This weekend, Maleficent’s second onscreen appearance will be the talk of the town.
Her horned look has become iconic, but it’s costume designer Ellen Mirojnick who should be thanked for the garb that will more than likely be everywhere come Halloween.
Mirojnick was born and raised in New York City, where her early interest in fine art, photography and fashion led her to the High School of Music and Art. Then, she studied design at the School of Visual Arts and Parsons School of Design, becoming one of Hollywood’s top designers.
Here, she talks about her latest work in Maleficent: The Mistress of Evil, which opens nationwide today.
What are your primary goals as costume designer?
My role is to bring the characters to life visually. When I read a script, I envision images. Working with the director, the actors and all the different artists involved in filmmaking, we conceive a theme about the overall film vision.
I begin to apply that vision to the costume designs to show how the characters feel, how they move through the story and how they change.
Costume design is storytelling. It can subtly and subliminally convey the characters’ emotions and personalities to the audience and heighten their understanding.
What was it about this project that appealed to you?
I’d never worked in this genre, so it was quite attractive. Working with Angie [Angelina Jolie] is a very interesting experience because she is really, really smart and she has an overall vision and the ability to work through a story in ways that are truly exceptional.
Maleficent is a complicated character and a difficult one to define. She has a huge story arc that ultimately brings her back to love. I just thought it was such a beautiful tale about pure, unconditional love.
What sort of preparation was involved?
I researched art from many different eras, as well as contemporary fashion, and created a lookbook with images for all the characters in each of the different film segments. From that, the director and other film artists could see what I was envisioning.
The lookbook becomes a foundation for the costume department. We constructed almost everything, from shoes to headwear.
What is the time period in which the story takes place and how did that affect your designs?
Well, what I hoped for and what we talked about early on was the idea that this kingdom is a new, bustling, more citified kingdom.
With that in mind, we asked ourselves, what would a more modern fairy tale look like in a time period somewhere in medieval times, but bordering on the renaissance period, with a fresh spin on that?
With the freedom to create a new era, we broadened our use of fabrications, different colourations and silhouettes.
What can you tell us about Maleficent’s overall look?
Maleficent is the strongest character … she needs to rise above everyone, never blend in and have her own unique silhouette and shape.
Maleficent is iconic, so you continue that idea and raise the stakes. She is the black-and white-movie star of the fairy tale world. Her skin is very white, her lips are red and her body is silhouetted in a very strong shape.
Her accessories start off as organic and evolve to include bone and gold, and eventually black diamonds and emeralds.
What about the wardrobe for Michelle Pfeiffer as Queen Ingrith?
Queen Ingrith’s look is regal and somewhat modern, and suggests wealth and privilege. We used platinum, gold and champagne colours and tons of jewellery to really bling her up. She has a presence that is soft and strong at the same time