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 EugĂ¨ne 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
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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