The second installment (part one HERE) of our extensive interview with Austin Powers trilogy costume designer Deena Appel, this time focusing on The Spy Who Shagged Me (1999, again directed by Jay Roach).
Things change up in The Spy Who Shagged Me, for in addition to costuming the modern and swinging sixties world of Austin Powers, his character also travels to 1969, i.e. the ‘hippie era’. The first film was a tremendous success and Appel’s contribution solidified her as the only person who could return to costume this fabulous, vibrant landscape.
Speaking exclusively to Clothes on Film, and providing never before seen or published costume sketches from the movie, Deena Appel explains her inspirations and process for The Spy Who Shagged Me.
Clothes on Film: We start the film essentially where the first one left off, with Austin in his dressing gown. How did this work costume wise?
Deena Appel: At the time, New Line was auctioning off film costumes on their website, but some of the costumes from the first film had thankfully survived the sale. The final scene in the first Austin Powers was shot after principal photography was completed, as part of a reshoot, and I think I may have had those dressing gowns in my storage.
CoF: How did you shoot that moment where Austin ascends out of the swimming pool with his blue velvet suit perfectly dry?
DA: Austin coming out of the water dry was shot in reverse. That whole sequence was crazy. When I heard we were doing water ballet with Austin, I could only imagine the classic and famous Cole of California 1964 ‘Scandal Suit’. I was able to convince Cole to remake the women’s suits for us in pink based on their original pattern – it was originally black – as well as a ‘boy version’ that I designed for Austin! The pink petal swim caps I stumbled on in New York when I was there shopping for fabrics.
CoF: Just a point on why he is wearing the blue suit – is this because it’s his iconic ensemble now, the most recognisable, the ‘I’m back’ outfit?
DA: Yes. Iconic branding at its best.
CoF: Seeing Scott on Jerry Springer, it is clear his style has evolved somewhat – a sort of nu-metal Green Day look. Was this to keep him contemporary with the times?
DA: Time had passed and so Scott’s look had to evolve with the times. He went from rebellious grunge, to an edgier, darker look complete with dark, blue hair. This was really about Scott as an “average” teenager, struggling with his identity – an Evil father – and where he belongs in the world.
CoF: Tell us about Austin in this film. His look is subtly different, which reflects changing movements in fashion at this time.
DA: There was a cultural shift in the world that I wanted to reflect in the film. We talked about the Beatles going to India in 1968 and how much they’d changed upon their return, and as I mentioned, I was very influenced by George Harrison’s style, so this shift made the most sense. There are major changes from the Electric Psychedelic Swingers Club and the party in Austin Powers 2. Definitely an ethnic slant, with more female power.
CoF: Austin’s suit with the all-over ‘Rubik’s Cube’ or ‘rainbow’ style print worn for the photoshoot is very special indeed. What was your inspiration, and can you recall the fabric?
DA: This was another of those fabulous upholstery fabric finds. Almost all of Austin’s suits came from the upholstery department. It was only because they were made by the very skilled hands of Tommy Velasco that they were so impeccable and finely tailored. This colourful grid was a favourite of mine too; I loved it with the pink shirt.
CoF: How was it costuming Mike Myers as Fat Bastard?
DA: The Scots Guard uniform was hands down the most expensive costume in all three films simply because of the volume of fabric and pleating in the kilt alone.
I have never approached comedy costumes lightly. The research is as extensive as any classic costumed drama, and the attention to detail is just as precise. When it came time to build the Scots Guard uniform, we took it very seriously. I asked Tommy (Velasco) if he’d ever built a kilt before. His reply… “I made all the kilts for Brigadoon!” Nothing fazed him, but it was probably the largest waistline and the most fabric in one garment that he’d ever constructed.
CoF: The red suit returns as Austin arrives in 1969. Was this the same suit from the previous film? It looks a little more pink than red, though that might just be the lighting.
DA: This was a new suit in the same silhouette as the blue. The previous suit you’re thinking of was double breasted and it was also a subtle shadow stripe in wine. This was more of a cherry red.
DA: One of my MOST favourite costumes never made it into the final cut. When Austin “loses his mojo” there was a scene where he ends up in the hospital. I designed a two-tone blue male symbol print on white flannel for Austin’s pyjamas. I wanted him to feel completely vulnerable, as if he’d complete reverted to childhood. I couldn’t afford to have yardage printed, in those days, so I found someone who made up sample yardage and made just enough fabric for two pair, since the fabric could not be washed. He only wore them in the one scene and sadly, it was cut from the film. I wish I’d kept those pjs.
CoF: Heather Graham as Felicity Shagwell is introduced wearing one of the best outfits of the series, her blue zip-front playsuit. Can you tell us a little about the design?
DA: This was a great challenge. Felicity had to make a very memorable, head turning entrance so it had to be a knockout. I wanted her too to have a strong and iconic silhouette and to wear Austin’s blue – that meant that HE had to wear another colour, so the cherry red was the best contrast to Felicity. She was also part flower child as we were inching toward the 70’s, so the embroidered butterflies symbolised the emerging hippie free-love culture. I knew that she would be sliding down a pole into a dance routine so the most practical choice, that could also be provocative, was a hot-pant jumpsuit with matching over-the-knee boots. John Hayles, maker of the Vanessa and Mrs. Kensington catsuits from Austin Powers 1, again created this embroidered suede jumpsuit that fit like no other and Clint Bryant made up the boots after we had the suede embroidered to match.
