A while ago I went to movie costumes exhibit at a costume museum, and they had on display some of the costumes from Les Mis 2012 like Marius's outfit and wedding suit, Cosette's wedding dress, Éponine's barricade outfit, Valjean's suit, and Fantine's factory uniform. I just found the brochure I picked up and I typed it here (my scanner is being dumb) in case anyone is interested. It has really interesting info about how the Les Mis costumes were made and designed and etc.
"As director Tom Hooper and Les Misérables' costume designer, Paco Delgado, began the translation of the characters from stage to screen, it remained of utmost importance for them to showcase clothes, not costumes. Drawing his inspiration from artists who worked in and around the period - such as Eugene Delacroix and Fransisco de Goya - Delgado had to reflect all of the styles of clothing worn by many in multiple social castes throughout the story's 33-year span. He reflects: 'We have covered so many things. We have made convicts, prostitutes, and nuns. we have poor, and we have rich. It has been an amazing job.'
"For Delgado, the preparation on a star-studded Hollywood film of this scale was immense as it was intense. From the overall color scheme and the historically accurate bicorn hats to the high-waisted button trousers and the revolutionary rosettes, nothing about the costumes in Les Misérables is by accident. 'I wasn't nervous,' Delgado recalls. 'I was terrified.'
"Describing his design process, Delgado states: 'This is a musical that has been around for over 25 years. I wanted to do it justice and give the musical a level of respect it deserves while also adding my own creative touch. The first thing I did was read Victor Hugo's piece to get a sense of how these characters lived. I also studied historical paintings set in the Romantic Period, including Goya. After I felt immersed in that time, I started sketching and looking for fabrics that would fit with my designs.'
"Working closely with the production designer and hair and makeup teams, Delgado crafted a fascinating look for each of the characters. What was important to the designer was to blend historical accuracy with a bit of the surreal, honoring the period's grittiness while still offering escape from the end of the Napoleonic era. He sums: 'When you normally approach a period movie, there's mostly the intention of reproducing reality with a lot of accuracy. Because this is a musical, and that's an unreal situation in life, we had to put some fantasy in it. We knew that we had to walk that line of reality and fantasy.'
"Discussing the main character's lifelong textural transitions, Delgado reflects: 'Jean Valjean starts in a really rough situation. At the beginning, he is a convict with almost no expectations, and he has texture in every sense - in his rough clothes and his beard. He's dead in his clothes. Then suddenly, little by little, he starts getting more sophisticated and socially accepted, and we have less texture and more fine materials. In terms of color, he comes into a much more sophisticated palette.' Valjean embraces change and his convictions are strengthened.
"Upon Jackman's suggestion, Delgado padded Valjean's finery to help underscore the convict's transformation into Monsieur Madeleine. Although Valjean remains penitent for his sins, he has acheived a good deal of success, and Jackman felt his outfit (and weight) would reflect that growth.
"Whereas the other Lovely Ladies' slightly transparent costumes were dictated by their choreography, Fantine was determined by her transformation, which is just as drastic as Valjean's. When we are introduced to her in the factory, dressed in simple muslin, she looks quite neat and as refined as a woman of her station would appear. But as her options run out, she is slowly degraded into filthiness. To make the already lean Fantine look even thinner, Delgado used clingy fabrics and airbrushed the sides of Hathaway's costumes with darker colors, to give her the look of a young woman vanishing from consumption.
"When we first meet young Cosette, she is a waifish, raggedy girl who is working as a servant in the Thenardiers' inn. Conversely, their daughter, Éponine, is a prettified doll. Delgado explains how that all changes: 'Ten years later, it's completely the opposite. It's like Alice in the mirror, but they have crossed in the opposite direction.'
"It required a large crew to create the approximately 2,200 costumes for the masses of extras, and the team perfected designs across France, Spain, Italy, and England. Among their more difficult tasks; manually distressing costumes to make them look threadbare, clothing scores of extras who filled in the ranks of convicts, prostitutes, and revolutionaries, and coming up with historically accurate togs for Gavroche and the other pint-sized street urchins. To ensure that the outfits looked like they belonged on beggars and starving poor, Delgado's team literally ripped, shredded and cut (even blowtorched) their way through the outfits. Still, the close observer will note that the design team wove in the colors of the French flag throughout the epic. Whether it be the red of Enjolras' jacket at the barricade, the blue of Fantine's dress at the factory, or the white of Cosette's wedding dress and Valjean's garments as he lay dying, every design was intentional. Vive la France.
