Fashion and Fantasy — Dressing the Land of Oz

The residents of the Land of Oz are enchanting lot, from scruffy Tinkers to Winkies who tower more than seven feet tall. In “Oz The Great and Powerful,” opening Friday, we meet these people and many more, from glamorous witches to the residents of the Emerald City. Each of these people has his or her own distinct clothing, hairstyle, and appearance — a level of detail that makes the Land of Oz feel as real as the world outside our doors.

Costumer Gary Jones explains, “[Director] Sam Raimi wanted the characters to be relatable, even though they are in this fantastical world. That was one of our big challenges.” For that reason, the costume and makeup departments chose not to use the illustrations in L. Frank Baum’s “Oz” books as a reference, because they were “too otherworldly” for the vision of Oz they hoped to create.

Where did they look instead? Inspiration came from a combination of period dressing, art history, and even architecture. The resulting looks drew on the real world without being too identified with a particular time or place. For instance, says Gary, “For Theodora [played by Mila Kunis], there were elements of Fragonard paintings and early American riding costumes. These ideas were put together from various paintings and research, and drawn beautifully by my co-designer, Michael Kutsche, who did all the costume drawings. They come from the woodland paintings of the late 19th and early 20th century. And then in her second costume, we need to see that she has a more romantic side, so she is wearing a very lovely dress reminiscent of that same period.”

Each of the three witches has a signature style. While Theodora’s is turn-of-the-century, Evanora’s gowns recall art-deco architecture and the heavily beaded dresses popular in the 1920s (look closely at her costumes and you’ll see how they echo the decorative details of the Emerald City itself). Glinda’s costumes are sparkly, ethereal, and full of details that suggest lightness and flight, as befits a lady who travels by soap bubble.

Just as much care went into dressing those performers known as “background artists” – the Winkies, Quadlings, Tinkers, and other residents of Oz. According to lead makeup artist Vivian Baker, “Even though we have always these great costumes for the principals, I think one of the funnest things that we did were all the citizens in the background. They really set the tone for the film. Sam wanted it to feel as if we were in a different world, but there was a familiar part of it. As if you were in a dream, you never feel like you’re in the wrong place – it’s strangely familiar.”

In fact, Sam felt this was so important that he did something almost unheard-of for a film director. “Sam chose every single face you see on camera. He’s amazing!” marvels Vivian. “Every background person in Kansas, every Quadling, every Emerald City resident, every Munchkin, every Winkie, he chose personally. And then once they were all done with their final wardrobe, hair, and makeup tests, he looked at every single one before they went on camera.”

As you watch the film, pay close attention to each character. Even the youngest child or that Tinker standing in the back of a group has a unique look, from shoes to hairstyle – just like people in the real world. “Each background person was designed individually, and each makeup was designed individually – every hair style, every beard (and this is a movie with a lot of beards!),” Vivian explains. “I had a team of people there, so I would design the look and design the colors in it, and we would have it made specifically for them. And that NEVER happens in movies!”

Winkie Costume Illustration

To outfit so many background artists, the costume and makeup crew worked in batches – as one segment of the film was being filmed, they would work feverishly to prepare the background artists who would appear in the next segment. Gary adds, “Each segment, from the time a character came to us until they were ready to appear on camera, probably took about eight weeks to outfit.”

This level of attention to detail is rare and time-consuming – but the results are worth the pains taken. Says Vivian, “There was such a cohesive vision of all the departments that came together, from production design to set dressing to props to casting. We were all in the same place. You don’t see one piece standing out because it’s perfectly put together down to the details.”

Gary concludes, “When I finally saw the completed film it was so different than what I was expecting – because it’s better. It took all of our work, and the technology and artistry of post-production, and made it more.” We’ll get to see for ourselves on Friday, when “Oz The Great and Powerful” blows into theaters. Keep an eye on every sequin, eyebrow, and waistcoat — we guarantee there will be marvelous things to see! And if you fall in love with the fashions in the film, don’t miss DisneyStore.com’s limited-edition adult costumes. You can choose Glinda or the Wicked Witch of the West, for a touch of witchy glamour that will enchant all who behold you.

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