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One of the most memorable scenes of John Green‘s best-selling YA novel The Fault in Our Stars is, arguably, that special moment when Hazel, a terminally ill 16-year-old, wears a blue sundress to go on her date with Gus, also a cancer patient, in Amsterdam.
For the film adaptation, starring Shailene Woodley (as Hazel) and Ansel Elgort (Gus), costume designer Mary Claire Hannan wanted to pick a dress that still held true to the book’s description (“this blue-print, flowy knee-length Forever thing”). Except Hannan realized one problem — they would be traveling to Amsterdam in October, and it wouldn’t make sense for Woodley to be wearing a sundress in the rainy weather.
Rushing to find the ideal dress before boarding a flight to the Pittsburgh set, Hannan visited one of L.A.’s most popular shopping centers. “It was so funny because I was running around, trying to put other parts of the film together, and I ran into the Beverly Center and I was like, ‘I need to get her a dress,’ ” Hannan tells Pret-a-Reporter. “I just ran in there and found that one dress at Halston Heritage. I only carried with me one dress to the shoot, and pitched it to the producers.” And it turned out to be a winner.
“I saw that dress and thought — that’s her,” adds Hannan, who describes the frock as a warm cornflower color. The dress also has become somewhat of a special memento for Woodley, who saw a guest at Monday’s New York premiere and excitedly shouted, while in the middle of an interview with THR: “Oh, she’s wearing the black version of the dress Hazel wore in the movie! That’s beautiful, that’s amazing.”
In addition to Halston, the L.A.-based costume designer also used pieces from Sundry, Rag & Bone, Free City and Burberry; Elgort’s vintage-like leather jacket is from Burberry.
Hannan, who describes herself as a character-driven costume designer, wanted to try to capture every detail she possibly could from the book. And so, one specific piece she designed to reflect the story was the T-shirt that Hazel wears when visiting her favorite author, Peter Van Houten (played by Willem Dafoe), featuring a pipe with the cursive words Ceci n’est pas une pipe (“This is not a pipe”). From figuring out the size of the pipes to choosing the shirt’s color, Hannan says she was careful not to let the design overshadow Woodley’s character. “That’s a statement T-shirt, clearly, [but] you never want it to be wearing her; she’s wearing it,” she explains.
As for working with Woodley, Hannan says they were “always on the same page” as far as picking costume pieces. “It was so important to her that the audience believed she was Hazel.”
Working on Fault was special for Hannan, whose brother died in March from a cancer similar to what Gus has in the film. “When the producers came to me less than six months after his death, they asked if I wanted to do the movie, and I said, ‘absolutely,’ ” she says. “At first, I was sort of afraid to do it because I was still heartbroken, but it was really healing to me. It was a very beautiful experience. Very therapeutic.”
Catch The Fault in Our Stars when it opens in theaters June 6. And bring a box of tissues — you’ll likely need it.
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