This story about the costumes of “Dune” first appeared in the Below-the-Line Issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.
Denis Villeneueve was very clear with costume designers Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan about what “Dune” was and what it wasn’t. He wasn’t looking for sci-fi or steampunk, and that’s exactly why he wanted West and Morgan in the first place.
“It was clear that Denis wanted this psychological, multilayered, political drama peppered with mysticism that was right up my alley,” said West, who had initially been reluctant to take on the sci-fi classic. “Immediately I read the book, and I was hooked.”
West, a three-time Oscar nominee most recently for “The Revenant,” had never done a futuristic film, let alone worked in close collaboration with a partner the way she did with Morgan, whose resume includes “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil” and “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.” But together they created the unified look that served Frank Herbert’s universe. Villeneuve “gave us a lot of freedom to create,” Morgan added, “and also was just so collaborative.”
Everything had its own inspiration. For House Atreides, Timothée Chalamet was outfitted in what they called “Mod-eval,” Medieval-rooted costumes drawn from Romanov paintings, tying in with the idea of the end of a dynasty. The desert tribe of the Fremens had wraps that resembled ancient nomads and pictures from Tuareg salt caravans, as well as the films of David Lean. The elegant yet simple silk gowns worn by Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) were modeled off paintings by Goya and Giotto, plus the work of another Spanish icon, Cristóbal Balenciaga. You might find the look of the Bene Gesserit sorceresses in tarot cards and chess pieces. The evil Harkonnens were like insects, with the leather textured to resemble a bug’s shell. And if hulking armor was good enough for the Knights Templar, it surely would be good enough for the Atreides army.
“You have to start somewhere,” West explained. “It was so big and it was so much work,” Morgan added, “we leap-frogged a lot.”
“Dune’s” stillsuits worn in the harsh desert are a prime example, with each needing to be a “bespoke” outfit that could stretch, move and be molded to fit every body type, whether it’s Chalamet, Ferguson or Jason Momoa. To construct each one, nearly 150 individual pattern pieces had to be crafted separately by artisans Morgan hired from across Europe. They worked tirelessly on prototypes and comprehensive designs before showing Villeneuve a single outfit.
They had virtually no rules, except one: no zippers or buttons, which “seemed archaic,” West said. A shirt design worn by Chalamet and Momoa was inspired by a famous Omar Sharif shirt from “Doctor Zhivago”—but rather than buttons, it laced up with rare earth magnets lined within the shirt, which caused problems because Momoa’s character was supposed to wear his shirt open most of the time.
“(Chalamet’s) shirt would just flip up and close, and it would go (click, click, click, click),” West said, making popping noises. “When Duncan Idaho (Momoa) is wearing the same shirt, we had to take all the metals out and put pennies in, because every time he would move the shirt, it would close automatically.”
Read more from TheWrap’s “Dune” package here: