Costume designer Louise Frogley had already read and loved the book Unbroken that Angelina Jolie’s film is based on when she was called in to meet the director to discuss working on the film. Known for her work on Iron Man 3 (2013), Flight (2012), Traffic (2000) and Quantum of Solace (2008), Frogley had also always wanted to work in Australia, where the film about Olympian and POW survivor Louis Zamperini was shot.
Frogley dove into the story by doing extensive research during the seven-week prep time, which was not without its challenges especially because of the Olympic sequences. Frogley looked everywhere for a photographic history but all the photographs she found were in black and white. Without a color reference to look to, the costume designer was stumped. Not wanting to guess at the colors of the Olympic costumes, she searched tirelessly for more images. “In the end I found, in Berlin, a book of cigarette cards that had been colored in and we used those as the basis to track down how each country had used the colors,” said Frogley.
Color played a significant role in the telling of this story. “Angelina is very conscious of color and it informed a lot of her decisions,” Frogley explained. The color of the soil at the Japanese POW camp was even changed to better suit Jolie’s aesthetics and vision. As for the costumes, the direction was just as specific. “We never used green, we didn’t use much blue, just a tiny bit, we used a lot of earth tones.”
Many of the costumes for the main characters, such as the mother, were designed. The men’s costumes were mostly rented except for the Olympic uniforms. All the men’s shirts and ties were also made so they could be a perfect fit and look fresh. Frogley’s favorite character to dress was Zamperini (Jack O’Connell) and her favorite outfit on him was his running clothes. “They’re so particular. They were homemade in those days. People didn’t always even have sewing machines so everybody’s running clothes were always a bit lumpy and a bit off. I find that very endearing, very charming,” she said. The lettering on his running clothes was hand sewn to give a distinctly wobbly, less than perfect feel.
The costume designer’s favorite memory on set was working with her Australian crew. She had never worked with this particular crew but found the collaboration perfect because the people were wonderful to be around.”They had so much joy in their work. It was a pleasure to go into work everyday. It was exciting. I’d work with them anytime.”