Sometimes the perfect costumes are especially crucial to creating believable character and this is the case in James Marsh‘s The Theory of Everything, which explores the relationship between physicist Stephen Hawking (Eddie Redmayne) and his wife Jane (Felicity Jones). Enter costume designer Steven Noble, most notably known for his work in Never Let Me Go (2010), whose stimulating and truthful costumes help bring the characters to life so vividly.
The film spans four decades and the costumes are richly steeped in the research that Noble did to familiarize himself with the years covered. “You just immerse yourself in the characters’ world,” said Noble. “I went off to Cambridge quite often just to see where the locations were, what the light was like, what the background was like, what the textures of the stones were.” He explored the Internet and the libraries for more information on the main characters and he talked to as many people as possible who actually knew Hawking.
From there it was very much a collaboration with the director and the actors, who all had a say in how the characters should appear. Intense fittings followed where the two main characters changed into the 80-90 costumes they each had. Noble only had eight weeks of prep time so it was impossible to design everything. The costumes were a combination of ones designed by Noble and rented and scouted original pieces.
A few costumes were especially proud moments for Noble. “Steven Hawking’s opening outfit where he’s on a bicycle, where we first meet him going to the party where he’s going to meet the love of his life, I loved the outfit. I felt it sort of summed up the quirkiness of the character. I tried to give him an academic, bohemian feel in the beginning. I made his costume a little bit too tight, a little bit too short, a little bit awkward,” said the costume designer. The opposite approach was taken as Hawking is diagnosed with a disease. His clothes became larger to give an appearance that he was shrinking and that he was lost in his world.
The color palette was a collaboration between all the departments, with hair and makeup, with the production designer, with the director of photography. “I’m not one of the designers who uses a great deal of color. I think costumes should be seen and not heard unless it’s relevant to the scene and needs to pop out. In this case, I tried to keep everything as subtle as possible and as timeless as possible.” The decades covered in the film roll by seamlessly and one of the reasons for this is the color palette used in the costumes. The scenes all flow effortlessly. “We wanted to make it more of an emotional timeline than a period timeline,” said Noble.