Costume Designers Discuss Re-Invention At Comic Con 2016
Ruth E. Carter described defining family connectivity through colored fabric in the remake of “Roots.” Photo credit: A & E Studios
Reinvention was a common thread during the Costume Designers Guild’s Comic Con 2016 panel, “Ice Age to Space Age Costumes: Designing for Film.” The first of two panels presented this year by the CDG at Comic Con featured costume designers that took established film and television entities, from “Roots” to “Star Trek” and brought an alternate vision for the storytelling.
Moderated by actor Christopher Lawrence the panel featured Ruth E. Carter (Selma, Roots), Sanja Hays (Maze Runner: The Scorch Trails, Star Trek Beyond) and Shawna Trpcic (The Cabin in the Woods, Powers). Avoiding conversations that were heavy in technique, Lawrence focused more on the costume designer’s approach to their projects.
Kicking off the conversation with Carter, Lawrence asked what she did to prepare for bringing “Firefly” – a short lived TV series that’s returning as a theatrical release, and “Roots” – the recent visitation to the iconic 70s mini series. For “Firefly”- a one season sci-fi series created by Joss Whedon that developed a strong and immediate cult following, Carter closely observed the series original designs. Wanting to expand upon the aesthetics that appeared in 90s based episodes, she worked in a variety of different fabrics and textures. To highlight the array of cultures on different planets that appeared in the show, she utilized diverse fabrics she found in India, primarily metallic tones. Carter exhibited the length she would take to get the right texture and color when she informed the crowd she took apart her own wedding dress to acquire a fabric sample.
“It had this beautiful gold fabric,” recalled Carter. “I ended up ripping up the dress to get at it.”
She had a completely different approach for “Roots.” Choosing to avoid reviewing the original series, she focused on finding a connectivity between family members and relationships that could be exhibited in the costume. This was done primarily through colors, such as blue hues. Once she applied specific colors to the fabrics, her team worked to develop African inspired patterns that were then printed on top of the fabrics.
Hays described growing up with “Star Trek” as a girl. Initially thrilled at the opportunity to design costumes for the latest incarnation, she described the “tremendous responsibility” she had to finding ways to refresh the looks while remaining true to the qualities fans have grown to recognize. She paid particular attention to the uniform colors to ensure the tribute remained alive: a task complicated by the sets’ lights and the augmentation of the color on camera during screen tests.
There was a particular villain in the upcoming movie that provided a somewhat unique design challenge; creating a strong body armor. With an actor attached to another product during the construction of his body armor, a full body cast was made of the actor. The costume department was then able to sculpt and mold the costume’s shape to the body cast.
Trpcic also had the experience of scanning an actor to build his suit for the up-coming series “Powers.” In her case, she used a 3D printer to help in the build process of the costume, a device she feels will become a greater asset to costume designers as the technology becomes more accessible.
“For super hero costumes you often have four weeks to build (these complex suits)”, said Trpcic. “For ‘Powers’ I only had one week. The 3D printer really helped with getting the fabric done.”