The stories behind Emma Stone’s wardrobe in ‘Poor Things’


Designer Holly Waddington had ample freedom when imagining the costumes for “Poor Things,” Yorgos Lanthimos’ screwball comedy starring Emma Stone.

“The only thing that was really important was that I didn’t want it to be overtly like a period drama” (the script is set in the 1880s) “and I didn’t want it to be overtly like a sci-fi movie,” Waddington said. . In the film (winner of the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and now nominated for an Oscar), Stone is the creation of a scientist who goes from a naive girl to a sexual and politically liberated woman.

Greek-born director Lanthimos, known for his surrealist vision, gave Waddington only one reference image: a young designer’s version of “inflatable pants,” Waddington recalled. When they were swollen, “they created this really exaggerated, incredibly curvaceous shape.” He worked with other departments, such as production design and hair and makeup, to finish the look of Stone’s Bella Baxter, whose life changes on a Grand Tour through cities like Lisbon.

Many things became clear when Waddington learned that Bella would have long, jet-black hair; A painting by Egon Schiele was Lanthimos’ inspiration for it, he said, and it served as the basis for his color palette. Another thing to consider in a movie with a lot of sex scenes: how the clothes come off. “I had a lot of slightly uncomfortable conversations with Yorgos about it,” he said. “He asked me, how does she have sex with these? He was probably a little embarrassed. But she is not at all.”

Waddington knew her as a Victorian; She spent years working in a costume house, specializing in archival women’s fashion. But for this film, she stopped wearing corsetry (a terrifying prospect at first, she said, because corsets shape period clothing) and mixed eras and materials. At first, Mrs. Prim, the medical assistant turned nanny, chooses Bella’s wardrobe; then she finds her own style. “Her clothes really had to change with her,” Waddington said.

Beyond that, Lanthimos offered conceptual freedom. “You just don’t need to have a whole backstory,” he said. If he looked good, he flew. Bella’s statement sleeves are already having a moment.

In a video interview from his home in London, Waddington talked about how and why he dressed Stone in three key moments in the film. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

That look around the house is based on the idea that she is a very little girl right now. And she is being dressed by Mrs. Prim, who finds her really annoying. Her clothes are not baby clothes, they are feminine, but they are applied in this slightly ad hoc way, because she has the physique of a girl. Very quickly, things have been taken apart and detached. And this is simply based on my own observations of children: even if you go to a fancy occasion, clothes, especially from the waist down, often fall off. It’s just a slightly jarring and uncomfortable way to dress a woman, like an anxiety dream about going to a job interview wearing a suit on top and nothing on the bottom, just panties.

The panties are almost like 50’s diaper covers and have a lot of texture – seersucker. And then there’s this big bodice, a very thick moiré taffeta. The thickness of the fabric is almost too thick for human scale, which is what you get when you look at dolls. Her fabrics often look like marzipan, like cake decorations. Also, the striations in the moiré seem to me like organic marks you get on meat.

He’s wearing this fun little bustle, one of my favorite things about the movie. It is based on an authentic late Victorian bustle cage that would have been worn under the dress to give it volume. What caught my attention is that it seemed super science fiction.

During the pandemic, producers arranged for him to come meet Emma. I took many different versions of sleeves: large sleeves, medium sized ones. I took many different types of panties. I had an idea of ​​how I wanted it to progress, but it was really in that test, trying all these shapes on Emma, ​​that I was able to say, OK, we definitely need a bustle, we need these special 1930s tap dancing pants that I had just made. throw in the suitcase at the last minute. They were a departure from baby panties. In Lisbon, they are silky and fluid: they have grown up and are sexy.

I knew I wanted her to leave the hotel dressed in something really discordant. And she was thinking about that scene in “Taxi Driver” when Jodie Foster goes out on the streets of New York in these shorts.

The ruffled top is based on a modest piece of Victorian dresses: they filled out the neckline, but on their own they are like a small handkerchief or bib. And I like the idea of ​​her just wearing it, in its own right, as a blouse. What she actually wears are pieces of underwear as clothes.

The boots are a small tribute to André Courrèges. Early in development, I looked at late ’60s and early ’70s sci-fi costumes and modernist space-age fashion. So those boots are based on the idea that her toes are free, because she’s just uncontainable: she’s exposing every aspect of her, including her feet. Peep-toe boots would never have existed in Victorian society. They didn’t even show their ankles.

The colors gold, yellow and sky blue are undoubtedly a combination that we associate with many fairy tale characters. He entered the world and it opened up to him, sort of a Disney version of how you imagine Lisbon, all in pastel colors. She wanted the clothes to reflect that joy and optimism.

I liked the idea of ​​it being a cage, with bands of delicate silk tubes. Hopefully evoking this feeling of entrapment, but you could still see her and see her body, that felt important. And also these sleeves.

We had this pattern book from the 1890s, my assistant got it from an antiques dealer in Portobello Market. The patterns of the current period are much more extreme than we imagine. This is a very brief period of fashion where there were huge mutton sleeves. I thought they should be even bigger, really huge. And Yorgos was really prepared for the big races. The sleeve of the wedding dress probably measures about a meter all the way around. They look like balloons.

I struggled with the veil because I didn’t feel like it was right for this character. But then I brought it to Emma the morning of the shoot, and she grabbed it and wrapped it around her face in a knot.

I quite like the fact that it’s see-through, light, and big, and it’s also her favorite costume, because her body felt so free in it.

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