Following the Story’s Thread
Costumes play an important role in bringing out the characters in MOONRISE KINGDOM
For what the actors would be wearing, “Wes had done a lot of initial research,” comments costume designer Kasia Walicka Maimone, who with Anderson pored through a multitude of photography, mostly in book form, looking for inspirations “that would enrich and expand the characters,” as she notes. From a clearly articulated vision and framework, she could enhance and execute his concepts.
She says, “The next steps were to produce collages and very rough sketches. He would give me immediate feedback and we would further define what was needed.
“In the fittings, there would always be a moment of adjustment; not just, ‘Do we need to change a color or a shape?’ but, ‘Does what we created resonate?’”
Dawson remarks, “The costumes are detailed and intricate, and have little elements drawn from different reference points.
“The animal costumes in the Noah’s Ark church pageant sequences were influenced by “Carnival of the Animals” as interpreted by Leonard Bernstein and Benjamin Britten; as a kid, Wes was in a production of that, so we looked at photos from his family and from the production’s conductor.”
In line with the creative track the production was taking, the majority of the costumes were handmade. “A lot of them had starting points in real vintage pieces or research,” Walicka Maimone says. “But then we would make it our own, while always adhering to Wes’ vision.”
The actors’ input was solicited, although flattering fitting results were not a given; Bill Murray sighs, “[My character of] Mr. Bishop’s pants are made out of separate squares of loud material sewn together – and they’re so short.”
Even so, clarifies Walicka Maimone, “Mr. Bishop’s costumes are the most toned-down of anyone’s; his character is more conservative than the others.
“The longest search came for Suzy’s Sunday school saddle shoes, because after our research we realized we were looking for ones with leather soles, as they had in the 1960s; contemporary ones don’t have leather soles. We ultimately got a blue pair and a red pair, one in a store in New York City and one online.”
But the biggest sartorial challenge was the design for, and subsequent manufacture of, the uniforms for the Khaki Scouts. After consulting with Anderson and production designer Adam Stockhausen, Walicka Maimone and her department created every single element of the uniforms, from the socks to the activity buttons. It was a massive amount of work, completed in a short amount of time; raccoon mascot insignia patches, made out of felt, were hand-sewn onto the uniforms.
The group of Khaki Scout extras was made up largely of scout troops from Narragansett Bay, who were happy to report for extras duty and experience moviemaking firsthand; as Murray reports, “Some of them earned a merit badge in cinematography.” But the boys did have to leave their 21st-century uniforms at home.
“We had a lot of Khaki Scouts in large-scale scenes,” says Walicka Maimone. “I think the final number of uniforms we created was 350.”
She adds, “The Scout uniforms and Suzy’s outfit were my absolute favorites, but I also particularly enjoyed doing the ones for Scout Master Ward, Mr. Bishop, and Social Services.”
In MOONRISE KINGDOM, the latter is neither a department nor a group, but rather the name of a character; Tilda Swinton was cast as Social Services.
Real-life social services workers did not wear uniforms, so Walicka Maimone turned to the Salvation Army for inspiration as well as to women-in-service uniforms. She then accentuated shapes and extended capes until she came up with the final outfit – one eagerly donned by Swinton, hat-wig and all.
“Social Services’ uniform was the most structured, the most physically tailored piece we had,” says Walicka Maimone.
Swinton elaborates, “Social Services represents authority, force majeure; when mayhem erupts, she is called in to impose order. Social Services wears a blue-and-white uniform, a pantsuit. Atop her head is a Salvation Army officer-style hat. Tied around her neck is a red ribbon, in a bow.
“There are several cinematic references, and actresses and actors, which inspired us; I loved playing that out with Wes.”
In contrast, the costume for Frances McDormand’s character of Mrs. Bishop reflects an amalgamation of women artists, painters, and writers from the 1960s. The back story proffered by Anderson was that, though Mrs. Bishop is a lawyer, she grew up in a house full of creative types and so her costuming is infused with more colorful elements.
As Swinton notes wistfully, “My mother wore clothes like those that Fran wears. I remember all these colors from my early childhood in a very visceral way; the costumes are so accurate.
“In this story, our community of adults doesn’t really know what they’re doing and in the process find themselves to be no less childlike, and no more grown-up, than the two children. It was great fun, a real joy, to be part of this movie. There is such a playfulness in it because there is absolute structure.”