Fans of The Hunger Games know that the talented and kind-hearted Cinna always dresses Katniss in her most memorable outfits, both during combat and at the Capitol. Obviously, for the films, the costume designer must fill in for him, and thus far, it has been a different one each time. Judianna Makovsky (Captain America: The Winter Soldier) handled the first film in 2012, and Trish Summerville (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl) was responsible for the elaborate, runway-ready looks in 2013’s Catching Fire. But for the series’ final installment, director Francis Lawrence went with design team Kurt and Bart, whose previous credits include Dallas Buyers Club and Stoker.
They had their work cut out for them, since Mockingjay: Part 1 and 2 represent the darkest and most austere chapter of the trilogy. There are no more games, and while the Capitol remains opulent (and ostentatious), fewer scenes take place there. Instead, Katniss is left to organize a revolution in the underground world of District 13. Gone are the elaborate flaming gowns and dresses that can be spun into feathers, instead replaced with the standard-issue uniforms of the district and one formidable ensemble: Katniss’ martial mockingjay getup. The Costume Designers Guild nominated Kurt and Bart for Excellence in Fantasy Film, and on February 17, they will compete against the designers behind Into the Woods, The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and more.
We chatted briefly with the pair about the magnificent mockingjay suit, Effie Trinket’s mad improvisational skills, and poor old Peeta.
MTV: Did you read all of the books to prepare, and if so, which was your favorite?
Kurt and Bart: When we first met with director Francis Lawrence there wasn’t yet a script for Mockingjay so we read the book in preparation. We were immediately excited about how different the story was and where this would lead the characters in contrast to the previous two films.
MTV: In terms of the books, the biggest deal about wardrobe is made in the first two installments, which feature the games and the ceremonies, and allow for creative license. Were you at all apprehensive about handling the more austere finale?
Kurt and Bart: The franchise had a precedence for strong visual style, and the tremendous work of the previous designers was a great inheritance. In Mockingjay we got to expand on some of the districts that had only been glimpsed before and, most important, we go into completely unexplored terrain in District 13. An underground society that had such an austere look was fascinating to research. We really got into the philosophy of the individual, the purpose of a person’s clothes in a society that had a very specific goal of preparing for a revolution. Details like colors, closures, and the number of buttons were all taken into account because materials would have been at a premium.
MTV: Which character in Mockingjay were you most looking forward to designing for, and why?
Kurt and Bart: What was really cool was that all of the characters were all so well established, so it was really inspiring to think of them in the world where clothes are issued and rationed. How would each of them interpret these clothes and make them their own? However, the actual mockingjay costume for Katniss was the one we looked forward to designing the most.
MTV: What challenges did designing that outfit present?
Kurt and Bart: In an unusual twist it was really designed for her by Cinna so to try and get into his head and what he knew she was to become was the fun part. It was very important not only to us, but to Francis that she not become a superhero or be too flashy. Cinna designed some fantastical stuff for her, but this wasn’t for the people of the Capitol. He knew that she would become a symbol of the revolution, and ultimately a soldier. Also, it was very important the costume was modular and could be worn in its most ceremonial way, with the wings, and then be stripped down to become very tactical. We didn’t want her running around in wings.
MTV: What is your favorite aspect of this Katniss costume, or what felt most creative about it?
Kurt and Bart: We took some inspiration from historic armor and Japanese archery gear as well the qualities of the “real” mockingjay bird and ultimately tempered all of that into a really lean and completely tactical suit of armor for Katniss. Jen [Lawrence] loved it because it looked really cool and she could also move easily in it. We wanted her to be comfortable during all of that action.
MTV: Let’s talk about Peeta for a minute: He’s still in the Capitol, but undergoing a terrible ordeal. What did you want to do with this wardrobe to differentiate this from his previous time in the Capitol? The elaborate collars of his shirts look almost like origami.
Kurt and Bart: The idea was that he was still being trotted out by the Capitol and was no doubt being styled and dressed by them, so the looks were in line with where he left off in the last film. We first picked three colors for his transition. White being him at his most pure and symbolic and eventually going to black and finally grey at his most beaten down. The collars and ties reference him being literally collared by the Capitol.
MTV: Is the clothing entirely unique, or are any elements coming from other designers?
Kurt and Bart: Coming from a fashion background we always love collaborating with designers. Peeta, for instance, wore some Maison Margiela, Juun J, Byungmun Seo, Unconditional, and Les Hommes as well as some custom collar pieces we designed with Alexis Bittar.
MTV: Effie Trinket undergoes the most radical makeover—she has never been a ready-to-wear kind of girl. Did you cycle through a lot of ideas for her dressed-down appearance?
Kurt and Bart: Our fitting with Effie was very spontaneous. We literally had her limited standard-issue clothing on the rack and said, OK, lets figure out how Effie would put this together. It was a riot. We were very inspired by Little Edie from Grey Gardens: a truly unique and eccentric fashion icon who came up with some nutso combinations because she had to. Several of the things we came up with for Effie were things we had done back in our club days, like wearing tights as a shirt and buttoning two shirts together to make a four-sleeved dress.
MTV: At first, I get a Rosie the Riveter vibe. Is that what you were going for?
Kurt and Bart: That was of course inevitable with the head wraps as she had none of her wigs and it played nicely with the population of District 13. They did become more and more elaborate, though, as only Effie would do them.
MTV: Now someone like Cressida, played by Natalie Dormer, had a more extreme look with the side of her head shaved and tattooed: Was that your input, or is that the direction of the hair and makeup team?
Kurt and Bart: Francis showed us a picture of girl with the side of her head shaved and there was a unanimous “YES.” I think the pictures of her on set and off say it all—she looks badass.
MTV: The movies split the final book in two. Can we expect to see a lot of new looks in the final chapter?
Kurt and Bart: If you’ve read the book, you know there is so much to look forward to in the second half of Mockingjay. We are really excited for the fans to see the final chapter of this epic story.