'Django Unchained': How costume designer Sharen Davis helped Kerry Washington dress the part
Sharen Davis already has two Academy Award nominations under her belt, but she may soon have the distinction of being the first costume designer to score an Oscar nod for creating the wardrobe in a Quentin Tarantino movie.
Among the characters Davis dressed in Django Unchained — a period western set in the deep south in 1858 — is Kerry Washington’s Broomhilda, the wife of title character Django (Jaime Foxx) who is sold to plantation owner Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio). Washington herself says that the costumes played a major role in helping her make the woman.
“Broomhilda’s clothes aren’t her own,” the actress told EW. “Even in talking it through with [Sharen], when we were talking about the Broomhilda stuff, it was always ‘What would he put her in?’ ‘What would the woman of the house dress her in? Oh, she’d dress her like a doll.'”
“Quentin was very hands-on,” Davis says of working with Tarantino. “I would do these sketches, but I would also have freeze-frames from the spaghetti Westerns he had me watch to go along with the illustrations so I could show him exactly where the ideas came from. Because this is a Tarantino movie, the dresses are all a little above reality.”
The frocks may look like a dream on screen, but according to Washington, they were no picnic to wear.
“I remember thinking, I was in this corset, ‘Oh, the reason women were always fainting wasn’t because they couldn’t handle these situations, but because they couldn’t breathe!'” Washington remembers. “You actually cannot take in the same level of oxygen because your diaphragm is constricted, so you think, ‘My gosh, women couldn’t even breathe freely, let alone get the vote.”
Reporting by Keith Staskiewicz