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The wait is nearly over for fans of The Hunger Games series — the Lionsgate franchise’s third installment finally hits theaters on Friday. Hunger Games: Mockingjay — Part 1 sees a distraught Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) waking up in District 13 and, though, somewhat reluctantly, becoming the leader of a revolution against the Capitol. Of course, that requires her to have an outfit fit for kicking ass — and that’s where costume designers Kurt Swanson and Bart Mueller, better known as Kurt and Bart, came to work their magic.
After looking at art references and the armor collection at the Met, the design duo were reminded by director Francis Lawrence to imagine themselves as Cinna (Lenny Kravitz), who had already designed a Mockingjay outfit before his death in Catching Fire.
“Cinna might not have been the only one to know that Katniss would become the Mockingjay but he was the only one that could design for her a suit of armor that could both protect her in battle and serve as a symbol to inspire the revolution,” Bart told Pret-a-Reporter.
“With that in mind, we started with a base of combat fatigues, built in tactical fabrics and cut to have maximum mobility, specifically for someone whose weapon of choice is a bow,” explained Kurt, adding that her protective body armor was sculpted and cast from urethanes to be rigid yet flexible. “There is a forearm guard built into the sleeve — I think Jen appreciated it. We really wanted her to be comfortable because she had so much action in this suit.”
Kurt added that the asymmetrical breastplates worn during Kyudo, the Japanese martial art form of archery, inspired the chest plate seen on Katniss. Other armor gear included shoulder guards and a pair of 3D printed protective wings and finished with an iridescent blue and black that referenced the mythical mockingjay.
As if worlds were colliding, Kurt shared that their design process became part of the film as a prop. “When they show Effie Trinket [Elizabeth Banks] giving Katniss the sketchbook with Cinna’s drawings in it, those drawings are actually composed of Bart’s drawings and sketches,” revealed Kurt. “So I guess you could say we got to get in the head of Cinna and also got to be his hand.”
The rebels were also outfitted in combat-ready wardrobes, for which the pair collaborated with U.K. designer Aitor Throup to achieve “a lean, modern silhouetted look and a design mandated by functionality.” Kurt and Bart also referenced the constructivism and futurism movements, and World War II for design inspiration, taking into consideration District 13’s limited resources: “The clothing should have a functionality, and anything like extra pleats or any extraneous design elements would be deemed unnecessary.”
The color gray also played an important role in District 13. “We worked hard to get to a neutral gray that ended up playing up the individuality of each actor’s face. It’s also a gray that picks up a lot of reflected and ambient light and colors from the environment, so it’s mutable,” said Bart, adding that it took a couple of months to build, dye and distress a mountain of clothes.
While most civilians wore gray modestly, no one stuck out more than Effie Trinket (Banks), who had to trade in her colorful, lavish pieces (Alexis Bittar-designed jewels and sky-high rose gold United Nude shoes by Zaha Hadid, included) for prison-like garb when she escaped the Capitol. Despite Effie’s dull appearance, Kurt believes that, “With people like Effie, it doesn’t matter what gray hole in the middle of nowhere they end up, you can’t squash that kind of raw creative spirit. They will create their own glamour.”
For the folks over at Panem, President Snow (Donald Sutherland) still got the luxury treatment with his outfits consisting of fitted suits, luxe wool cashmeres and brocades, while Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) also experienced the extravagance, albeit forcibly. “We knew he had to do three interviews and in each, he begins to look a bit more distressed physically so we chose three simple colors — white, black and gray — to convey that,” said Kurt. “We made him a paper collar with a spike, both as a dapper reference to men’s 19th century paper collars and the literal collaring of him by the Capitol.”
As with their past projects, including Dallas Buyers Club and Out of the Furnace, the most important thing here was keeping the costume work “grounded in reality.” Shared Kurt, “The districts are a perfect example of a view of the future that stylistically reverts to the past. The fact that the districts hark back to eras like the Great Depression are visually relatable for the audience and work beautifully.”
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