'Hunger Games' cast is dressed to thrill

Posted: March 21, 2012

The Hunger Games is a visual smorgasbord of a movie, a cast of hundreds dressed in everything from utilitarian garb with Depression-era grit to glam-gone-grotesque Gaga getups inspired by the latest haute couture.

It may seem as if it doesn't get much better than this for a costume designer. But the pressure is on to please fans of author Suzanne Collins' YA trilogy; the film opens Friday.

"I tried to stay as close to the descriptions in the book as I could," says costume designer Judianna Makovsky. "When I was doing Harry Potter, I changed to an unlisted phone number because I was so terrified I was going to disappoint people."

The film depicts a dystopian universe of haves and have-nots, with a glittering Capitol that is the seat of "let-them-eat-cake" power, and the outlying districts, including the drab, impoverished District 12 that is Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta's home. The annual Hunger Games, a live-broadcast fight to the death, require a boy and a girl participant from each district.

Costumes in the film look wonderful and also reflect today's fashion world.

The beauty of the clothes in District 12, for example, recalls fashion's fascination with vintage work wear, authenticity, and Americana, which is seen in "heritage" brands such as L.L. Bean. And the outrageous clothing in the Capitol brings to mind the see-and-be-photographed blogger culture that celebrates the kookiest among us - think Nicki Minaj.

Makovsky started her research by looking at photographs of working-class people from the turn of the 19th century to the 1960s in Appalachia and other places, particularly images by Lewis Hine and Mike Disfarmer.

A pair of striped pants Katniss wears to hunt were made from an 1870s Levi Strauss pattern. Her caramel-colored leather jacket was modeled after 1940s styles plucked from costume houses.

For inspiration for the Capitol costumes, Makovsky looked at Italian Fascist architecture and the work of 1930s and '40s designer Elsa Schiaparelli for her "sense of elegance and amusement."

Filmgoers get their first taste of the Capitol when Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks), the ambassador to the Hunger Games, arrives for the Reaping dressed in a bum-hugging fuchsia dress and a pink wig. Her gold booties are from Alexander McQueen.

For the "girl on fire" dress Katniss wears on the eve of the games, Makovsky was inspired by Orry-Kelly's transformative gowns in the 1962 film Gypsy, starring Natalie Wood, who transforms into legendary burlesque performer Gypsy Rose Lee.

"We all wanted to go crazy with the costumes, but sometimes it was better to be subtle. It was important to be able to see the characters through the clothes."

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