Joining the stable of Halloween thrillers and horror films, “Ouija: Origin of Evil” has taken an iconic gimmicky childhood relic back into the Sixties. While costumes are a current topic of conversation — with Halloween only days away — they’re something that Lynn Falconer thinks about year-round. We caught up with the costume designer to discuss her approach to the period film, which movies and personalities she referenced for the leading characters, and where she goes to find her best on-screen looks.
WWD: How would you sum up your vision for the film?
Lynn Falconer: My vision was always a very rich palette. There’s plenty of spook written into the scene. For Alice, I looked at Anita Pallenberg and then I mixed young Twiggy and young Françoise Hardy for the Lina character — she was kind of the balance between the two of them. The story started out as an earlier Sixties, but I kept going towards ’67 and ’68, which was getting into more hippier, bohemian laid-back styles. “Beautiful horror.” Very lush, and rooted in some really cool visions of the past.
WWD: How did you get involved with the film?
L.F.: I have sort of formed a film family around the director, whose name is Mike Flanagan. I would agree to the phone book with this guy. Two projects we did before were just really great experiences. Of course, when he presented [Ouija] to me, he was like ‘You’re going to have a lot of fun on this one.’ Because he knew my love of vintage. It was completely seamless, first the relationship with him and then the fact that I was going to have a party with the clothes, as one would say. It’s that great, spooky, ghost horror that I love. Ouija boards were part of my childhood, and it seemed like the film was going to be really interesting to work on. I grew up in the country and we had a lot of slumber parties, and Ouija boards were always coming out somewhere. It’s just such a part of my childhood.
WWD: Can you describe your costuming approach for the period of the Sixties? Where does your process start, with sketches or research?
L.F.: The thing that gives me the most joy in doing costume design is the research, and finding wonderful images. The internet has been really wonderful for that. Prior to getting on a computer, I’d go to the Art & Picture Collection in New York and just spend hours there, and go off on mini tangents and just learn about history. Now, I research the period and get a really firm foundation underneath it, and then just meander a little bit. There are some street blogs that I like, and I do think that is really important to visit what’s valid today and incorporate that so it’s appealing to the audiences, but also that its grounded in the period.
More than anything, I do really, really intense boards, and I share them with the director. I do these before I actually sit down with the director of photography and the production designer. Everybody gives their feedback, and we work together as a collective. That’s really the most enjoyable part of filmmaking. The next step after that is I start hunting. Even if it’s not a period film, I often get really into the estate sales, because I have a vintage business on the side. I always find incredibly wonderful things, and sometimes there’s just something that you don’t think belongs, that becomes central to a character.
WWD: Did you watch any of the thrillers from the Sixties for inspiration?
L.F.: As far as horror, “Rosemary’s Baby” for sure, because I really love that school boy collar. I use it a lot on my board, because I use that for Lina [the main character]. Another movie that I love to look at is “Les Biches,” and that’s a 1968 drama-thriller, but the wardrobe’s off-the-hook amazing. The direction I got from the DP was “The Exorcist” in terms of color palette. Ellen Burstyn’s wardrobe is incredible in that. From a movie standpoint, those were the references I looked at. I tend to look at personalities a lot more.
WWD: Where do you source your items from? Did you create anything original for the film?
L.F.: One of the challenging things with horror films is we also have to filter through the fact that we need a lot of duplicates, so I really make sure that the costume is a piece of equipment first whenever there’s that need. If I have the ability, I’ll try to always go with the vintage. There was a Zandra Rhodes vintage dress that I was dying to use, but I couldn’t re-create it.
I pride myself with being very good at blending contemporary with vintage influence, because again I’m always reaching for that timelessness. I hit a lot of estate sales, and then I’ll re-create from an actual body. Because sometimes our prep time is so short, sometimes you have to start with the body and then re-fabricate and re-create. And then other times, if you have the time and if you understand what the period is saying, you can find something very referential in stores, and I did some of that as well. Like Topshop, or Reformation, and J.Crew.