Madeline Fontaine won the BAFTA award for best costume design for Jackie last week. She had stiff competition up against the hyped La La Land, Allied, Florence Foster Jenkins and Fantastical Beasts and where to Find Them from 3 times Oscar winner Colleen Atwood.
Jackie portrays the story of Jackie kennedy’s life in the aftermath of her husbands assassination. The challenge for a designer working on a biopic is to recreate accurately the iconic looks so many people know and love. Madeline already had experience of this as she designed the biopic of Yves Saint Laurent.
How to bring Jackie’s famous sense of style to the big screen
As a costume designer one often has to work from the imagination creating character and defining a look through costume, but in this case the challenge is to recreate looks that already exist. Not only that but a woman like Jackie Kennedy is well known and famous for her “look”, so the audience will have certain memories and expectations.
To meet these expectations the designer would have to do a lot of research. Luckily with such an icon a lot of evidence will exist, such as TV footage, magazine photoshoots, pictures and books. Also, fashion design houses such as Chanel and Dior worn by Jackie hold archives of designs and fabrics.
Also researching the period is important to create an atmosphere and context for it’s characters. Each period has it’s own colours, lines and shapes. The designer will have to use this research to choose and create costumes for the other characters, crowd scenes and for those scenes not documented.
Remaking these iconic pieces
When researching the iconic pieces such as the pink chanel suit with pill box hat the designer will have to look closely at colour, fabric, weave, weight, trims, buttons and cut. Fabric will have to be found from suppliers which has the same quality in weave and weight. Many samples will be got to be sure of the best match, if the fabric or a good enough match can’t be found then it is possible that the fabric will be woven from scratch. Also if the right colour can’t be found then the fabric will be dyed. There will be a number of experiments to get the exact colour and this will go on to be camera tested so that the colour looks right on camera.
Once the fabric and colour is achieved then a pattern cutter will cut a pattern based on the original. They will use the research to see how the garment falls and sits on the body and to establish where the seams and darts are to create a perfect replica. this will e fitted on the actress to ensure the right fit.
Buttons and trims are crucial to give the right finishes. These will be searched for in haberdashery departments and if not found buttons can be made using 3D printers for example and trims can be adapted, dyed and woven if needed.
The designer must take into consideration at this stage how many of each outfit they will need. For example, will there be a stunt double who needs to wear the same outfit? Will the outfit need to get dirty for filming and then worn again later clean?
Madeline Fontaine made 5 of the pink suit worn by Jackie at the time of the assignation of her husband for obvious reasons.
Compare the results
About Helen Beaumont
Helen Beaumont’s career started at Camberwell College of Art, where she studied the History of Art and Design, specialising in costume during her final year. After completing study, Helen became a costume buyer for theatre and opera. She is now a professional costume designer, with a keen interest in period clothing and fashion. Throughout her career, Helen has created authentic costumes for film, TV and commercials for prestigious companies such as the Universal Studios, Disney, BBC, Tiger Aspect and the Young Vic Theatre.