If the hysteria surrounding The Hunger Games has somehow skipped you—let me bring you up to speed: On Friday, the enormously anticipated motion picture adaptation of the first book in Suzanne Collins’s highly addictive, action-packed, slightly twisted trilogy opens in theaters, the premise of which is children in the country of Panem (formerly North America), plucked from their respective districts to fight each other to the death on camera as a national pastime. While you stomach the disturbing truths contained in that sentence, consider another linchpin in the series: During the lead up to the games, every child receives a stylist (it may be saying something about the increasing fascination with stylists that fictitious children dropped into the wilderness and left to pursue each other with primitive means of weaponry are first paired with personal wardrobe consultants to determine how best to work with their silhouette). While the movie’s protagonists, 16-year-olds Katniss and Peeta, played by Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, are paraded through the dismal publicity festivities that precede their dreaded time in competition, what they and the deranged inhabitants of the pristine Capitol city wear is given scrupulous attention and described in evocative detail by Collins. Fashion, it turns out, factors heavily into this dystopian future.
Judianna Makovsky, the movie’s costume designer, is accustomed to dressing characters that come with fanantic expectations; in addition to realizing the wardrobe for over twenty-five films, including Great Expectations, Pleasantville, The Legend of Bagger Vance, and X-Men: The Last Stand, she received an Academy Award nomination for her work on Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. “One thing about the books is, you really relate to these people,” Makovsky says of The Hunger Games series, which she read virtually overnight. “You don’t think of it as science fiction. And I always say: A suit’s been around for over 100 years; what makes us think it’s not going to be there for another 100 years? I find if you go too far afield from what we know, it becomes dated very quickly.” That Panem was based on an imagined version of a burned out North America meant that Makovsky turned to artifacts from the nation’s history. “We looked at a lot of photographs of coal mining districts from the turn of the century to the 1950s, because we wanted it to have a very American feel,” Makovsky says of District 12, the region from which Katniss and Peeta hail. “We wanted to make a very serious impact, and color was very important—to keep it mostly gray or blue . . . very cold because coal leaves a black dust everywhere. But we didn’t want it so overly stylized that it wasn’t a real place—it is a real place—it could be Appalachia, you know, a hundred or fifty years ago.” Like many in her profession, Makovsky, whose first exposure to the costume world was when she performed with the Metropolitan Opera as a child, is on constant lookout for elements that might inspire her projects. “I have 86 boxes of picture files in my house that I have been collecting since high school,” she says proudly. “I’m a bit of a hoarder with books and magazines.”
The ornate looks of the inhabitants of Panem’s Capitol city—overplumed, surgically enhanced peacocks of people who live in excess at the country’s expense—combine a 1930s aesthetic with the whimsy of the 18th century. “I didn’t want it [to be] silly,” Makovsky explains, of their looks—a bright, brazen collection of voluminous shoulders, excessive ruching, and theatrical hats. “These are people who like to watch children beat each other to death in an arena. So it has to be a sort of—not meanness—but we looked a lot at Schiaparelli. She has a sense of humor but the stuff is beautiful and striking. We looked a lot at Italian fascist architecture that is very imposing. We used a lot of black to break such bright colors. I just thought it would be funny if these people, who have such a vicious streak in them, are sort of covered in flowers and ruffles.” To accentuate the evil under the artifice, Makovsky insisted that the people of the Capitol be powdered and eyebrowless—an effect that, as it did with Lisbeth Salander, gives the characters, including Effie Trinket, played by Elizabeth Banks, a ghostly, haunting look. “It immediately takes the face somewhere else,” says Makovsky. “It takes it high fashion, but also a little scary. And also beautiful, funnily enough.”
For all of her reliance on history, Makovsky’s creations are also informed by the latest collections. “There are certain designers who are obviously geniuses out there,” she says. “Their manipulation of fabric is amazing. But as much as I look at that, I look at Elizabethan clothes from the past. I mean, that’s what the designers are looking at. We’re all looking at the same thing.” She cites Alexander McQueen and John Galliano as “the usual suspects” behind innovative fashion houses, but gives her most glowing praise, again, to Schiaparelli. “She’s been a major influence on every designer,” she declares. “There’s no way she couldn’t have been. The woman was a genius. I have to admit, I used a lot of color. Schiaparelli pink.”
by Molly Creeden @ vogue.com