Notably since London Fashion Week (15th – 19th February), Disney has extensively promoted costumes from Oz the Great and Powerful. During Fashion Week, William Tempest and Deniz Berdan ‘inspired by’ dresses were featured along with Nicholas Kirkwood shoes made in conjunction with Selfridges. Since 28th February, four costumes from Oz have been on display at Selfridges’ flagship store in London: a dark grey period suit worn by James Franco as Oscar Diggs, a green sequin dress worn by Rachel Weisz as Evanora, a white tulle dress worn by Michelle Williams as Glinda, and the Wicked Witch costume worn by… well, go see the movie.
All costumes in Oz the Great and the Powerful, including obviously those at Selfridges, were designed by Gary Jones, working from initial drawings by character illustrator Michael Kutsche and influenced by Robert Stromberg’s production design. This unusual arrangement was instigated by director Sam Raimi, keen to create a cohesive fantasy world. Jones’ costumes are, like most fantasy genre designs, a mix of period and architectural influences – roughly late Victorian/early 20th century and Art Deco (Eastern and Asian influence). They are not avant-garde; say in the inimitable style of late, great costume designer Eiko Ishioka, but more restrained overall.
Photograph by Jon Furniss
The four outfits at Selfridges are not necessarily the most interesting in Oz – really we would have loved to have seen Mila Kunis as Theodora’s red velvet riding ensemble – but analysing any of Jones’ work up close is a privilege. We spent a good couple of hours with the costumes under vivid lighting (they were yet to be put on display); what follows are a few details and intricacies we noticed. The images are original costumes illustrations from the film courtesy of Walt Disney Pictures.
MILD SPOILERS THROUGHOUT
There were six ensembles made for James Franco as Oscar Diggs and a circus costume, each one outwardly the same but slightly more distressed than the last. Actually this works in reverse as Oscar’s clothes become less worn as the story progresses. At the start he is down on his luck and going nowhere; by the end he has direction and has achieved something.
His suit is comprised of a dark grey coat along the lines of a frock with side panels to narrow the waist and centre seam but with a cutaway front and no decorative rear buttons – it is most reminiscent of a Victorian walking coat. There is a matching double breasted waistcoat (which changes for the finale) and lighter grey fine stripe trousers, cut high and slim through the leg. This outfit is probably Franco’s change 2 as there are signs of distressing on the coat shoulder and repair to the rear. It is lighter than you may expect, probably to offset the heat from studio lights. The half lining, which feels like silk, is emerald green in the pockets and brown in the skirt.
This ensemble is finished with a medium crown felt top hat in black, an ecru self-stripe double-cuff shirt with detachable collar, and black brocade necktie. There were no original boots unfortunately, but those left for the display were black leather Chelsea style. In keeping with Oscar’s slovenly look at this point he is not wearing links, nor is the collar starched. What really impresses when studying the outfit closely is the natural looking wear to the coat; it genuinely feels lived in for years.
Michelle Williams also has three changes during the film, though her costumes are all quite different, becoming less feminine and more ‘armour like’ as she reaches her confrontation with the other witches. The outfit on display at Selfridges is the last she wears in the film, her ‘celebration dress’, so any battle elements are discarded in favour of soft, poufy shapes. This costume is seemingly intended as a nod to the dress worn by Billy Burke as Glinda in the Wizard of Oz, mainly due to a single layer of rose pink tulle running beneath six white layers, all at gradually increasing lengths and thickness rising at the front to no further than Williams’ calf. The skirt is enriched with crystals, pink gems and sequin appliqué that twinkle in the light. There is a duel layered overskirt falling from the natural waist to just past the thigh area.
The bodice is cream and white, encased in tulle with a pre-attached silk bow. It follows a V-shape, Regency style, covered in what look to be ostrich feathers dipped in silver (bird symbolism is apparent with all the witches’ costumes but is most obvious with Glinda). Sleeves are tulle filled with clear crystal and sequin clusters that thicken toward the cuff. There is ruching to the shoulders which are draped in fine lace and threaded with silver lamé. Glinda’s shoes are cute white and pink high heel courts, the toes sprinkled with glitter.
