Monday, August 3, 2015

The Costumes of "The Shadow of the Bear"

I thought this was the perfect time to do a post about the costumes of "The Shadow of the Bear." (For newcomers to the blog, several years ago I directed/produced a student made/author approved adaptation of Regina Doman's "The Shadow of the Bear." You can read the whole story on this blog.)

Please do not contact me about obtaining the DVD, Chesterton Press is in charge of distribution, not me. The last I heard, there were no copies left.

One thing fans like myself really enjoyed about the books was how Regina detailed so many of the outfits Rose and Blanche wore. I did my best to be as accurate as possible, but because my role as "costumer" had to come second to "director/producer" I couldn't always be as precise as I wanted. When I couldn't precisely match up outfits, I just put Hannah (Blanche) and Sharayah (Rose) into appropriate colors/pieces.

(Yes, Hannah wore a black wig - she is a natural blonde).

Blanche loves pastels and unobtrusive garments. Hannah's complexion worked perfectly with this - she's one of those girls who looks fantastic in any shade of white. Blanche also has a fondness for sweaters, which you can see we incorporated in the outfit above.

She also loves skirts, which I tried to utilize as much as possible, but Hannah herself is pretty fond of jeans, so we compromised. This is why Movie Blanche wears more jeans (and more form-fitting ones) than Book Blanche. (also, jeans are much easier to do action sequences in.)

Rose's sense of style is nearly the opposite of her sister's. She loves statement pieces, jewel tones, with black being her 'neutral' color. The colors in the above outfit are actually rather subdued for her, but I couldn't resist the chance to have her wear actual roses! The shawl was a bit of fabric Regina sent me, and the dress is a vintage flour sack dress that my mother wore in the '70's. 

If I remember correctly (and this was about 7 years ago now), Rose's suede jacket was a thrift store find of mine. I loved the soft 'rose' color, and thought the embroidered accents were perfect for Rose's fashion aesthetic.

You know someone just might be perfect for a role when they already wear the wardrobe you envision the character wearing. Fish's signature look for the film was comprised of pieces Anthony already owned and wore regularly - including the iconic cap! The only bit I supplied for this ensemble was the scarf, which Anthony loved and wanted to steal.

I knew for Bear that he had to wear browns, and he needed layers, particularly layers that screamed 'thrift store' finds. His jacket (and I believe sweatshirt too) were both thrifted! I was super happy to find the corduroy jacket - it was exactly what I envisioned Bear wearing! Jed supplied the pants, gloves and shoes.

In the book, Rose wears a peacock fabric skirt. Regina actually sent us the fabric for the skirt, but by the time we got it made up, we'd already locked in costumes for most of the sequences, so you only really get to see it in this scene... which unfortunately pretty much just shows Rose from the waist up. :( If you look closely, however, you can see the fabric draped over a chair in the Brier living room scenes - Rose was sewing it up in the earlier part of the film!

I love the visual look of this scene, the warm red tones throughout. Giving Blanche a maroon sweater is a little out of her color palette, but it's subdued enough to work here. 

In a big budget film, we would have bought/rented a bunch of matching school uniforms for our principals and extras. In this student film, where our budget consisted of whatever cash I had, we didn't have that option. The best we could do was issue a dress code for our extras and hope that it'd turn out fairly uniform.

Oh look, it's my cameo! Sister Geraldine and I never appeared in the same scene, so we wore the same habit. And yes, it is a costume habit. Our attempts to borrow a real one didn't work out, and I was actually living in Virginia when we first procured the costume so Josh, who came on as a second directer during the final year of filming, was in charge of procuring it. It's one of those bits were we go "we did our very best... please go easy on us." 

In the Chesterton Press contest, there is a category called "Going to the Opera." Our plans to actually show the inside of the opera house never really worked, so you only briefly get a glimpses of the girls clothes in their bedroom scene. Most of the time we see them bundled up against one of the coldest Januarys Minnesota had seen in awhile!


Underneath the clothes you see, everyone is wearing as many layers as possible.

For whatever reason, I was stressing about the prom dresses. I think I was way overloaded at that point. Anyhow, Regina suggested that we run a contest for the fans to find dresses for our Blanche and Rose. Ironically, both dresses we ended up using were submitted by the same person! She did a bunch of altering to create the dress for Rose - the original looked very different!


Yeah, Rose's hair changed. Sharayah basically killed her hair dying it for all of her different shows, so by this point in production, it was super short and not red. So she bought a wig with her own money (no production budget!) and we basically inferred that Rose took her hair down in the car between the prom and the afterparty. Which does happen, so I wasn't too stressed. 

When we received Blanche's dress, it had two wide straps on it... but even so, there was an uproar from fans who insisted that Blanche needed sleeves. Regina backed that up, so Hannah used some of the extra fabric we were sent and made up some cute sleeves. I think the dress looks even nicer with them!

In the book, Blanche wears her mother's opera cloak. I'm thinking it probably was a little fancier than this one, but it did the job. :)

This is one of the funniest costume stories in the movie - I think. Blanche is supposed to wear her prom dress in this scene - BUT the dress hadn't been delivered yet, so we had no choice but to wrap her up in a kimono. The dress arrived RIGHT after we finished filming the scene! We filmed the scene right before this later on, so in the film you see Blanche wearing her dress and pulling the kimono over it. Movie magic, but not something we'd have done if it wasn't absolutely necessary!

Karina and Torrie rustled up their own dresses, following my directions of "black and red."

In the book, Lisa is supposed to have red hair, but Torrie's role was so small and spread out that there was no way we could ask her to dye it. So she paid homage to that by clipping red streaks into heir hair. I liked the rebel look it gave her.

Here's Rose sporting her black/jewel tone palette.

Possibly the most fun costume direction? When I told these guys to come dressed like drug dealers. I think they did pretty well, considering that they're kind of the opposite of drug dealers in real life!

We also did a LOT of make-up in the film. The girls did their own, but the guys needed scars, bruises and blood applied. I had way too much fun with that.

SPOILERS TO FOLLOW  - if you haven't read the book, you probably want to navigate away now.

Ah, Mr. Freet! Since his fairy tale counterpart is a dwarf, I wanted to pay homage to that in his costuming. I think the plaid vest and off white shirt from Greg's own wardrobe do that well.

My very favorite scene, costume-wise, is the last one. Okay, that's probably my favorite scene overall. It just worked so perfectly. Anyhow, Hannah's white dress is one that I sourced at a thrift store and she altered to create the shape she wanted. For Sharayah, I sewed her rose dress completely from scratch, of my own design. The boys both already owned their suits, and I thought it very in character that Bear wore a regular suit, while Fish went all out with a tux. 

So that's your behind the scenes look at the costumes of our version of "The Shadow of the Bear." Are there things I would do differently if I'd had the time/budget? Oh yeah. But considering our limitations, I think we did okay. :)

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