Academy Award-winner Jenny Beavan (Mad Max: Fury Road) could very well be in the hunt for a third Oscar after seeing the intricate creations she fashioned (pun intended) for Disney’s upcoming Cruella. The live action prequel explores the early days of the woman who would become Cruella de Vil (Emma Stone) as she wages fashion war against the Baroness (Emma Thompson).
Given the fashion world setting of the film, costume design emerged as absolutely critical to the success of the film. That key important wasn’t lost on Beavan, a veteran of classic costume dramas who won Oscars for the classic period looks for A Room with a View and the imaginative post-apocalyptic designs of Mad Max: Fury Road.
“I would say Mad Max was [my biggest challenge] because that was so out of my comfort zone,” Beavan explained. “[Cruella] was more in my comfort zone because I remember the ’70s. Our problem was time, but I had an amazing crew, an amazing team. Somehow, we did do it.”
Before creating the eventual 47 looks for Cruella and 33 looks for the Baroness, Beavan deliberated on the assignment for several days. Would she have enough time to create the proper costumes that a film of this size and scale would require. Particularly since major plot points within Cruella revolve around the fashion industry. Making matters worse, the initial budget for wardrobe preparations was 10 weeks. Fortunately (tongue firmly in cheek), Beavan scored six additional weeks due to a filmmaking delay centering around an Emma Stone injury.
Not exactly how you’d want additional time, but you take what you’re given, right?
Based on reactions from the initial trailer, some of the costumes created by Beavan have already achieved iconic status. Audiences buzzed about the white robe to which Stone’s Cruella sets fire, revealing a form-fitting red dress. In the film, Cruella sews the dress as a reimagining of one of the Baroness’s dresses to wear to the Baroness’s famed black and white ball.
“The dress itself was like a deconstruction of the Baroness’s dress. You can see over the bust the line taken from the Baroness’s original design. Then, we sort of cut it into strips,” Beavan instructed. “The color was chosen because it’s a black and white ball. So, it has to be the most standout color you can get which for me was always going to be red and seems a very suitable Cruella color.”
Thompson’s Baroness’s looks, by contrast, stemmed from more traditional 1970s fashion influences. In the film, the Baroness represents the height of establishment fashion, directly countering the hand-stitched, counterculture looks preferred by Cruella. Beavan scoured period Vogue magazines in addition to vintage Dior and Balenciaga collections.
It didn’t hurt that Emma Thompson provided a more-than-willing model.
“Emma Thompson has a stunningly good figure and loves wearing clothes like this. She really enjoys it which also brings something to the whole costume,” Beavan said. “I mean, if someone just stands in it, they just stand in it. But she just embodies it.”
Cruella premieres in theaters and on Disney+ Premier Access on May 28.