Rebooting Charlie’s Angels presented Elizabeth Banks with a welcome challenge. “It was an opportunity to have fashion meet an action movie,” says the writer-director, who also appears in the film as boss Bosley to a new generation of Angels. “I thought Kingsman was really fashionable, but that was all about amazing suiting. I have three women, so I get the opportunity to really play [with fashion] in a way that movies that feature action heroes instead of action heroines just don’t get to do.” That begins in the Townsend Agency closet, where the Angels fabulously suit up for their high-style assignments. “I tried to play with some tropes,” Banks says. “The closet is a great trope of so many women’s movies, and it’s also in, for instance, Bond.”
Costume designer Kym Barrett was tasked with making the new Angels a cohesive group while also giving each their own distinct look. “It was kind of a jigsaw puzzle,” she says, but working with the actresses to develop their characters’ style helped. “That’s part of the fun of it, to take into account their individuality and who they think their character wants to be — which also changes along the way.” Just like anyone’s personal style evolution: “Every girl that sees the movie should believe that they could also be one of them,” says Barrett, who looked to street style to assemble a wardrobe that was both accessible and aspirational. “We wanted our girls to feel like real women who had [access to] a great closet,” Banks agrees. “It’s Charlie’s closet — they get to pillage it.”
The stars helped create their characters’ personal style, but for disguises like this one on Elena (Naomi Scott), the new girl in the group, “I wanted you to feel that she was pretending to be someone else,” Barrett says. Though dressed for an elegant day at the races, Elena has to pivot to fight mode and take down a thug while wearing this ladylike frock. Barrett did a lot of shopping, but “we made the pieces that had to be very stunt-versatile,” she explains. The designer would watch the fight choreography to inform the design, then had the actresses go through some of their moves during fittings so she could make adjustments for whatever they’d have to do.
Sabina (Kristen Stewart) often appears in pink throughout the movie, starting at the very beginning. “I knew in the opening sequence I wanted Kristen Stewart to look like a Barbie doll,” Banks says. “I had a lot of visuals of, like, ’70s dancers — form-fitting [dresses] but a little dance skirt on it. That really came together.” In making Banks’ vision a reality, though, Barrett had other elements to consider. “It had to kind of seem, from a mid-shot, to be a fairly simple, pretty, girly dress, and then in five minutes she’s got her arms around his neck and she’s crushing him,” the designer explains. “I like to put the actresses in things where people are not expecting a stunt at all, and then they get surprised by the fact that all of a sudden they can do these things in a dress and high heels.”
Jane (Ella Balinska) and Sabina complement each other in sparkly party dresses for the climactic finale. “We wanted them to be a really strong union, and they’re [in] their colors,” says Barrett. “We were going to be in this old hunting lodge on the lake, so we wanted it to have a little mirror-ball ’70s feeling to it.” Banks’ Bosley dressed for the occasion as well, in what the director says was her own favorite costume: “The women are all in sequins, I got to wear some sequins — it was team dressing!”
In a nod to past Angels, Barrett got this racing suit (Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, and Lucy Liu each wore one in the 2000 film) and dirndl (worn by Barrymore and Liu) from the Columbia archive. “I wanted to find a way to put some of those iconic costumes from the prior movies into the film,” says Banks, who honored the franchise’s long legacy with Easter eggs throughout the new installment. “As a woman and a feminist, I stand on the shoulders of the women that came before me, and I feel like these Angels stand on the shoulders of the Angels that came before them.”
Banks is reluctant to call Bosley’s classic style “mature,” but “she definitely feels appropriate,” the filmmaker says. “I’d describe her as, like, your chic aunt.” And like a fond relative, she kept giving her best costumes to the Angels. “They got the first pick,” Barrett admits, “so I’m surprised that she came out as well as she did!”