Oscar-winning designer Jacqueline Durran ("Anna Karenina") says it was a balancing act to dress the much-loved March sisters in director Greta Gerwig's new adaptation of Louisa May Alcott's Little Women novel.
In the film, Durran intertwines a spirit of free tailoring with the traditional Victorian rigidity of sisters Meg (Emma Watson), Jo (Saoirse Ronan), Beth (Eliza Scanlen) and Amy (Florence Pugh).
"For me, it was all about capturing this free spirit (of the March women) and finding out how much you could leave behind and how much to keep behind – all within the mid-nineteenth-century framework," says Durran, who created about 75 costumes for the four girls and their mother, Marmee March (Laura Dern).
After finishing the film, "I went straight to (1917)" and it can be the biggest leap in my career – going from all women to all men in the middle of a war, "she laughs." It's always an adventure. "
You said your goal in "Little Women" was to "create period-specific clothes for sisters who didn't necessarily feel period-specific." You can explain?
An outline of Amy March's costume design for the movie "Little Women."
I tried to do things periodically.need – so that the clothes exist properly within a period – but I let the girls wear them as they wanted. There was no rigidity and perfection in the clothes; we relaxed. I let the actors live and be in their clothes the way they wanted to live in their clothes, and also how Greta wanted them to live and be in their clothes. I hope to make it.
So it takes time, but is there more clothing than proper Victorian clothing?
Yes it is correct. For example, the Alcotts lived somewhat radically, and the character Marmee was a true radical and a woman without a corset. If we infer that Jo was Louisa May Alcott, I think Jo's character would never historically wear a corset. So while Jo's clothes were accurate for the period, they did not have that rigidity that we associate with the Victorian period.
I understand that you used Winslow Homer's paintings as inspiration. Why?
I love Winslow Homer. He was so attached to where we were (in the northeast) and had the spirit of freedom in his paintings: the way people lived in the landscape was not the stereotypical way of the Victorian countryside. It was liberating to look at his paintings, because they have a different prism of freedom that you do not feel in other paintings of the time.
Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) and costume designer Jacqueline Durran on the set of Greta Gerwig's “Little Women”.
You used more modern colors and patterns in your accessories. – like checks, stripes and prints on scarves, hats and capes – modernize the costumes?
Yes, although it is not entirely incorrect to have checks, stripes and stamped elements in this period; they are being used in a different way from the traditional one. The Victorians used many checks and paisleys. The way we use them (in the movie) is a bit out of season; it's "not exactly", which can make it a bit more modern. I think the closest thing I did the same way before was "Pride and Prejudice."
The color palette is a little "not exactly" as you say: brown instead of red, chartreuse instead of green, mustard instead of yellow or mauve instead of purple. Did it also modernize and loosen the clothes?
A sketch of Meg March's costume for the movie "Little Women."
Yes, but we also had a palette for each girl going through everything. Jo's color is red mixed with indigo, so it was a kind of blue-red combination. Meg's color is green, but as we wanted to soften it, we use green and lavender. Beth, we decided on a kind of brown tone and Amy is always blue. It comes from Marmee's gifts for them on Christmas morning. That way, we kept a kind of color arc for each girl, although I don't want the colors to be too written or overloaded.
Meg's pink frilly prom dress in Boston was a lot like Tara.
I wanted to distinguish between the three balls of the movie. The first, which you don't see much about, is a very rural dance: local farmers and rich country people gather for a Christmas dance. So it should have a festive Christmas feel: all the checks and patterns and a pretty peasant look.
So we're in Boston, at the highest level of American society, and everyone is wearing crayons, and it's kind of a magical world of pretty girls. And then, when Amy goes to Europe, there's another level of chic, so chic that she doesn't even care about being beautiful anymore.
First assistant director Jonas Spaccarotelli, costume designer Jacqueline Durran, costume designer Taryn Walsh, Laurie (Timothée Chalamet) and Amy March (Florence Pugh) on Columbia Pictures' Little Women set.
Jo and Laurie (Theodore "Laurie" Laurence played by Timothée Chalamet) were both somewhat androgynous characters. How did this fit into the overall concept of costumes?
We wanted them to change, though it didn't happen that often. We made a vest the size of Laurie and Jo to look like they wore the same item and just changed it, but due to the continuing editing, I don't think you realize that in the movie. But they were made to wear interchangeable clothes, yes.
Meryl Streep plays Aunt March. How does she get involved with her clothes?
I have never worked with her before and as you can imagine she is amazing and has the clearest eyes looking at period clothes and the best kind of instinct. I was lucky to have her fantasies made by someone with whom she had a long history. She had four exchanges in total – all dark, which would be appropriate for a woman of her age and formality.