‘Barbie’ Costume Designer Says Weird Barbie’s Look Comes From a Child’s Point-of-View

TheWrap magazine: “I wanted to make it multidimensional so that you could look at it (as a) child,” Jacqueline Durran says

"Barbie" (Courtesy of Warner Bros. Discovery)

Costume designer Jacqueline Durran has given audiences looks from all manner of eras, and she won an Oscar working with Greta Gerwig on the 2019 adaptation of “Little Women.” But her reteaming with Gerwig on “Barbie” is easily her most epic, with the costumes ranging from the outlandish to the relatable, from gingham to fauxjo mojo mink. 

Durran said she had the entire history of Mattel to work with. But the challenge in the costume department was relating to a child’s viewpoint and how they would respond to the colors and, in turn, using that as a launchpad for a deeper, adult appreciation of the fashion. “I wanted to make it multidimensional so that you could look at it (as a) child; the child would just enjoy it from a point of view of colors, but there was something else going on if you wanted to look at it (deeper),” she said. 

Jacqueline Durran (Jeff Vespa/TheWrap)

Durran took inspiration from classic films like 1952’s “Singin’ in the Rain” and the 1978 musical “Grease.” But when it came to Kate McKinnon’s Weird Barbie character, all bets were off. “The primary concern with Weird Barbie was whether to go for something that was completely messy, (like) at the bottom of a box that had been discarded, or whether to go for more of a discordant fashion look,” she said. “In the end, we went with the discordant fashion look, particularly for her first costume. The second costume is more made-up. Her shoulder pads were bits of tin foil. We just made them and sewed them on.” 

It was important for Durran to contrast Weird Barbie’s haphazard style with the perfection in Stereotypical Barbie (Margot Robbie). It allowed Durran to find ways to blend the sensibilities and find a happy medium. Case in point: the final scene, wherein a now mortal Stereotypical Barbie debuts her real-world look, complete with a pair of Birkenstocks. The issue was: how to make a character who is focused on being perfect look like she belongs in the real world while still standing out? “We went through a lot of options to try and work out what Barbie would choose to look like when she was out (in the real world),” Durran said. They deliberately played up the Birkenstocks as a callback to a choice that Barbie faced earlier in the film.

This story first appeared in the Below the Line issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine. Read the rest of the “Barbie” below-the-line stories here.

Read more from the Below-the-Line issue here.

Greta Gerwig and Barbie below-the-line team
Photo by Jeff Vespa for TheWrap


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