‘The Hunger Games’ Costume Designer Dishes On Inspiration And Jennifer Lawrence’s Fire Dress In Exclusive Interview

A still from ’The Hunger Games.’
Photo: Murray Close/ ’The Hunger Games’ official website

The road to Oscar weekend has been a long one— we’ve already made pit stops at The Screen Actors’ Guild Awards, The Golden Globes, and others along the way— but there’s still one more celebration that needs to happen before all the movie madness goes down on February 24. We’re talking about the Costume Designers Guild Awards, where the creative geniuses behind the coolest clothes in film and TV get honored for their work. Obviously this is a HUGE DEAL, so to get psyched up for the event, we’ll be chatting with nominees about the stories, inspiration, and challenges behind some of our absolute favorite outfits. Kicking off the series is Judianna Makovsky, who crafted all of the outfits in The Hunger Games, from Katniss’ hunting look, to Effie Trinket’s candy-colored frocks, to that iconic fire dress. Get the scoop below!

MTV STYLE: When you find out you’re doing the costumes for a project as epic as The Hunger Games, where do you even begin?

JUDIANNA MAKOVSKY: There are a lot of steps! Usually it starts with the script and discussing the director’s vision before you even get to the clothes. After you talk about the characters and the world that the director wants to create, then it’s time to start researching costumes.

What was the research process like?

It involves tear sheets, looking at different designers, and tons of research. The one thing that [director] Gary Ross didn’t want to do was create the generic futuristic world that’s been done a lot in movies, with stretchy clothing and asymmetrical dresses, you know? Instead, we wanted to root it more in the Americana mid-century look, with very retro influences. I looked at designers from the ’30s to the ’50s and tried to figure out a way for the costumes to have their own look, but also maintain the feeling of that era. It’s important that the audience can relate to the character, and it’s hard to do that when it’s in some sort of alien world.

A still from ’The Hunger Games.’
Photo: Murray Close/ ’The Hunger Games’ official website

I feel like the costumes for the reaping scene definitely had that Americana feel.

Yes, and that’s what we were going for. We did a lot of research about American coal mining towns, and something we realized was that American workwear hasn’t changed in 150 years. So we wanted to keep that timeless feeling with a lot of classic, simple clothes, but at the same time making it clear that Panem was dressed in their Sunday best. After all, the reaping is a BIG deal.

And then there’s Effie Trinket, who had a totally different style…

[Laughing] That’s for sure! We wanted to do something silly but also pretty for Effie. We actually didn’t have that big of a budget and wanted to do our own look without going to fashion designers and getting free clothing. We took a lot of influence from Elsa Schiaparelli because we love the silhouette of the early ’30s and late ’40s, with big puffy sleeves.

What about Effie’s color palette?

It’s interesting, because in the beginning we wanted her color palette to be pastel. But then later on, we moved more into the German Expressionism palette with bright, eye-popping colors like acid green, chartreuse, and pink. We also added a lot of black so that it didn’t look TOO ridiculous.

A still from ’The Hunger Games.’
Photo: Murray Close/ ’The Hunger Games’ official website

And then finally, we HAVE to talk about Katniss’ fire dress!

That was in instance where I branched away from the book, because it was described as being covered in stones. I was worried that covering it in stones was too over the top— we really wanted to keep is so Katniss’ natural beauty could shine through, so that it wasn’t the dress that was making her pretty. Also, we had to assume there were people hadn’t read the book, so we didn’t want to give it away that it catches fire. So after looking at everything from old Ginger Rogers movies to Alexander McQueen, we decided to go with a very useful shade of red and have the movement of the dress really start at the bottom.

What was the biggest challenge you faced during filming?

Weirdly enough, the weather! We shot in North Carolina and the heat there was overwhelming. It was tough trying to keep Jennifer, Josh [Hutcherson], and everyone comfortable so that they could move and still look vaguely like the description.

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