DA: We also created Felicity’s back up dancers/posse, one of whom was Carrie Ann Inaba of ‘Dancing with the Stars’, as well as a large group of the extras. Carrie Ann was the only other actor in the series, other than Mike Myers, to play more than one character. She was also Fook Yu in Goldmember!
CoF: Felicity wears a ‘female symbol’ aka venus gender choker. Is she essentially intended as a female version of Austin?
DA: Right again, Chris! Felicity is a product of that change in the world I referenced earlier. She’s the first feminist Austin has ever encountered.
CoF: Austin’s tunic jacket worn with a blue rollback when he and Felicity are cavorting around Carnaby Street is so spot on for the era and location. Can you recall the fabric and why you chose this outfit specifically?
DA: I wanted to show the change in time and again imagining that Austin, like The Beatles, had done some life-changing travelling, which gave him an interest in new global styling. When I found the brocade in a very similar iconic blue, I knew it would be a great fit for the scene.
DA: Felicity’s pink and orange crochet dress in this scene was one of the most talked about costumes of all three films. I had never designed a knit like this before and was not sure it could even be made, with all the open work and strategic coverage. I had previously worked with a knitwear maker in New York, Maria Ficalora, and trusted her implicitly, but this seemed impossible to pull off long distance. Maria took my measurements and the sketch and somehow translated it into a perfect fit. It had all the revealing elements with just the right coverage and the movement & swing I needed for the dancing. It was one of the most satisfying sketch to screen translations of my career.
CoF: It’s interesting that Austin and Felicity try on on hippie era clothing, which Austin is initially disdainful of, on Felicity at least. Do you think Austin would have fully embraced this era at all?
DA: That was a clear nod to Sonny and Cher. I don’t know if Austin would have embraced the era but I think he had a great sense of humour and was alway a bit playful and cheeky. So he was up for almost any kind of adventure.
CoF: What about dressing the extras during the Carnaby Street sequence? It’s wonderfully theatrical in terms of its colour and vibrancy.
DA: As with all the bigger extras scenes, we bought vintage from collectors, rented what we could and made a great deal of original pieces. A couple of the men on Carnaby St. were wearing some paisley pieces I had Tommy make up for Austin in the first film but he never wore. I wasn’t able to encourage Mike to try the paisleys, so I saved them and put them to use in this sequence. A gorgeous jacket, made of a vintage paisley velvet fabric, a purple striped pant and a purple paisley skinny pant – previously meant to be worn with a solid jacket. The most expensive costumes worn by any of our background artists.
CoF: What about Austin’s orange velour overhead shirt? This is really the most casual we have ever seen the character, and very much 1969. Was it important to you to accurately reflect the era, even though the film is obviously cartoonish in tone?
DA: I was really focused on the research. Even though all three films had a similar tone, I researched them all as if they were individual films. As I mentioned, a couple of years can be night and day in terms of style.
The orange pullover shirt was Austin’s most casual of all. I wanted him to be completely easy going while trying to seduce Felicity, who is the most dressed up we’ve seen her. I believe the style started with cowboys and was most popular in denim, but since Austin’s clothes are all very tactile, I made it up in velvet. Both Davy Jones and Micky Dolenz of The Monkees wore similar styles at the time.
CoF: How was it creating costumes for Verne Troyer as Mini Me?
DA: The experience of working with Verne was very unusual. He was a great collaborator, but since his character was either Dr. Evil’s Mini Me or Austin’s, he never really had his own individual style. Mini Me’s costumes were at the opposite end of the spectrum for our brilliant tailor, Tommy. He had tailored the largest costume he’d ever made for Fat Bastard and the tiniest tailored suit ever in our trilogy. When Verne came in for fittings we would set up a ladder for him to reach the table in the fitting room or the workroom so he could climb up to a level where Tommy and I could work with him eye to eye. We would use the sleeve board as a bench for Verne to sit on during the fitting. In retrospect, I wish we had a better prepared space for Verne, but we were always so amazed at just how small 35” tall could be every time he walked through the door. It was a blast to dress him as Mini Austin, and I think Verne really loved it too. It was a great departure after playing Mini Dr. Evil for so long.
DA: Not sure if you saw the early teaser trailer for Goldmember (watch it HERE) where we recreated Carnaby Street with little people? Mini Austin, mini school girls, mini dancers and mini marching band? That was actually a scene from the film that they cut out and decided to use as the teaser instead. To this day, when any project reaches peak challenge levels, I always remind myself that as long as there isn’t a mini marching band, everything will be o.k. When it all comes into view, you can see that the scope of the films grew so much that by the third, we were bursting at the seams.
CoF: The orange and blue jumpsuit Austin wears on the space station is just fantastic (complete with male symbol of course). Is it referencing anything in particular, or just a James Bond feel from that era?
DA: It definitely comes from the world of Bond and In Like Flint. I loved the strong, masculine men in jumpsuits, which really are rather silly.
CoF: Odd question maybe, but are there any legal concerns when ‘homaging’ a uniform such as Fat Bastard’s ‘FBD’ outfit? This is clearly a nod to UPS’ own very distinctive brown shirt and shorts attire.
DA: That was exactly the legal issue. I believe it was originally scripted as UPS, and we couldn’t clear it, so we came up with FBD! (Fat Bastard Delivery).
With thanks to Deena Appel.
Costume sketches by Michele Michel and Deena Appel
Our third and final Austin Powers piece focusing on Goldmember to follow soon.
© 2018, Lord Christopher Laverty.