This is Rachel Weisz’s only costume for Oz, apart from a black dress seen during the finale when she also wears leggings beneath her skirt – presumably so she can fly above the camera while retaining her modesty. The colour of this particular dress seems more mercury green than emerald, although the skirt lining is a couple of shades darker. Finishing on the hips, this long and light crepe silk skirt has an uneven hem rising toward the left knee. It is covered by swirls of light green thread holding tiny transparent discs, cubes and Swarovski Crystals.
The bodice is even more attractive as it follows a 1930s evening gown style with gentle V that is offset slightly to the left. Crystals and similar appliqué condense near the bust, which is lined in black lace popping into view above a cluster of heavy white beading. The dress fits almost like a halterneck; black lace follows up and over the shoulders while the stand collar is made entirely of emerald green feathers. Black feathers sprout from each shoulder giving off a militaristic air. The black lace sleeves have a double button cuff, wrapped in swirled black thread which matches the skirt. Turquoise, light green and back sequins bunch toward each cuff.
Evanora is not overly accessorised; she doesn’t need to be as her dress does most of the talking. On display was an emerald feather headdress (possibly in tarnished brass) and emerald pendant. Weisz seems to wear the same footwear in every scene: calf length boots in green marbled leather with purple laces. Her green dress is the dress of Oz the Great and Powerful. It is symbolic of setting, character and, more than anything, just downright stunning to look at.
The Wicked Witch:
Comparing this costume with that worn by Margaret Hamilton in The Wizard of Oz, what sticks out most is what is missing – the chest area basically. This is The Wicked Witch of the West with cleavage. Likely this element will annoy as many as it delights, though really we have to ask ourselves what we expected. This is Disney kick-starting a new franchise for a new generation, one that regardless of the source material assumes a little sexy. The Wicked Witch is not exactly an S&M maiden now but with costumes designed to fill fashion pages as well as the screen it is hardly surprising to see a bit of skin.
Apart from minor cleavage the Wicked Witch costume is relatively discreet. The skirt is comprised of sheared lace strips completely torn away between the legs but left full-length toward the rear. Underneath the skirt are black leggings covered in black figure of eight pintucking. The lace strips are printed with lightning bolts and sprays of silver. This skirt seems like something Helena Bonham Carter might choose to wear whether in character or not. Fitted like a corset the bustier is lined black leather and black lace trim with stud buttons to the front and functioning drawstring to the rear. Leather puff sleeves are attached to the shoulder above long black cotton/Spandex sleeves that zip fasten from the cuff along the forearm into fingerless gloves. The sleeves are covered in a black Art Deco pattern that matches the front of the bodice. On each shoulder are leather and rubber wings, webby and bat like, with two claws protruding from the front and rear. Although it is not immediately obvious, even on close inspection, the dress buttons along the front of the bodice and down the full length of the skirt – here the buttons are left open from the natural waist downwards.
The Wicked Witch’s hat is made of black leather with little or no crown so that it intentionally droops over, sat atop a black balaclava (not attached) that fastens invisibly with Velcro. This balaclava idea is similar to the 1939 version and ensures the actress’ painted green face pops out from the darkness. All in all Gary Jones contemporary update is perhaps a better costume because it concentrates on shape and form giving off a spikier silhouette, yet without adding unnecessary appliqué. However it may be too subdued for some who were expecting the Wicked Witch to appear trailing four yards of black velvet behind her.
Photograph by Jon Furniss
These costumes, while not really suitable for a trip to the supermarket are Cosplay friendly and come Halloween destined to be ripped off by anyone possessing an imagination and a pair of scissors. Point being they are skilfully made, elaborate but accessible, which rather coincidentally sums up the film rather nicely too.
Costumes from Oz the Great and Powerful are currently on display at Selfridges in London.
© 2013, Christopher Laverty.