Discovering Salander's Silhouette

 Baldur Bragason/Sony Pictures

To transform Rooney Mara into the cyberpunk avenger that is Lisbeth Salander, costume designer Trish Summerville settled on several rules: Her clothes, she decided, had to be functional, layered and dark because the angry woman is such a nocturnal creature.

Lisbeth, as first described in Stieg Larsson's novels and subsequently played on screen in the Swedish films by Noomi Rapace, might have begun to become something of a fashion -- or at least an anti-fashion -- icon. But the designer felt that Lisbeth, bent on survival, would never seek fashion for its own sake.

While Summerville did take cues from Larsson's books, they had more to do with Lisbeth's silhouette than any specific article of clothing. For example, Larsson describes Lisbeth "as very androgynous," Summerville explains. "She can almost be mistaken for a boy. And since she has a high metabolism, she has a very slight frame, and thankfully, Rooney also is very slight, even though she's very strong from all the training she went through."

Summerville began by devising an inspiration board, taking cues from squatter kids and the club scene. Once she started culling pieces, she invited Mara in for fittings at which they set about mixing and matching alternatives. "For her motorcycle helmet, we must have tried on 15 or 20 helmets before we found the right one," says Summerville. Everything had to have a function. "You couldn't put her in any kind of platform shoe, because she has to be agile, quick on her feet," says the costume designer.

Mara also took an active role in choosing many of the 50 or so wardrobe changes her character wears during the course of the film. "As we went along, she grew close to certain pieces and put a lot of thought into where she'd want to wear them," says the designer. "She was so invested in the character that when she had opinions, they were always very logical ones."

One particular piece that does become Lisbeth's signature look is a hooded jacket. It serves, the designer says, as both armor and disguise: "Having these layers helps her fade away when she chooses to and also be quite menacing and dangerous when she chooses to be that."

 

 
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