Barbie, Poor Things, Oppenheimer: Creating Costumes, Vibrant Looks

Costume design by Jacqueline Durran


Atsushi Nishijima/Warner Bros.

Jacqueline Durran had her work cut out for her, depicting the culture shock of Barbie (Margot Robbie) and Ken (Ryan Gosling) Rollerblading into the vibrant chaos of Venice Beach after leaving their idyllic pink Dream House realm. “It was the first moment of the clash between the unreal world of Barbie Land and blasting into the real world,” says Durran, who won her second Oscar for Barbie director Greta Gerwig’s Little Women (and has scored seven additional nods).

Gerwig envisioned the duo to “look like aliens” as they glide onto the boardwalk to face mockery from bystanders — and an ogled Barbie’s first encounter with vicious misogyny. After evaluating the Mattel doll’s canon, Durran redesigned Hot Skatin’ Barbie’s bold, full-coverage ’90s jumpsuit into an ultra-vivid highlighter-hued leotard, biker shorts and accessories, plus she created Ken’s coordinating biceps-baring ensemble. “It took a lot of working out with loads of different versions and colorways to give them that otherworldly quality,” says Durran, who further “toned down” the local denizens’ nonconformist styles. “It’s quite hard to be a focal point on Venice Beach, isn’t it?”

Costume design by Jacqueline West

Killers of the Flower Moon

Melinda Sue Gordon/Apple TV+

Early in Martin Scorsese’s sprawling historical crime drama, Jacqueline West introduces a layered narrative with a single tableau of Mollie Kyle and her sisters. “They are talking about the men in their lives and showcasing their closeness,” says West, who has earned her fifth Oscar nod. “One of [Mollie’s] sisters is already married, one sister is fading away from illness, and one sister is much more free-spirited.”

The sisters’ personal styles nod to their experiences as young Osage women within their wealthy Oklahoma community. “Anna (Cara Jade Myers) has truly embraced how she is going to navigate the 1920s as a rich Osage woman, dressing more modern to fit in with the rest of the world,” says West. Mollie (Oscar nominee Lily Gladstone) represents “the most profound, totally traditional,” bedecked in a classic Osage calico top and wool skirt, ball-and-cone earrings, a seed bead choker and Wabonka pin.

Their blankets, representing status and magnanimity, illustrate the sisters’ strong bond. The garments are “also known as ‘the Osage mink coat,’ ” says West, who based each individualizing motif off a real family photo, plus Pendleton patterns of the period. She closely collaborated with Osage costume consultant Julie O’Keefe on the authenticity, nuance and storytelling of the wrapping method. Anna drapes her blanket off her shoulders — “loosening ties to the traditional Osage dress,” says West, while traditional Mollie’s “blanket is more pristinely folded than the others.”


Costume design by Janty Yates and David Crossman


Aidan Monaghan/Apple TV+

At the grand coronation in Ridley Scott’s chronicle of great love and many wars, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte (Joaquin Phoenix) signals his reign by crowning his wife, Josephine (Vanessa Kirby) — and himself. Through a united costume front, Janty Yates, an Oscar winner for Scott’s 2000 epic Gladiator, and first-time nominee David Crossman re-created Jacques-Louis David’s celebrated painting of the extravagant 1804 ceremony.

Matching the drape of the lengthy trains on Napoleon’s cotton velvet and faux ermine robe and Josephine’s regal cloak to the majesty of the artwork proved an endeavor. “We had so many trials with calico and paper attached to try and get them as accurate to the real McCoy,” says Yates, who worked with Crossman to meticulously place ornate gold palms and Napoleon’s signature bee motif.

“The masses of hand embroidery that you have to get done …” says Crossman, who specializes in military costumes (and ultimately designed 4,000 elaborate uniforms, across nations and decades). “Every single dress of the ladies-in-waiting, which you hardly see, was hand-embroidered with gold bullions: cha-ching!” says Yates, also citing the drama’s family members, religious figures and high-ranking generals in “their best bib and tuckers.” Adding to the challenge is the fact that artisans skilled in the handcraft — and with the capacity to generate the sheer volume needed — are scarce. 

Like the battle livery, the ceremonial military regalia required rigorous aging and dyeing for a “muted” and realistic, but still opulent, effect. “You want everything to look quite rich,” says Crossman. “You want them to look like a beautiful painting.”

Costume design by Ellen Mirojnick


Melinda Sue Gordon/Universal Pictures

Ellen Mirojnick fittingly compares “painting an authentic portrait” of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Cillian Murphy) through costume to “figuring out puzzle pieces.” The brain-teasing variables include working with a limited budget on a 57-day shoot, shooting on Imax and in black-and-white, and infusing modernity into a wardrobe that ranged from the 1920s to the 1960s.

Mirojnick built a character-defining foundation gleaned from early research: a consistent suit silhouette, which also serves as armor. “[Oppenheimer] was a gentleman who was a genius, with massive chaos riddling his whole entire being,” says Mirojnick, who collaborated with fellow first-time Oscar nominee Murphy on precisely tailored, broad-shouldered jackets and fuller, pleated trousers. 

After an evolution from ’20s collegiate waistcoats to aspirational ’30s three-piece suiting, Murphy’s Oppenheimer “steps into his power” in 1942 — professionally and sartorially — to lead the atomic bomb development on the Manhattan Project. The earth tones of his luxurious yet workwear-appropriate “high-twist cavalry twill” reference the rugged Los Alamos landscape. The blue of his crisp shirts intensifies alongside the brilliant physicist’s influence, while correlating with the turquoise on his silver belt buckle and Murphy’s commanding gaze.

Per Christopher Nolan’s direction, Oppenheimer, through whose point of view the story unfolds, is the only character to wear a hat. Mirojnick found the ideal taupe felted wool fedora, with a wide brim that’s effectively pliable yet steadfastly rigid. “And he picks up that pipe, all of which is so purposeful. It created a look of power — of strength,” says Mirojnick. “The man stepped into his own element, all of which [the real] Oppenheimer, himself, actually planned.”

Costume design by Holly Waddington

In an early scene in Yorgos Lanthimos’ fantastical coming-of-age story, Bella Baxter (Emma Stone) explores her boundaries while zealously throwing raspberries at med student Max McCandles (Ramy Youssef) like an excited toddler in an adult body. But in her fearless, and physically intensive, Oscar-nominated performance, Stone literally stretched the boundaries of Bella’s delicate Victorian silk blouse. A diaphanous puff sleeve ripped from the bodice, causing a brief crisis — and compelling a resourceful pivot from first-time nominee Holly Waddington.

“From that moment, I realized that we would have to robustly treat the costumes [like] ballet or opera,” says Waddington, who swiftly engineered “big stretchy gussets” into Stone’s wardrobe, “so she could do extensions with her arms.” 

Waddington also expanded her workload on the fast-paced, demanding shoot to produce multiples of all the sumptuously voluminous mutton-sleeve tops and ruffle-adorned layers, which illustrate Bella dressing and expressing herself on her arc of self-discovery. “There’s a huge amount of work in each piece of costume, so to make four of each …” says Waddington. “There was a huge wardrobe.”

During her glorious “grand tour” in Lisbon, Bella engages in ecstatic choreography, which shifts into a boisterous dance-floor brawl. Her exquisite pink-ombré silk organza skirt partners with her movement and billows with tiers of flounce. “She was having a massive fight sequence — kicking, fighting and chucking drinks around,” says Waddington, who was relieved to have copies, especially for the extensive night shoot. “Everything stemmed from this sleeve coming off.”

This story first appeared in a February stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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