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An International Effort: Costumes of the Film

As Hooper and LES MISERABLES' costume designer, Paco Delgado, began the translation of the characters from stage to screen, it remained of utmost importance for them to showcase clothes, not costumes. Drawing his inspiration from artists who worked in and around the period -- such as Eugène Delacroix and Francisco de Goya -- Delgado had to reflect all of the styles of clothing worn by many in multiple social castes throughout the story's 33-year span. He reflects: "We have covered so many things. We have made convicts, prostitutes and nuns. We have poor, and we have rich. It has been an amazing job."

Working closely with the production designer and hair and makeup teams, Delgado crafted a fascinating look for each of the characters. What was important to the designer, known for his work in such striking Spanish films as Inarritu's BIUTIFUL and Almodovar's BAD EDUCATION and THE SKIN I LIVE IN, was to blend historical accuracy with a bit of the surreal, honoring the period's grittiness while still offering escape from the end of the Napoleonic era. He sums: "When you normally approach a period movie, there's mostly the intention of reproducing reality with a lot of accuracy. Because this is a musical, and that's an unreal situation in life, we had to put some fantasy into it. We knew that we had to walk that line of reality and fantasy."

Discussing the main character's lifelong textural transitions, Delgado reflects: "Jean Valjean starts in a really rough situation. At the beginning, he is a convict with almost no expectations, and he has texture in every sense -- in his rough clothes and his beard. He's dead in his clothes. Then suddenly, little by little, he starts getting more sophisticated and socially accepted, and we have less texture and more fine materials. In terms of color, he comes into a much more sophisticated palette."

Upon Jackman's suggestion, Delgado padded Valjean's finery to help underscore the convict's transformation into Monsieur Madeleine. Although Valjean remains penitent for his sins, he has achieved a good deal of success, and Jackman felt his outfit (and weight) would reflect that growth.

While Valjean embraces change as his convictions are strengthened, the opposite goes for Javert. Delgado describes the men as "two sides of the same coin" and discusses how Javert becomes more calcified. He offers: "We worked with Javert in really dark colors, going from a lighter blue to a really dark, almost black." Delgado notes that Javert appears very similar from one production of the stage show to another. "It's like the character itself is asking you to be dressed that way."

Whereas the other Lovely Ladies' slightly transparent costumes were dictated by their choreography, Fantine was determined by her transformation, which is just as drastic as Valjean's. When we are introduced to her in the factory, dressed in simple muslin, she looks quite neat and as refined as a woman of her station would appear. But as her options run out, she is slowly degraded into filthiness. To make his already lean Fantine look even thinner, Delgado used clingy fabrics and airbrushed the sides of Hathaway's costumes with darker colors, to give her the look of a young woman vanishing from consumption.

When first we meet young Cosette, she is a waifish, raggedy girl who is working as a servant in the Thenardiers' inn. Conversely, their daughter, Eponine, is a prettified doll. Delgado explains how that all changes: "Ten years later, it's completely the opposite. It's like Alice in the mirror, but they have crossed in the opposite direction." As to the girls' guardians, Delgado refers to the Thenardiers as "the color of the movie." Always in hiding, the duplicitous pair were chameleons of the era.

It required a large crew to create the approximately 2,200 costumes for the masses of extras, and the team perfected designs across France, Spain, Italy and England. Unfortunately for the costumers, it was imperative that their work be destroyed. To ensure that the outfits looked as if they belonged on beggars and starving poor, Delgado's team literally ripped, shredded and cut (even blowtorched) their way through the outfits. Still, the close observer will note that the design team wove in the colors of the French flag throughout the epic. Whether it be the red of Enjolras' jacket at the barricade, the blue of Fantine's dress at the factory, or the white of Cosette's wedding dress and Valjean's garments as he lay dying, every decision was intentional. Vive la France.


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