'The Host' costume designer on dressing Stephenie Meyer's sci-fi characters for the big screen
To create the wardrobe for the characters — human and alien — in the sci-fi flick The Host (in theaters today), costume designer Erin Benach looked to fashion runways, the Middle East and the Sahara desert, and even author Stephenie Meyer for inspiration.
“The really fun part about this movie was that we had these distinct fractions of people,” Benach tells EW. “You never got bored with the costumes.”
Click on to see how the costume designer worked wardrobe magic for the body-snatching love story.
Melanie/Wanda (Saoirse Ronan)
When it came to the lead character, Melanie/Wanda (Saoirse Ronan), Benach was tasked with outfitting dual personalities, each with a different fashion sense. “She has these two extremes, [but] she actually has three generations of looks: the freedom fighter look when she’s one the run is a little survivalist, her flashback look, and her Soul look.” Inspired by “deconstructed fashion and simple pieces with obscure elements,” Benach used sheer materials and softer, more airy pieces to dress the character during scenes depicting pre-invasion times, then transitioned her into clothes made of heavier, more durable materials as is forced to become stronger and braver. “The idea [for Wanda’s Soul look] was that it was this uniform. She has the exact same shirt in different colors.”
Next: The Souls
“It’s a little bit Plesantville, kind of a modernized perfected ’50s look, with clean lines and [clothes that] hug the body,” Benach says of the retro-inspired ensembles worn by the Souls. “I would pair a vintage shirt with a modern pant, or I would take a detail from vintage top and recreate it with a slightly different collar and put it with a high waist, tapered pant.” In addition to scouring vintage stores, the designer shopped at H&M, Club Monaco, Zara and L.A.’s Remix Vintage Shoes to find pieces in just the right shades of pink, blue, yellow and green. “We wanted the world to have a happy but peaceful feeling, so nothing extremely bright or aggressive would work.”
Next: The Seekers
Creating the look for the Seekers was one of Benach’s most challenging tasks. “We went through a ton of iterations. Everybody had their opinion — our director Andrew [Niccol], Stephenie, me… we all wanted the same thing, which was for the characters to have a very strong look. it was just how [to do it]. We wanted the Seekers to look and feel like they were coming from the same place as the Souls,” she says. Ultimately, it was decided that the Seekers would wear white — in the book they are described as being dressed head-to-toe in black — to make them stand out on the big screen. “We also used white because we knew it would look really good in the desert, where a lot of their scenes were shot. Sometimes you really think of environment and how it’s going to stand out. Stephenie Meyer was totally on board with it too which was cool.”
Next: Diane Kruger
The Seeker’s (Diane Kruger) costume is the high fashion point of the movie. “She really can wear some clothing!” Benach says of dressing the actress, who works an asymmetrical suit jacket by Armani. “She just looks so good in clothes. It was a very collaborative [process]: what the actors wanted to wear, what we wanted to do. It all came together.”
Next: The Human Resistance
The Human Resistance
“These guys are the cave dwellers, they’re basically the human resistance who found each other and this secret cave. [The look] is definitely functional, utilitarian, paramilitary,” says Benach, who used pieces from Urban Outfitters. “They must be camouflaged and become a part of the land they are living off of in order to survive. I wanted [the audience] recognize, ‘Oh yeah, those are the humans that have left over clothing.'”