I don’t think the costumes of the Harry Potter series get a lot of credit, but when you really break it down, there’s a lot to think about. Along with the rest of the design team, the costume designer needs to create a unique look for an equally unique world and combine that with the modern-day world as well. The characters have their robes, their school uniforms and their “real” clothes that they wear when interacting with Muggles. On top of that, some of the characters are known for being very bad at “muggle dress” and so finding them quirky regular outfits also adds to the fun. I can only imagine how much fun the job was for costume designer Jany Temime (who joined the series with Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban).
When I was in London, we attended the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, where they had all the sets from the movies set up for display. In each set they also featured costumes from the characters who would most likely interact with those sets. I always appreciate seeing the costumes from any film. I especially love seeing how costumes are made, and I will say that was my only complaint about the studio tour: there wasn’t a large enough section about the costuming. You would think there would be more, with the sheer amount of people involved with the show, but it was just a small little section featuring the Beauxbatons dress as well as some wigs and various other costuming pieces.
(Note: I am aware that there is a special costuming workshop you can attend, but it was not running the day I was there.)
There was also a small section on wardrobe distressing, which is something that fascinates me as it isn’t something I have quite mastered yet. Wardrobe distressing is when you take regular clothes and make them look worn and messy, particular for action scenes or battle scenes. The only time I have ever really done this technique is for West Side Story, when I made a bloody version of a shirt Tony was wearing for after the rumble.
Despite there not being a ton of information about the costuming, there were examples of costumes everywhere, from muggles to wizards. When you first enter the Great Hall, you immediately get a look at some of the familiar looks from the movies. There’s a section for each house with costumes, as well as costumes on display at the staff table section.
Once you leave the Great Hall, the tour opens up into different sections and rooms. One of the first things you see is the Yule Ball section, featuring Hermione’s now iconic pink dress and Ron’s equally infamous dress robes. Apparently when the movie first came out, the pink dress was controversial since the books specifically mentioned that Hermione was wearing a periwinkle dress. However, I believe the story goes that the costume designer determined that wasn’t a good color on Emma Watson, and the pink dress was born.
As mentioned before, each little set room had examples of the characters who might be involved with that set. There was a taste of everyone, from the kids to the staff members and various other adults in the Harry Potter universe. Multiple versions of Harry, Ron and Hermione could be seen through the exhibit:
Some examples of the staff and other adults. I loved being able to see all the little details and the textures. One of my favorite things to do is play with different textures and types of fabrics to create quirky looks.
One thing that I loved seeing at the studio tour was the organization strategies. As a costume designer, I am always on the lookout for the best way to organize vast amount of costumes, so I was really happy to see a big budget production using my basic method: storage bins with hand written labels! It’s a simple and obvious solution, but you would imagine a big-budget movie franchise to have a more sophisticated system. One section also showed the organization of the Gringotts goblins, with their shoes and socks on their hangers.
I definitely want to try and implement some of these strategies in next year’s musical. I would also love to check out more costuming exhibits with behind-the-scenes stuff like this. It’s amazing to look at costumes, but even better to see the little trade secrets here and there. I’m sure everyone has their own methods of organization and there’s no specific standard, but it’s still fun to see them all!
One costume I would’ve loved to have seen is Fleur Delacour’s wedding dress. It’s one of my favorite costumes from the entire series. Designer Jany Temime has said, “Fleur’s dress was made in organiza and decorated with a pair of phoenixes that face each other on the bodice and form the silhouette of a hear. I chose the phoenix because, like love, it is eternal.” However, it seems as though there was a lot of controversy surrounding this as it was almost an exact copy of an Alexander McQueen gown that graced the runways before the movie came out. I love it either way.
There is a small part of me that would totally get married in this.
It was fun to see a bunch of the costumes from the movies, even though I wish there had been more information about them. It seems, however, that the costumes took a backseat to all the insane set details that went into the making of Harry Potter. Either way, however, it’s a really fun way to spend a few hours if you’re visiting London, especially if you’re a Harry Potter nerd like me!