Beauty and the Beast: Q&A with Jacqueline Durran

There are already a lot of excellent interviews with Oscar winning Beauty and the Beast costume designer Jacqueline Durran online, so with my limited communication I wanted to ask a little more about Belle’s (Emma Watson) day-to-day ensemble and the creation of Gaston’s attire (Luke Evans), arguably the closest character to his 1991 animated counterpart. Ms. Durran, currently hard at work on a new project, was kind enough to provide a few brief responses:

How did you go about creating costumes for a computer generated Beast?

When I first started prep on the movie the Beast was going to be a prosthetic beast. Had this happened we would have had to make multiple versions of the costumes but as time passed it was decided that the Beast would be computer generated. By then the costumes had already been designed and construction had begun on them, but it wasn’t wasted as the special effects department needed physical costumes to use as a foundation for their work. We had to provide them with patterns, fabrics and actual garments to enable them to replicate and digitally build the Beast. We see a very clear progression in how the Beast is dressed – from his ragged animalistic cloak through to this rather gentlemanly coat and sleeved waistcoat.

Luke Evans as Gaston with Emma Watson as Belle. As with the animated film, red is Gaston’s bold signature colour.

The Beast, or in actuality The Prince at this point, is softened immeasurably by that sky blue outfit at the end of the film.

For the celebration at the end of the film there is a lot of joy and movement and action. It takes place in a castle in France and you have a sense that it is summer and it is obviously a joyful occasion, so it just seemed right that the Prince would be in blue to balance out Belle’s floral dress. That was always the plan, even before we decided to have the crowd dressed all in black and white, which forces the audience to focus on Belle and the Beast/Prince even more.

How about Belle’s main ensemble in the film?

Belle’s village costume is blue like the costume in the animated film, and is made of up of a white blouse, a bodice, skirt and an apron. To represent the active element in Emma Watson’s representation of Belle she wears boots rather than pumps and she has pockets to be able to carry things she will need. She also wears bloomers so she can hitch up her skirt for greater mobility. We wanted to take elements from the 18th century and from French design and to that end we used reference prints from this era of regional peasants and books on traditional provencal fabrics. As we wanted to show a slight passage of time in costume we made some slight changes – Belle is wearing a jacket that was embroidered by hand in our workshop and is a collection of stylised images of different animals. She is wearing a red fichu and an apron with printed flowers which references French provencal style and is part of the small selection of additional things she wears during the montage sequence at the Castle.

Dan Stevens voicing computer generated Beast. When costume designer Jacqueline Durran came on board the project, the Beast was intended to be a prosthetic character.

Maurice’s (Kevin Kline) costume was my personal favourite in the film.

Maurice, it was decided, was at his core an artist. He’s ended up, for whatever reason, living in a small village in central France and has a Bohemian air, which became one of the primary reasons he is dressed the way he is. He wears an indigo French work smock made of linen (like an artist’s) with a block-printed waistcoat.

Gaston was interesting because in that bright red he felt closest to the animated version.

Gaston wears a costume has elements of the 18th century French military which happily combines with the idea taken from the cartoon that Gaston’s representative colour is red. It was important that there was a contrast between Gaston and LeFou (Josh Gad) – It should be clear that Gaston is vain and obsessed with his appearance. To that end he has the perfect ruffled shirt and flattering military style hat with bold red facings. LeFou is pale by contrast – he chooses just a red necktie to show both how he aspires to be like Gaston and also how his more muted costume works to frame Gaston. Gaston wears boots as befits a gentleman of the age. He alone wears a fine cavalry boot and clothes which show that he has travelled beyond the provincial confines of the village.

With thanks to Jacqueline Durran.

Beauty and the Beast is currently on general release.

© 2017, Lord Christopher Laverty.