Many actors will say that the character never really appears until they are wearing the costume. It’s arguably one of the most visible aspects of any film apart from the actors themselves taking as much screen time as any Oscar winning performance.
Some of our best love films have interesting stories to tell other than than the narrative of the movie – the costumes themselves have an interesting background that should not be overlooked.
We’ve all been watching a film and wondered how the designer got that look or what technique has been used to distress an item of clothing so convincingly.
So we have put together a top ten list of surprising costume facts and stories from some of Western cultures most famous films of the last century.
1. Mystique in the X-Men Films
Jenifer Lawrence’s Mystique in the X-Men series of films took a whopping 8 hours to complete. During the appliance of the make-up to her body, she had to remain entirely still.
They did manage to get the time down to 3 hours for later films. How? Because later on Lawrence was only filmed from the neck up meaning her whole body did not need to be covered in the blue make-up.
2. Aragorn in Lord of the Rings
How did the wardrobe apartment achieve the lived-in appearance of Aragorn’s clothing in the Lord of the Rings Films? By doing precisely that…living in them. Ever the dedicated actor, Viggo Mortensen took it upon himself to give his costume that lived-in look. The actor remained in his costume the entire time, taking it home and wearing it constantly until it had the battered look. He even fixed the costume himself when he needed to just as Aragorn would have – very method.
3. Michael Myers in Halloween
You can’t get much more iconic horror the serial killer Michael Myers’ terrifying mask in the Halloween films. But instantly recognisable mask has a very unlikely origin.
Being very resourceful the team used an old William Shatner mask and painted it white to create the horrifying prince of horror Michael Myers.
The mask had been used during the filming of Star Trek so that appliance could be shaped and fitted on to it rather than using Shatner’s actual face.
Shatner apparently took it very well and even used the mask on a trick or treat outing with his grandkids.
The tiny clothing in the 2009 stop motion animated film Coraline was all completely created by hand by Althea Crome, including underwear for the puppets – now that’s attention to detail.
Remarkably Althea knitted the iconic blue jumper that Coraline wears in the film with extremely tiny needles, some as small as the dimension of a human hair. You can watch her work below.
5. Edward Scissorhands
Johnny Depp looks brilliant as Edward Scissorhands in Tim Burton’s 1990 film. But did you know that, as well as the leather and latex, Johnny Depp’s costume, was also made up of bits of sofa from Tim Burton’s first apartment?
Filming in Florida Depp’s skin tight costume had to be installed with a cool suit to stop him over heating. Despite this he still had to be surrounded by fans between takes to ensure he did not bake under the hot Florida sun.
It just goes to show how a costume can make or break a movie as 1987’s Robocop was nearly halted completely due to the iconic suit worn by Peter Weller.
Weller had to practise in a padded suit at first because the actual suit was late to arrive.
But when it did Weller almost walked off the film completely because of the discomfort whilst filming in the suit.
During filming Weller lost three pounds a day due to dehydration – the suit was far too large, heavy and difficult to move in. Not only that but it took 10 hours just to get the costume on – three for the undersuit and another seven for the outer.
Weller finally broke, almost walking off the film altogether. However, his agent convinced him to stay with the production and a system was developed with the crew to give Weller some relief. Later a new suit was designed with fans installed to keep him cool.
7. Catwoman in Batman Returns
Michele Pfeiffer played Catwoman in Tim Burton’s Batman Returns. But how did the costume department get that super shiny look for her PVC outfit?
Costume designer Mary Vogt had a surprising way of getting that glossy look. Michele’s costume was covered from head to toe in thick liquid silicon, meaning her costume would continue to shine even in night-time scenes.
8. The Lion in The Wizard of Oz
Ethical standards when it came to the use of fur were not quite the same when The Wizard of Oz was filmed in 1939, and we’re sorry to reveal that Bert Lahr’s costume for the Cowardly Lion was made from two real lion skins.
The costume also weighed an awful lot. Coming in at a backbreaking 90 pounds.
9. Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever.
It might be rather surprising to find out that the iconic white disco suit worn by John Travolta in the 1977 film Saturday Night Fever was sourced by the man himself.
This was no easy feat. Having been tasked with finding his own costume Travolta struggled to find anything that would work for the Disco movie as Disco was already a dying culture when the film was made.
The famous white three-piece suit was eventually found for next to nothing in a men’s clothing store in Brooklyn.
HR Giger’s Alien design for the Ridley Scott’s 1979 film of the same name is instantly recognisable and terrifying.
But did you know the Alien design contains disturbing sexuality in its construction?
Not only is Alien made up of parts of an old Rolls-Royce and the vertebrae of dead snakes, but the design also uses shredded condoms for the tendons in the monster’s jaws and KY Jelly for the creature’s saliva.