Oz the Great and Powerful Wardrobe Secrets: The Cast and Costume Designer Tell All

The first thing all of us thought upon seeing the first teaser for Oz the Great and Powerful late last year, was, "That movie's going to have some amazing costumes." And we were right. On a recent trip to California to check out some HSN Oz merch, I also got to see the movie, fawn over some of the main characters' costumes in person, go to a press conference with the actors and director, and chat with the film's costume designer, Gary Jones.
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The first thing all of us thought upon seeing the first teaser for Oz the Great and Powerful late last year, was, "That movie's going to have some amazing costumes." And we were right. On a recent trip to California to check out some HSN Oz merch, I also got to see the movie, fawn over some of the main characters' costumes in person, go to a press conference with the actors and director, and chat with the film's costume designer, Gary Jones.
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The first thing all of us thought upon seeing the first teaser for Oz the Great and Powerful late last year, was, "That movie's going to have some amazing costumes." And we were right.

On a recent trip to California to check out some HSN Oz merch, I also got to see the movie, fawn over some of the main characters' costumes in person, go to a press conference with the actors and director, and chat with the film's costume designer, Gary Jones.

But first some background and fun facts: The film, directed by Sam Raimi, portrays Oz's background and tells the story of how he came to be the Wizard, meaning it takes place long before Dorothy came along in the 1939 film and includes never-before-seen characters. There are over 2,000 costumes, clothing over 1,500 actors. German artist and illustrator Michael Kutsche, who has worked on films like Alice in Wonderland and John Carter, conceptualized the witches' wardrobes and collaborated with Jones on designing the costumes, turning to L. Frank Baum's Oz novels for inspiration.

James Franco, who we hear had a hand in the design of his bespoke turn-of-the-century suit, said of his costume in a bit of a smart-ass statement, "I only have one look in this film, a three-piece suit that Oz wears in Kansas. I think it's safe to say that was my favorite outfit in the film."

The starting point for the glittering gown worn by Evanora, played by Rachel Weisz, was the Art Deco-inspired, mostly green architecture of Oz. "The costumes are very fantastical and very heightened. It's a complete transformation," Weisz said. When asked at the press conference whether she inquired about keeping her costume, she replied, laughing, "I don’t know where I would wear that dress. I don’t have the right life for that dress. I would like to have that life," though we're pretty sure if anyone had that life, it would be her.

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Of Glinda's sweet and demure costumes, Michelle Williams said, "When we first meet Glinda, she's more demure, cloaked in these very delicate fabrics. Then, as the battle dawns, she has a wardrobe change and appropriately suits up in something that is tougher, like a fairy-princess armor." At the press conference, we learned that Williams had a last-minute hand in that change. "It became very clear to me that Glinda needed to change her dress to go into battle and she needed something she could move more freely in... After we had already shot something of me in my other dress doing something in battle, I came to Sam and said, 'This is really important to me and I know what it should look like. Is there any way, please?' and Sam was as accommodating to say, 'If it means that much to you, then it means that much to me,' and we got to reshoot."

Kutsche described Theodora (played by Mila Kunis)'s edgier look as "a patchwork of different periods that makes it look like no distinct period. And that's what I guess gives it this slightly fantastical feel."

We chatted with Jones about the designers' reference points (including S&M), getting input from the actors, and challenges faced along the way. Read on for our interview.

Photos: Disney

Photos: Disney

What were your reference points for the film? Did you look at the original at all?

I think it’s fair to say we had research from everywhere under the sun--not necessarily about Oz, but about the period, which was turn of the 20th century, 1900 through 1930, let’s say--and we used that as a jumping-off point for everything. But, also, we had influences from the circus. We had certainly the memory of the other film. I, particularly, did not look at it again once I started this because I didn’t want to have it so in the front of my mind and occasionally we would talk about how something might remind you of the original film, but it wasn't a reference for us in that sense. Also, our director Sam Raimi really wanted it to be a new world, a separate world from the other movies.

So, he wanted to set it apart?

To set it apart, and it was before the other movie, so we have only a few characters that you recognize from the other movies, so there wasn't any real connection there. In fact, I didn't know until I went back and read the other books, that there was a China Doll [a character that appears in the Oz the Great and Powerful.]

What was it like working with Michael Kutsche?

He and Sam and I... it was very congenial and Sam is a wonderful director in that he encourages everyone to experiment. He’s very happy to entertain all kinds of new ideas.

Did the actors offer a lot of input into their costumes?

They did and they do, but as far as the outcome and the final product--especially in this case--we wanted the strength of those drawings to come through, so even if we changed something, the silhouette remained. The basic impact of the costume remained the same. Of course, it's something you wear. You have to have input and you have to have understanding and you have to go out there and work, so it has to be something that we’re all in agreement about. None of them had any big issues, though.

We heard Michelle Williams asked for a new costume at the last minute. Was that challenging to deal with?

It was a challenge and it was exciting and at that point we were very much in tune with what her look was and so we made the armor and used the feathers and accomplished a whole other set of sleeves and all of that stuff. I think it happened overnight. It was no more than 24 hours in total.

Who was the most fun to dress?

This is a joke but I’ll tell you anyway. I love Knuck (a Munchkin, played by Tony Cox). I just think he looks sensational because he's such a wonderful actor and such a wonderful guy, but all of the leading actors were fun in different ways. One has a sort of a leather S&M type feeling, and one is all iridescent and bubbly and the other one is high drama, so there’s something wonderful about each of them.

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Was S&M a reference point for Theodora?

No. That costume is reminiscent of Margaret Hamilton, the original wicked witch-- it has all the elements; they just happen to be different, a different take on them.

The characters all have almost no costume changes. Did that have anything to do with making it feel like a traditional animated Disney movie (wherein the characters are cartoons and just wear the same thing always)?

No. In my opinion, it has to do with storytelling. I very much wanted James to be the constant, so his changes are very minimal and they are mostly in wear and tear and then at the end, he has green and a brand new crisp tie, but it mostly had to do with storytelling. There was no reason for changing the clothes. This kept the characters in mind and therefore makes them bigger.

Click through for more stills from the film.