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Magali Guidasci On Creating The Costumes of The Magicians

SyFy’s The Magicians features costumes by Magali Guidasci. She talks to Awards Daily TV’s Jazz Tangcay about what it takes to outfit this magical world.

Magali Guidasci got her start in costume design rather by accident. She hadn’t studied the profession, but an injury changed her career and life. Since then, Guidasci has worked designing costumes for films such as Alien v. Predator and Zombieland. Now ventured into television, Guidasci designs the magical costumes for The Magicians. I caught up with Guidasci on how costuming for film and television differ, and how she creates the magical look of Fillory for the Syfy hit.

Tell us how you got your start in costume design.

Oh dear. That’s already a long story. I started so young. We say things happen by accident. I was planning on being a dancer and I studied that and found an incredible mentor, but then I had an accident and ended up being really depressed about it. Then, I met a great actor and producer in France, and he got me into assisting him. I was on set with him working alongside him, and after organizing his meetings and I got to observe more about this profession. The next thing I knew, I was asked what I wanted to do. I thought I wanted to do makeup, but the makeup artist took that the wrong way and that didn’t happen. But, I thanked him because it turned out the costume department needed a hand, and I volunteered in that department. The next thing I knew, I felt like a fish in water, and they say things happen for a reason. That was definitely the case because here we are talking costume.

My background is in art and I liked making my own clothes, but I never studied it professionally. It took catching up because the second you’re interested in a field you read up, you study up on it. Slowly but surely.

Do you have a style book for The Magicians?

It’s a mix. I decided early on with this, not to read the book. I’ve only just started it actually. I told the writer, I didn’t want to read it because I really wanted to focus on what John McNamara and Sera Gamble wanted to convey and focus on how the story was told as episodic. After that, I started season two with the reference of our characters from season one and bring them and who they were into this new world.

As far as the world goes, I proposed what I had in mind. The way John and Sera described Fillory, we are agreed that it wouldn’t have much technology. It wasn’t futuristic with chemical compounds. It was all natural and the world was set up by the production designers with natural light. The world was magical, we never wanted to make it high tech.

The first thing was to elaborate the concept for who was actually living inside and around the castle, the guards, the servants, the field workers and then you had to produce that in numbers. For that, I thought I’d do sketches and created this world of colors and gathered material for a mood board.

I wanted to create a universal language that was inspiring.

There are so many different looks in the series. How do you create and distinguish the looks between the worlds so seamlessly?

I pay attention to production design and the DP. When we start the season, we discuss things conceptually and how we can support each other. Once we knew the coloration and how to depict one path to another. So, we have one world that is very grayish. When you talk about libraries, it looks like the mindset vaguely refers to an era, say the 50’s. I bounced back to that and thought why be literal? I wanted to create the feel of that era, but not directly.

They other teams enjoyed the collaborative process, and once we had defined the palette it became fluent. The more you get an idea of the character, you have an idea of their story and what you’re going to do with their look. So, Eliot wants to keep his style. I knew who he was in my head. And what’s going to stop Margo?

The others were fun to create. You talked about Kingdom. What colors are powerful and define that environment. I felt it necessary to go to the primal colors and use reds and blues and golds. They’re very present.

Then you have the White Lady. Were you involved in that?

That wasn’t me. She’s a full creature that I didn’t take care of. It’s beautiful! That was completely molded and it had to be approached differently. They did something with latex to create her.

The worlds are great and that’s what’s so much fun about the show, all the different worlds, the creatures, and how they’re made.

They used nude tones, but mainly white.

You have an extensive background in film. How does that differ to TV? With film, you’re covering usually one period. With TV you have so many to churn out?

I binged TV to understand the language. It didn’t change my approach. I have to focus because as you say, it’s extremely quick. It’s almost like doing half a feature film. There are inner stories within episodes and you have to think fast. We’re fabricating nonstop. Sometimes we have a little extra time and we get to think how to turn that into a costume, but otherwise, it’s a faster process. We have to turn things around in a few days, and that’s a major difference and you have to be focused because you don’t have the time.

In a feature film, you can prep and have time to think about your concept. Usually, actors are cast early, but sometimes we’ll get information and we get to speak to the actors, but sometimes if there are late changes, we don’t get that chance.

With TV, you need to know how to get it done fast and get something done that works.

The Magicians airs Wednesdays at 9pm ET on SyFy.