'Beautiful Creatures' costume designer on dressing the characters in the supernatural flick
For costume designer Jeffrey Kurland, the challenge of creating the wardrobe for the big screen adaptation of Beautiful Creatures was having to dress characters — both mortal and supernatual — for a story that weaves through the past and present. The upside? Kurland was able to show off his vast expertise and let his imagination run wild.
“I was actually asked by the director not to read the books, which I didn’t because he didn’t want me to be locked into the books, he wanted me to be locked into the movie,” says Kurland, who was appointed to represent the newly-formed Costume Designers branch of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences last month.
So how did he come up with the designs for the 80 one-of-a-kind costumes used in the film?
“I looked at a lot of books from all historical periods, and extrapolated the best looks from many decades to incorporate them into each character as I saw fit,” says Kurland, who sourced luxe fabrics from Los Angeles, New York and New Orleans, where the movie was filmed. “I used my own personal knowledge of fashion — I’ve been doing this for over 30 years so I have a lot of knowledge in my head. I knew what I wanted to do.”
Click on to see Ethan, Lena, Ridley and more characters, and find out how the costume designer created their looks. SEE THE PHOTOS
Ethan Wate (Alden Ehrenreich)
“Ethan is your basic teenager in the South and his clothing is very real and typical of what normal 16 year-olds would wear,” Kurland says of the story’s protagonist. Though actor Alden Ehrenreich did have to endure wearing a Civil War-era uniform while filming outdoor scenes in the heat of a New Orleans summer , Kurland says he got off easy. “The weather was so hot, by the time we finished at the end of June it was so 108 degrees and 98% humidity. The women were in corsets and layers!”
Lena Duchannes (Alice Englert)
“Lena doesn’t want to be any different from anyone else but yet she is. Her taste is different. She’s more serious, she’s more studious, she’s smarter than your average teen. Her clothing kind of reflects that slightly darker, more serious tone, because she’s brooding. But still it has a certain fashion edge to it,” Kurland says. “You see a little vintage [edge] to her. The lengths of her skirts are longer than most of the other girls, she doesn’t wear jeans.” Kurland even designed Lena’s ball gown to fit the formal dress code of a pivotal Caster event while still representing her personality. “I designed the top of the gown as a man’s shirt might look, open and loose, which I felt was more her style,” he explains. Kurland did incorporate one special wardrobe piece from the book into the movie. “Lena’s necklace is definitely there, she wears it all the time. It’s a charm necklace that I made. She’s only 16 but she moves from town to town and collects little pieces from everywhere she’s been.”
Macon Ravenwood (Jeremy Irons)
Macon’s “satorially splendid” wardrobe references the ’20s, ’30s and ’40s, with touches inspired by military style, “The research for him went through all of the decades, all the way back to the turn of the century with his first robe and he’s in the 20s for the pajamas. It was the same with the Aunt (Margo Martindale) and the Grandmother (Eileen Atkins),” Kurland says. “Considering they were a certain age, but assuming that as Casters they’ve been living a very long time, they could choose clothing from any decade they wanted, so I gave them that freedom.”
Next: Amma (Viola Davis)
Amma (Viola Davis)
“Amma, is a very spiritual person, so we decided that her African roots are seen in her spiritual longings and reflected in her wardrobe. There’s a good deal of color and the jewelry that she wears is very heavy and iconic,” says Kurland, who notes that most of the jewelry worn by Davis’ character jewelry is from a collection of pieces that he created. “The other pieces are from places like Morocco, Africa and Tibet. There’s a certain spirituality that I wanted to infuse into her look while also showing that she’s a woman of style.”
Ridley Duchannes (Emmy Rossum)
“Riddley is probably the showiest of the characters. Her clothing reflects a certain sexuality because she’s a siren, meaning she can get people – especially men—to do her bidding. There’s a lot of sheer, body hugging, a lot of showing off of skin and body,” Kurland says of Rossum’s vampy look. “There’s a certain allure to all her clothing, and the colors also kind of range from dark jewel tones to black.” And Ridley has some serious shades. “The sunglasses were inspired by Barbara Stanwyck’s glasses in Double Indemnity. That was my tipping-off point, the hiding behind her sunglasses,” says Kurland. “The’ve got a nice vintage quality to them.”
Mrs. Lincoln / Sarafine (Emma Thompson)
For actress Emma Thompson, Kurland was tasked with creating costumes that fit the personalities of two characters. “The interesting thing about Mrs. Lincoln is that she is a very repressed church lady who lived in the South. [The way] she dresses — which is slightly dated and goes back to the 1960s — serves two purposes because Sarafine takes over Mrs. Lincoln’s body,” Kurland explains. “It was an interesting challenge, and of course in the end they all end up in Antebellum clothing so you then have that period too!”
Beautiful Creatures hits theaters today.