Legend is the story of identical twin gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two of British history’s most notorious criminals. The film, directed by Brian Helgeland, is set in the East End of London during the 1960s and on hand to design the costumes of the era was costume designer Caroline Harris, who is known for her work on A Knight’s Tale (2001), 42 (2013) and Repo Men (2010). This is Harris’ fourth collaboration with the director and she was on board and excited about working on this film and time period as soon as Helgeland approached her with the project.
She dove deep into the research and studied London in the ’60s with great interest. “Compared to a lot of much older periods it’s very well documented. There’s a lot of photos of that period. There’s a fair amount of photos of the brothers themselves, a handful of photos of the wife. There’s also movies that were made of the time. It’s a period, I think, that we revisit in the U.K. quite a lot which was an interesting challenge because there’s so many ways of looking at it,” Harris said. She set her own focus on the early ’60s where people dressed very formally, instead of the swinging ’60s era, which came much later.
The clothes were all original, scavenged from markets and fairs and from online. The color palette Harris focused on was mostly dark and muted with some sparkles thrown into the mix. One of her favorite scenes to work on was the house party. “I liked that one because all the guys were there and it was a party so it was formal. It was one of my favorite dresses that Frances (Emily Browning) wore, with the lacy sleeves which actually had been this enormous, ugly, thing I found for 20 pounds that we carved up and made to fit her. It was one of those wild cards that shouldn’t have worked but eventually we made it work,” Harris said.
The major challenge on the film was making things work that shouldn’t have worked, especially in the area of finding enough clothes. Harris preferred buying to renting, so there was plenty of going around hunting things down. Being up for the difficulties and being enthusiastic and passionate is an attitude that helped Harris create magic and have a good time. “There’s never quite enough time. There’s never quite enough money. No matter how much you really have. So it’s a fun challenge,” she said.
It also helped that Harris had a wonderful existing relationship with the director and was working from her home base of London with a team she had collaborated with before. “It’s a great thing to work in my city that I know so well,” she said. Her experience working on this film was as lovely as could be. “My favorite memories are when it all comes together and the momentum’s going and my team is familiar with everything and we’re recreating a world together, feeling like it’s a real world.”