Every element to The Daniels’ Everything Everywhere All At Once deserves individual attention. There is simply too much going on at the same time that every detail needs to be examined in a careful and thoughtful way. Costume designer, Shirley Kurata, had the herculean task of establishing multiple worlds with color, texture, and fabric, and sometimes we only got a glimpse of that world. Everything needed to be cohesive within the blink of an eye, and the designer’s incredible knack for character-driven duds is spot-on.
This last Halloween, I was surprised by how many versions of Jamie Lee Curtis’ Deirdre I saw both in person and online. How did Kurata feel about seeing hundreds of her own designs mirrored back to her?
“It was such an honor and it was so flattering,” Kurata said. “When I first met with The Daniels, they said, ‘Make some costumes that people might want to wear for Halloween.’ No pressure, right? When Halloween came, I was blown away by all the work people put into them. It was seriously the biggest compliment anyone could get.”
In order for Kurata to jump into these crazy universes, she needed to first find a baseline look or style for everyone. As we all saw with HBO Max’s Genera+ion, Kurata is very steeped into where a character would get their clothes, and, with Everything Everywhere, there was no exception to that rule. Think about how you decide what you wear that day and how you look forward to shopping for yourself. Those decisions help Kurata easily find out what a character does and does not like to put on their own body.
“I like to think about where a character would shop,” she said. “Where would they go? For Evelyn, she is very busy and she doesn’t have a lot of money, so she would probably shop in Chinatown. I got the bulk of her clothes there, and Deirdre is more about comfort. She’s in the office all day, so I imagined she would buy her clothes at a place called like Comfort Zone. She is in the office all day, so her clothes might have some stretch to them. She’s into cats, and she has a purse with cats all over it. Color comes into play once I get pictures of the sets. The department heads met before shooting, and I tried to get a color for each world. I wanted to make sure that it was distinct from each other. Some are predetermined, so the laundromat had a lot of red for the Chinese New Year. I tried to avoid putting a lot of red in the other worlds. The Bagel Universe is dominantly white, but something like the Hot Dog Universe is quite literally the color of hot dogs. There’s a lot of beige and dusty rose in that world.”
The first time we see Stephanie Hsu’s Jobu Tupaki, we cannot see her face–it’s obscured by a stylish visor. There is something about the darkness of the color that gives us an idea of what’s to come but it also lends itself into the mysterious introduction. It’s sophisticated but ominous.
“I worked with Claudia Li in the past, and she had the cape already. I thought it was a good tie-in with Joy’s initial look with the grungy flannel. We had to obscure her face, so I asked Claudia if she could make a matching visor and face mask. You have to remember that this was before the general public here was wearing masks. To me, it was more of an Asian thing. I would see people wearing masks in Japan on the subway, so it was not part of every day life like it is now. It was a nod to the Asian fashion world. That was her entrance. We don’t know who she is yet, but it was a gun introduction to the world of Jobu.”
Throughout the film, we see glimpses of traditional Asian costumes, and that is something that Kurata was eager to lean into, especially when it was called for by the text. There is a red, leather jacket that reminded me or when American audiences first started to grasp the power of Michelle Yeoh on screen. She also looks gorgeous in her traditional opera garb,
“Some of them were scripted, so that was very straightforward,”Kurata said. “In what we call the Kung Fu Universe, that wasn’t super laid out in the script. Just watching some of Michelle’s prior martial arts movies it felt appropriate to go traditional in terms of the style. I watched a lot of Stephen Chow films because I liked his use of every day. I didn’t expect them to be amazing characters but then they were like in Kung Fu Hustle. You knew automatically that they were in a different world. The red coat was based off some of Michelle’s films from the late ’80s or early ’90s.”
My favorite look comes in the final battle between Evelyn and Joy when Hsu’s character is wearing a textured almost amalgamation of everything we have seen. Her emotions have pushed her to the brink that it looks like Jobu and Joy is about to burst and she doesn’t know what direction to take. A small, gorgeous detail comes when Hsu adopts a fighting stance and her fist is covered by a shiny, silver glove with a heart-shaped cutout. Joy longs for love and acceptance, but she has to fight for every inch of ground.
“I wanted to do something jumbled, and I call that the Jumbled Jobu look,” she said. “That was the only reference I had, and I thought it would be cool to make an outfit made up of elements of things she’s already worn and some elements of Joy. I draped it all over a black jumpsuit. There’s element of her golf look and she’s wearing her Converse as Joy. There’s a mini ruffle around her leg that’s a nod to the Bagel Universe. I am a big fan of Comme des Garçons and that was a nod to their avant-garde, runway looks. You know when you throw something in the dryer and you don’t throw a dryer sheet in there? It comes out looking a little jumbled together, and that’s what I wanted to kind of reference.”
Sometimes you purchase or find items that you want to put in a film, but you don’t exactly know where they will fit. There was a brief moment during the Joy/Evelyn fight where Hsu is clad in a stylish Vivienne Westwood noir look that Hsu was in love with.
“I had purchased that but I didn’t know where it would end up,” Kurata admitted. “It might have been the last day of shooting, and Stephanie [Hsu] really loved that suit. Midway through shooting, I didn’t know if there was a proper place. In that moment, we didn’t know what she was going to wear in the alley, so it was a nod to cinema in the ’40s. A little Blade Runner.”
There are so many items that I would want to take for myself. Waymond’s green, striped shirt is one that I could see myself taking or even the suit he wears to the premiere when Yeoh is wearing that gorgeous dress. An avid collector, Kurata would want something totally otherworldly that would certainly stand out.
“Some of it was from my closet actually like the Jeremy Scott Adidas,” she said. “It was from my kit. I would probably take the Bagel Universe look. I don’t have anything like that. It’s nice to be a goddess or princess casually if you can.”
Everything Everywhere All At Once is available to rent and purchase.