Margot Robbie’s Crowd Surfing Kit Design for Babylon – The Hollywood Reporter
Director Damien Chazelle commissioned his costume designer on Babylon very simple: “I don’t want this movie to look like another ’20s movie.”
That ordinance translates to no skirts, no cloche caps (on principals) and no feather headbands in the Paramount movie, which hits theaters on December 23. Like a three-time costume designer The film’s Academy Award nominee, Mary Zophres, noted, “Damien wanted authenticity but didn’t want it to sound ridiculous; he said, ‘Bring me new ideas!’ Dressing up the epic of late 1920s Hollywood debauchery and decadence was a bigger-than-reality game of numbers, in which Zophres and her team created nearly 10,000 sets. costumes, from items to Singing in the rain number to nod to 1916 Merciless Battle scene.
The costumes for each of the main characters are designed with a muse in mind, representing the heights and heights of Hollywood. For Margot Robbie’s prolific party girl turned little star Nellie LaRoy, Clara Bow comes to mind, while Li Jun Li plays Lady Fay Zhu singer Anna May Wong. Brad Pitt’s dying star, Jack Conrad, combines John Gilbert, early Gary Cooper and later-day Clark Gable. Jean Smart, as gossip columnist Elinor St. John, was a dead bellman for Louella Parsons.
Introduced in the film’s opening sequence — a rowdy, mind-stimulating party that hits the senses at almost every turn — Robbie’s Nellie appears in a red silk suit with trousers, perfect for Surf in the crowd as well as dance with no less than 250 people . “It was really an outfit based on the fabric a supplier gave me,” says Zophres, “and the colors are rich and vibrant.” The designer and actress came up with a plot together. “She is from the East Coast and is probably a former dancer. Nellie arrives at the party to be spotted and wraps this scarf around her body, tucking it into her shorts and letting it hang down her hips. She’s pretty reserved, and that makes her look less naughty.” In order to give the actress more coverage, the designer added inside the costume pliable bones that would flatten out on her skin when she was in contact with other actors. “Margot practiced the dance for six weeks and gave in as long as they found the bends and she didn’t show her body. She knew Nellie was an uninhibited character and did everything she could to achieve it.
Lady Fay’s character donned one of Chazelle’s favorite pieces, a long and elegantly angled floral cheongsam dress. “Damien liked it so much that he wanted her to wear it to Jack’s pool party. That was great for her, and when she wore tango in that dress with Nellie in overalls, there was a dichotomy between tomboy and femininity, strong and vulnerable, and the game turned. ,” said Zophres.
And for Pitt’s Jack Conrad, “we wanted Brad to be a sexy movie star and dress him up in high-waisted pants with mole buttons,” the designer said, noting that the character was barely chose to wear a jacket and tie. “He is a lively person and not too formal. Damien feels strongly about this, as you’ve seen that scene in a lot of movies in the ’20s where men in formal wear go to parties but wear sportswear at home or on set. Conrad’s wardrobe includes signature cream sweaters and trousers, turtleneck sweaters and leather jackets, all based on the idea of elegant sportswear.
And one thing you won’t see in the movie? zipper. “There’s no such thing as a zipper in the whole movie,” says Zophres, noting that they’re not yet common in clothing.
This story first appeared in the December 16 issue of The Hollywood Reporter. Click here to sign up.