumes are fantastic. Even if some of them aren’t completely accurate to the book, costume designer Judianna Makovsky did an excellent job. She was influenced a lot by designers including Alexander McQueen, John Galliano and Schiaparelli as well as the Elizabethan period which are all noticeable throughout the film.

For anybody who is not familiar with the plot, this is The Hunger Games in a nutshell through the words of director Gary Ross:

“In a dystopian future America [now called Panem], a nation made up of twelve impoverished districts, all ruled by a militant capitol where technology and excess are a way of life. Every year the capitol holds a televised battle royal, where one male and female teenager from the twelve districts must battle to the death for the pleasure of capitol. When a young hunter from District 12 named Katniss Everdeen sacrifices herself to save her little sister from the games, she embarks on a brave fight for survival that could change a nation.”

Heroine Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) is shown at the start of the film wearing the above dress which is known as her ‘reaping dress’ in which Makovsky took the description from the book to create it. The dress has a very vintage feel due to the 1930s to 1950s influence and the fact that they wanted it to look like something that could have been a hand-me-down from her mother. Makovsky found some vintage fabric and dyed it until it was the perfect colour giving the dress a very simple and elegant look. All of the costumes in district 12 are supposed to look like hand-me-downs or workwear and therefore most are hand-made or rented from vintage sources. The amount of extras in the film was high and therefore at least 1,800 costumes were used throughout the film.

This dress is one of the most memorable costume moments in the film due to it showing Katniss in a completely new light. The dress is showing how she has transformed but not in the sense that the dress has transformed her, but how she has transformed as a person. It’s a moment, if not the only moment where viewers stop and think she is beautiful. The dress is coral-red with several layers of ombre fabric, pleating detail at the bottom and Swarovski crystals scattered all over it. Makovsky wanted the dress to be simpler than the description in the book, not as sparkly but more elegant and subltle with the flames at the bottom of the dress only visible when she twirls around. Caeser (Stanley Tucci) the talk show host has striking blue hair and therefore his costumes are typical of a talk show host, they stand out but isn’t overly outlandish as the blue hair says everything it needs to about him.

Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) sports some rather outrageous outfits throughout the film, especially when we first meet her at the start, wearing the above pink ensemble – she could give Dolores Umbridge a run for her money. Again, staying true to the book despite some slight alterations, Effie is noticeably eccentric in the way she presents herself. It’s not to the point in which it looks overly cartoon-like but comical in the way that she has a vicious streak yet is dressed in ruffles and florals. Makovsky aimed for Effie’s outfits to be the colours in which they were described in the book but chose certain shades in order for it to look slightly classic and tasteful.

Due to the location in North Carolina, it was difficult to figure out how to make the costumes so that they could be worn while shooting in 100 degree weather with humidity. The matching parade costumes in the above image were skin-tight which would prove uncomfortable in the heat and therefore were made into two pieces so they could get in and out of them as easily and quickly as possible. Here, Katniss is wearing her ‘girl on fire’ costume which many people think is leather but it’s actually a novelty stretch fabric with embossed plastic on top and stretch patent leather. The costume was created by Makovsky’s co-worker from the costume department of X-Men who has a lot of experience in creating striking costumes.

Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) plays an alcoholic and a previous winner of The Hunger Games, therefore has a lot of money which needed to me shown through his costume. He has an Edwardian cut to his clothes and puts on a front which confuses the viewers into understanding who he really is, despite the obvious referrals to his relationship with alcohol. He is a stylish alcoholic.

In the book everyone involved in The Hunger Games, all members of all districts wear completely the same outfit but due to the transfer to screen, it would be hard to distinguish each character. All of those taking part wore the same trousers but had different coloured jackets to tell them apart but it proved difficult to find appropriate colours that looked good on screen due to the location in the woods. Despite this, earthy colours were used which blend in with the background to the characters advantage but also distinguish each district subtly enough for it to not be an extreme difference from the book itself.

What do you think of the costumes in The Hunger Games? Are you a fan of the books?

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