Wednesday, November 2, 2016

"Beauty and the Beast" - First Costume Look!

We've gotten a few tiny sneak peeks so far, but today Disney released the first large group of illuminative photos, via Entertainment Weekly. So far, the reaction is quite mixed, and I'm afraid this review is going to be no different. However, it is a real delight to have some solid stuff to review, so let's dig in!

Point of interest - I did serve as a costume designer for a community production of "Beauty and the Beast" so this is definitely a subject dear to my heart, on which I've spent a good deal of time and thought!

Also - I should note - "Beauty and the Beast" is one of those Disney films that is actually fairly tied into a historical place and culture. So while it is a "Fairy Tale," it has always been more open to talk about historical accuracy and such. Many of the designs below do follow through on this direction, which leaves any choices to the contrary that much odder. But more on that in a bit!


First off, let's discuss the interpretation of Belle's iconic blue dress. Interestingly, the film so far seems to be sticking closer to the iconic designs from the animated film than "Cinderella" did. My guess is that this is somewhat connected to the stage show, an additional cultural status that the Disney "Cinderella" didn't have. The overall silhouette of the new interpretation of the blue dress is actually closer to the film than I was expecting - although with each closer inspection, new differences come to light. In the photo above we can clearly see that the bodice and the skirt are separate pieces made of entirely different fabrics. 



Here we get a much better look at the details of the dress and the bit of red incorporated into the design really sticks out. I'm not sure what to think, honestly! Part of me likes the natural, home-y textures and prints we are seeing here, and it really evokes the feel of the French countryside. However the red also throws me off, as it is such a departure from what I am used to seeing with Belle. I do wonder if they are trying to evoke the colors of the French flag and allude to the coming Revolution?


Not much costume detail in this photo, but it is a beautiful shot, and we can see Belle's petticoat, and the fact that she appears to get a new apron after arriving at the castle.


And in this shot Belle is wearing a headscarf, and a pink tuck which looks a little weird in this shot. Also, her sleeves appear to have embroidery on the sides here, so she may have a new blouse as well. Was her old one torn in the wolf fight?

And... the Beast! No, I'm going to reserve critique of his design for after I see the movie - a still shot just isn't a good way to judge CGI. I do like his costume design, however, as it looks pretty much perfect.


Gaston and Lafou! I'm not a fan of the beige, but I do like the historical designs going on here.


I want to love this picture more! Because in some respects, this is exactly what a historically inspired costume for Gaston could look like... but man, that coat just seems too "Captain Hook." Also, this is high quality clothing, as worn by a member of the upper classes, so is Gaston wealthier in this version? I guess this is a costume critique we'll have to hold off on until the film releases. My instinct is that I would love to see Gaston in something more like hunting leathers, not so much a dandy, but a lot depends on the script.

Also not a fan of the weird bows on the silly girls heads. Bows in theory should work, but these look like bunny ears... 

Otherwise, the other setting and costume designs on display here are great. 


The good news is that Cogsworth and Lumiere look MUCH better here than they did in the first (creepy!) released photo. Mrs. Potts I will have to see in action and Plumette (yes, that is her name, apparently) looks so weird but... maybe it works in motion. We'll see.


But the most iconic costumes of all?

Well, the Beast's coat looks AMAZING. Oh my goodness. LOVE it. And Belle's skirt teases us with some great embellishment that looks promising, even if the style of layering is so anachronistic as to cause most costumers viewing it to cringe.

Up until this point, all of the other costumes on display have either been on the "historically accurate" side, or "feel" accurate enough to pass. Belle's gold dress, unfortunately, pulls the viewer completely out of the historical framing.


In the animated movie, her gold dress was not accurate to the period, but it was historically inspired (mid-Victorian). Even though it clashed a bit with the rest of the design of the film, it still had an aura of days gone by. This dress, as worn by Watson, does not. Even though there appear to be plenty of gorgeous details to be revealed in further shots, the overall silhouette adds up to a very modern-looking prom dress.

Now it is possible that we are seeing the dress from the worst possible angles, and that better photos will reveal a happier picture. There is just enough margin in the shots to envision a more Victorian shape in the shoulders and neckline, which would be difficult to distinguish at these angles. However, it's a shame, as even a mid-Victorian dress remains a century away from the style worn by every other character pictured thus far.

"But maybe the dress is magical," one might argue. "Maybe is created out of fairy dust and is supposed to be this totally other-worldly gown."

Maybe. But, personally, I don't really associate modern prom dresses with otherworldly fairy magic.

And it's a shame, because it is a beautiful, beautiful dress...just, perhaps, not a good fit for this story. But who knows? I'm hoping that future interviews with the costumer/director/actress will reveal a bit more about the direction taken for this gown. After all, we got quite a lot of detail on the construction and design of Cinderella's ball gown, so we have good reason to hope for the same here.

EDIT: a new interview with the costume designer addresses a few of these points and details Emma Watson's involvement with the design. I'm still not thrilled with their decisions, but it is interesting to get some 'whys' answered.

Anyhow, final judgement will be reserved for the film, as the script, the live motion and more complete viewability will affect everything.

I love reviewing costumes! You can check out my previous posts on a variety of movies and TV shows here, or those specific to my perennial subject, "Once Upon a Time," here!

1 comment:

  1. Watch out for a christmas fabric sale (usually around January or February) and stock up for the next holiday season. You can use the fabric as a table runner, as décor for your Christmas tree, or for a DIY project in case you have a lot of time on your hands.

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