Sherlock Holmes 2: Q&A With Costume Designer Jenny Beavan

We have six months to wait until Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows starring Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Doctor Watson hits cinema screens, but in a recent, brief interview with Clothes on Film, costume designer Jenny Beavan exclusively spills the beans on what we can expect to see in the finished movie.

In addition to being costume designer on the first Guy Ritchie directed Sherlock Holmes adaptation in 2009 (of which you can read more the costumes HERE), Jenny Beavan was also recently Oscar nominated for her work on The Kings Speech. Evidently adept at bringing period clothing to life and broadly interpreting character (just how much does Holmes’ tatty dressing gown say about him?), Beavan has already created a colourful, innovative interpretation of late Victorian costume. But what does the future hold? Below are a few tantalising clues…

Robert Downey Jr. requested a Lycra-like substance be added to his costumes for ease of movement during Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows’ many stunt sequences.

Clothes on Film, Chris: Overall, how does the costume design differ for Sherlock Holmes 2? Bigger budget?

Jenny Beavan: The budget was the same as for Sherlock Holmes 1, with a percentage increase for inflation. The demands were much greater though as the story covers much more varied locations.

CoF: Presumably there is more physical action this time around?

JB: There are a lot of stunt sequences in Sherlock Holmes 2; I am getting better at finding interesting fabrics. End of range warehouses in Italy are very useful.

CoF: Watson’s Blues Patrol tunic is returning (costumer David Otzen actually contacted me last year about its correct use in a gentleman’s club environment). Why was it chosen?

JB: It is good to re-use clothes; it gives a sense of reality to the character. Watson is a military man and proud of it.

Holmes’ love interest from the first film, Rachel McAdams as Irene Adler returns for a cameo in this sequel, and so does her big bustle. “It is the big bustle period!” commented Beavan.

CoF: Were you strict about retaining costume iconography from the first film?

JB: I kept the characters we had created in Sherlock Holmes 1 and their clothes. The audience should relate to the characters they got to know in the first film but then things happen to Holmes and Watson which impact on what they are wearing!

CoF: Why did you decide to smarten up Mycroft Holmes? (Sherlock’s genius, yet lazy detective brother as played by Stephen Fry.)

JB: We dressed Stephen very ‘straight’. He is so recognisable that my feeling was to keep it simple and very much in period without quirkiness. Stephen could add that!

CoF: What can you tell us about your costume for Jared Harris as Professor Moriarty?

JB: It is maybe not what you expect at first…

CoF: Noomi Rapace as Sim the gypsy is wearing what appears to be a military tunic in one early photo. Why is this?

JB: Is she? It is not one I provided I think!


Downey Jr. will also appear in drag at some point in the film. Quite where and for why remains, as yet, a mystery.

CoF: How involved is director Guy Ritchie in choosing costumes?

JB: I talk to Guy early on in a very general way but like most directors he relates better to seeing the clothes on the real actor so I send him all the fitting photos. He seems happy to let me get on with it now; we have a very good relationship.

CoF: As with Sherlock Holmes 1, are most of the costumes made or sourced by Cosprop?

JB: Cosprop is the rock on which the costumes are based, sourced and principal clothes tailored. But not the only source as we had thousands of costumes for the crowd so went to many costume houses in Europe. Stephen Miles also runs a workroom of our own at our base camp to make all the stunt and special odd ball stuff that comes up and Jane Law of Jane Law Ltd makes the leading ladies’ clothes

CoF: Did you manage to convince Robert Downey Jr. on the Levi Springbottom pants I suggested?

JB: Not yet!

With thanks to Jenny Beavan.

Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows is released on 16th December. You can watch Robert Downey Jr. in Sherlock Holmes (’09) at LOVEFiLM.com.

© 2011 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.