"Delgado discusses various costume design ideas and processes:
- If the dark robe-like garment Valjean wears on his road to redemption brings to mind St. Francis of Assisi, that's by design. 'It is very monastic, his life. And once, in Morocco, I saw shepherds in the Atlas Mountains wearing these long coats made with very, very coarse wool from the sheep that they had.' Delgado scoured his sources for the right material to no avail until, by serendipity, they unearthed three monks' outfits in a vintage London supplier. 'They were made from this very coarse wool, very faded and with a lot of degrees of color - from grey to bluish greys to black and I thought, 'This is the fabric.' We cut them down to make the coat.'
- Fantine begins in soft pinks and lavender, When she becomes a prostitute, her wardrobe moves to a deep crimson, mirroring the red prisoner costume of Valjean. Along with the other women at the factory who assemble rosaries, she wears gauntlets and a bonnet of rich blue, which recalls the blue mantle worn by the Madonna in art. 'One of the first things that Tom said to me is that he wanted that factory to look in fact a little bit like a nunnery. Like a convent of girls, where purity was there. Obviously blue is is a color associated with purity, and also associated with nuns and the Virgin Mary. We chose it for those connotations.'
- In On My Own, plaid gossamer silk clings to Éponine's shoulders and becomes sheer in the rain. 'I love see-through materials, always. I think they bring a fragility and you always can play with light with them. And also you always can play with different layers. And I love that. For another example if you see the wedding dress of Cosette, it has like a white sort of very, very fine cotton muslin but underneath it's a pink color. Because it's pink with a little bit of orange, it looks like a bit of apricot.'
- 'We always thought of Cosette like a flower - the reason we used peaches and lilacs and all the colors you could see in a garden. She started as a girl dresses in black because wshe was living in a convent and had this sort of saint kind of look, a proper girl at a convent school.' Marius's first glimpse of Cosette is at the market, where she is wearing a bonnet lined in pleated pink silk that has a halo effect. Later on, her white bedclothes are finely embroidered with lilacs, vines, and other blossoms. 'We intended it to be an explosion of emotions coming from her in the romance.'
- The opulent velour and patterned waistcoats worn under tattered jackets say something about Marius' identity. 'We wanted to play all the time with this sort of incongruity. He is obviously a rich guy who pretends he is poor and all those things had to be inside his costume somehow.' Later at their wedding, Marius wears a cravat with a tiny floral print that subtly mirrors Cosette's lilac blossom motif.
"Technical requirements: For the first time in a musical film, the actors sing live in their scenes on set. This created a distinct new challenge for the costume department. 'We had to be very careful with the sound of the fabrics. We couldn't use any taffeta at all because it made so much noise. But by fortune, that wasn't a period of taffeta. You have it at the end of the 18th century and then later on in the 19th century but in the period of the film, silk was something of the Ancien Regime, used at Versailles, and there was a big backlash and rejection of those expensive fabrics at the time. They had also discovered a new fabric from India: cotton. Chintz and cotton and muslin, it's an amazing period for that. So you have a moment in history when cotton was considered much more beautiful than silk. We were very lucky about that!' The post-production team also face the challenge of digitally erasing all the microphones the actors wore during the filming.
"Embracing the aging process: Costuming more that 4,000 characters - from the leads to the 'band of soaks' at the tavern - takes a village of costume specialists called ager-dyers, also known as breakdown artists. At one point the department's chief breakdown artist John Cowell led a team of 15 people whose full-time job was authentically aging every piece of wardrobe. 'They did amazing things, like sand down every single costume. Put grease on it, paint on top of it, put dirt, use blowtorches.' Gavroche's faded jacket is a good example. 'You try to reproduce what happens in real life. Because of sunlight over time you get less color on the shoulder, wear in the elbows, and much more black on the bottom. They also put the costumes through chemical processes like bleaching, others that make them look wrinkled. You try to reproduce what would happen in to your costumes if you wore them for years and years in a week.' "