When Clothes on Film visited The Muppets Most Wanted set back in March of 2013, we were given a tour of the bustling ‘wardrobe’ (their words) department, as overseen by costume designer Rahel Afiley. You can read more about that HERE, but after chasing Ms. Afiley around the room while she was trying to work, we managed to get a bit more out of her about using designer fashion, i.e. Vivienne Westwood, in the film. As always we are pushing the same old costume/fashion debate, though in this instance hearing from a costume designer on the front line is rather enlightening.
Focusing specifically on Miss Piggy, for she is the one who gets to wear the designer togs, we quizzed Afiley on why she didn’t get to create Piggy’s London sequence costumes herself; after all she made the rest. Apparently it was deemed necessary for Miss Piggy to wear something intrinsically British at this point; a similar situation to Audrey Hepburn in Sabrina (1954) when Hubert de Givenchy provided her fancy French fashions instead of costume designer Edith Head. We wanted to know did it bother Rahel Afiley to have costume duties suddenly plucked out of her reach, or is this something she actually approved, or even suggested?
Clothes on Film, Christopher: Can you tell me exactly what Vivienne Westwood made for The Muppets Most Wanted?
Rahel Afiley: Vivienne Westwood only designed four outfits. She wanted to do every outfit Miss Piggy wears in London, and that included the wedding dress.
CoF: Honestly, do you mind that the fashion designer is doing the British costumes for Miss Piggy?
RA: Well, I’m conflicted. That’s why I say I don’t just give it over – in the end it is my name on the credits because I am the costume designer on the film. I’m not going to say “just do what you want”. I have limitations, I have colours…For example, I wanted one of Vivienne’s dresses to be metallic and long – to have those parameters.
I know it’s good for the film, and I understand that, and Vivienne Westwood is a designer I like – I did approach her. There are no other designers on this film. On the last film (The Muppets, 2011), I just had Zac Posen do a dress and Louis Vuitton made a pair of shoes. Vivienne did want to do the entire London look because she’s a British designer. It made sense getting a fashion designer to do it. Whoever it is I make them send me references and show me what they’re doing.
CoF: Did you perform any alterations on Vivienne’s costumes when they arrived?
RA: I did some alterations on the wedding dress. There are certain things that would just not have worked with Piggy; she’s not like a human body. They (Vivienne Westwood) have been good though. Before the dresses even got made I went to the studio. I wanted to see what fabric they would be using. The original wedding dress fabric they used was white, but it wasn’t going to work so I made them dye it cream. It has to fit with the storyline; it has to be what Piggy would wear. Like sometimes they just want to go crazy and do some showy thing and I have to bring it down again and say “no, Piggy wouldn’t wear that”. It has to fit the context of the film.
CoF: So, Vivienne is the only designer creating for Miss Piggy in the film, apart from you?
RA: Yes. If I wanted someone else to design for Piggy, then I could – it doesn’t have to be Vivienne Westwood exclusively. I thought about Stella McCartney, but it just didn’t work out.
Rahel Afiley was in good spirits when we chatted and clearly understands the need to have a designer like Vivienne Westwood on board, and appreciates the extent of her contribution. Most interesting of all will be how the fashion media report this story. Let’s see if they can get beyond the official press release.
With thanks to Rahel Afiley.
© 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.