Thrift finds from Budapest, custom Galliano and archival Dior: all in a day’s work when your leading lady is Charlize Theron.
“It’s great when they are trying to find the character with you,” says costume designer Cindy Evans, about working with Theron and her costar Sofia Boutella in the spy movie “Atomic Blonde,” out today. “That’s really what a costume designer is there to do: help the actor find the character.”
The spy flick is set in Eighties Germany during the period leading up to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Theron plays an English MI6 operative named Lorraine sent to Berlin after the death of her lover and colleague to discover the identity of a double-agent known as Satchel, and retrieve a list of English secret agents that has fallen into the hands of a German espionage ring. Boutella plays a French spy who becomes the MI6 agent’s lover.
Given the action-element, Evans had to consider costumes that wouldn’t just look cool but perform.
“A lot of the fabrics I used, especially for that stairwell fight, were super stretchy — like [Theron’s] pants,” Evans says of the five-minute scene. “Also, a lot of the boots were Stuart Weitzman, because he happened to be doing a sort of Debbie Harry boot at the time, and the inside of the boot was stretchy.…The fight sequences were so choreographed, and from past experiences, I knew that we had to pad [Theron] up at some point and protect her as much as we could.”
Though the fabrics were carefully considered, Evans had more leeway for Theron’s fashionable ensembles. The costume designer tapped into Dior archival pieces, including a stunning red coat, and John Galliano himself created a custom white vinyl jacket for another one of Theron’s more memorable action scenes.
“I think for her character, in particular, I tried to keep her in her own world,” Evans says. “I went through a lot of research and images. There was something about Lorraine, her strength and how savage she is….I looked at a lot of Helmut Newton photographs from the Seventies and the Eighties, and I thought, ‘If I ground her in a timeless sartorial elegance, then I feel the spirit of the Eighties will be worn in an evocative and graphic way.'”