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Why Jennifer Lawrence Went Through 45 Costume Changes for 'Joy'

Costume designer Michael Wilkinson's vision for a toughened-up Joy (Lawrence)

Hollywood's inventive costume designers dish on how they created memorable looks for a wide range of characters, from fantasy ball gowns to "vibrantly abnormal things."

What is the world they inhabit?" That's the question director Todd Haynes posed to his third-time collaborator Sandy Powell as she developed the costumes for Carol, his postwar lesbian love story. To find the answer, Powell drew on the 1940s and '50s street images of Manhattan photojournalists Ruth Orkin and Vivian Maier, as well as magazines from the period, for the title char­acter's high-fashion looks. Maier's photos also were a source of inspiration for Odile Dicks-Mireaux's work on Brooklyn, which captures the elegance and conservatism of the era through waist-cinching A-line dresses, three-quarter-sleeve cardigans and slim suits. "There was so much craftsmanship and invention in the 1950s," says Dicks-Mireaux, who also looked to Woody Allen's documentary on his own Brooklyn youth for couture cues. A third mid-20th century contender, Bridge of Spies, evokes the style of Jackie Kennedy for Amy Ryan's character — a brilliant green coat and strand of pearls in one scene — and dresses Tom Hanks in suits tailored to the era. "They were constructed in an older tradition, with a different body shape, a different sleeve and a thicker weave in the fabric," says designer Kasia Walicka-Maimone.


Powell’s sketch for Cinderella’s fairy godmother (Helena Bonham Carter, who suggested the wings that were added to this gown).

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Joy, inspired by the life of Joy Mangano, inventor of the Miracle Mop, starts in the '60s and spans three decades — with star Jennifer Lawrence undergoing 45 costume changes during her evolution from struggling mom to mogul "as she finds different ways of using her clothes to express her determination," says costume designer Michael Wilkinson: "quietly rebellious jeans and T-shirts, a wedding dress, expensive tailor-made suits and a tough, intimidating leather jacket and sunglasses." Intimidating also is an apt word for Merchant/Ivory alum Jenny Beavan's costumes for the post-apocalyptic Mad Max: Fury Road. "I loved the freedom of creating vibrantly abnormal things," says the nine-time nominee.


Carol’s structured, ladylike looks announce her wealth and privilege.

Imagining a more ethereal world for Kenneth Branagh's Cinderella was a two-year design process for Powell, who created nine different versions of Cinderella's iconic lilac-blue ball gown, requiring more than 270 yards of fabric, three miles of hem and more than 10,000 Swarovski crystals. "I wanted it to look like a watercolor painting," she says. Kate Hawley, who wardrobed a darker fairy tale in Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak, also was inspired by art — a Klimt painting — for Mia Wasikowska's character's delicate "Heartbreak Dress," while Jessica Chastain's costumes were designed to echo the angular architecture of the film's gothic set.

Also building buzz in the costume category are Jane Petrie for wardrobing British suffrage activists in Suffragette, Paco Delgado for his part in Eddie Redmayne's gender transformation in The Danish Girl, South Dakota native Jacqueline West's work on snowy Western The Revenant and Daniel Orlandi's vivid re-creations of Old Hollywood glamour (plus some prison grit) for Trumbo.


Saoirse Ronan’s Brooklyn character’s green cardigan is a nod to her native Ireland.

This story first appeared in the Dec. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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