Clothing Helps Define Inner Acceptance: Costume Designer Paco Delgado On “The Danish Girl”

By: Marjorie Galas

Paco Delgado firmly believes all people have a very powerful tool to fully express themselves at their disposal:  clothing.  He feels these visual statements can be as strong and emotionally stirring as the words they chose to say.   The statements he assembled for Einar Wegener – a turn of the century man who became an early pioneer in the transgender community who’s life and transition into a woman was featured in “The Danish Girl” – resulted in his Costume Designers Guild Award  win for Outstanding Period Costumes

While Delgado spent a great deal of time researching period clothing worn in Denmark and France during the late 1920s and early 30s,  the film’s Oscar-nominated costume designer felt the personal statements made by the clothing Einar Wegener (Eddie Redmayne) chose to wear throughout his transition into Lili Elbe were as important as period authenticity.

In the early 20s, fashion in Denmark was moving out of an Edwardian rigidity and following loser fits – a style dictated by the female workforce that arose during WWI. Einar is introduced wearing close-fitting suits made of stiff, thick wools, a design highlighting his discomfort within his own skin.  For Einar’s first public appearance as Lili, Delgado created an extremely theatrical gown made of rich, draping fabrics to emphasize Einar’s exuberance in connecting to his true nature.  During Lili’s early development, the palette becomes subdued.  Once in France, the creative and elaborate environment evokes Lili’s femininity, exhibited in rosy colors, silks and chifons.

Delgado designed a unique beige pantsuit defining the moment Einar achieves acceptance with his internal female dialogue.

“Women didn’t wear suits, but it was a woman’s cut, the colors of women’s clothes and allowed for a woman’s movement.  Lili was determined to change.  It shows how powerful clothes are – clothes are a tool that creates a reaction.”