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HomeCraftsCostume DesignCraft Spotlight: I Care A Lot Costume Designer Discusses Rosamund Pike’s Stunning...

Craft Spotlight: I Care A Lot Costume Designer Discusses Rosamund Pike’s Stunning Wardrobe

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I Care a Lot
Rosamund Pike in I Care a Lot (Photo: Seacia Pavao)

Rosamund Pike just won a deserved Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Musical or Comedy for her turn as con artist Marla Grayson in Netflix’s I Care a Lot. As Pike’s character trapezes about scamming senior citizens who live in a retirement community and even engaging in a high-stakes kidnapping, she exudes a confidence that has come to characterize Pike’s onscreen career.

Deborah Newhall
Deborah Newhall

As most actors will tell you, telegraphing that sort of poise requires feeling comfortable in one’s own skin–and one’s own clothes. Last week, Below the Line spoke to Deborah Newhall, the Costume Designer behind Marla Grayson’s eye-catching wardrobe and accessories in this darkly funny movie. Read on to find out what designers she loves to shop for—and did—and what she wanted the various wardrobe changes to convey about Pike’s problematic but ultimately easy to root for character.

I Care a Lot
Design for Marla’s First Look

Below the Line: How did you get involved in this project and what were your thoughts out of the gate about how you could dress up this character?

Deborah Newhall: I had a call from a producer that I had worked me with before. She told me about this project she was going to be working on. The director, J [Blakeson], was still in London, so I could not share my thoughts with him just then and make sure I was going to be signed on.

As I first read it, I thought it was a very dark, stone cold drama. A very aggressive dark story. I thought our leading character was going to be a very sharp, even mean, strong silhouette—on the dark side, not very friendly. When I spoke to him, I had some boards and images along the lines, and he said, “They look great, but it’s a comedy.” (Laughing).

I said, “You’re kidding! Where’s the funny in this?” We talked about it, and it took me a while to wrap my head around it, but that challenge was fun. It was a fun giant twist in my mind about how to think about it. I wanted dark — he wanted color.

DeborahNewhallMarla2
Design for Marla’s 2nd Look

BTL: Once you came around to seeing I Care a Lot as a comedy, how did you go about finding the different colors that the character required?

Newhall: As you know, we ended up with a lot of light and a lot of color and only dark colors on Peter Dinklage’s character [Roman]. I saw the house that they were going to use for Jennifer [Dianne Wiest’s character], and it was royal blue with white trim and beautiful flowers and it was going to be one of the first places we were filming. So I thought, “What would be great there is, Marla has to be in yellow, it would fit perfectly.” Up against that blue house, it stuck in my head as the right thing.

That is how I landed on that daffodil yellow suit that she wears. I went from there—that triggered everything else, really, it all followed from that. I do a lot of notes when I read the script, and I do a breakdown and sketches in the margins of my thinking and some references. When I was doing that, there was a color story. I always do that in everything I work on. The color and the costumes can really enhance an actor’s moment and their dialogue, at least if it’s tuned in carefully to what’s going on.

The first time you see her in Jennifer’s house, she’s in a very nice, perfectly good-looking disguise. You don’t mind opening the door for that person. It was her friendly, appealing, and trustworthy moment.

BTL: What about the other yellow suit that Marla wears? Why that other yellow?

Newhall: I call that one the buttercream yellow suit. It’s a highlight moment, and what comes before and after, was complicated. It has to do a lot of things, because she is going to the jeweler — and you don’t want the dress to convey anything just yet there — but then of course, she is kidnapped and is in a tank of water and knowing that she was going to be in a tank of water I wanted that color to show up in the dark but relate to what she looked like before so that the audience could be familiar with the first silhouette. That is what I mean by a color story — one color evokes the other and it tells you part of the story.

Another look for Marla
Another look for Marla

BTL: Talk to me about the long trench coat that Marla wears. Why a trench coat, and why that one?

Newhall: Jay wanted a coat for her outdoors scene, and he wanted it interesting or fun. I found exactly one coat. We were in New York where we did the only set of fittings, and I had been out shopping and this coat just jumped off the rack at me when I was at Saks. I then wanted to see her move in it and how it filled the frame—I wanted a sweep, something powerful. It had this beautiful unusual cut for a coat of that nature. Rosamund did a twirl and it swept through and she said, “I can make this work.” We were done.

BTL: What were some of the lines you used for Rosamund?

Newhall: Some of it was Dior, but there was a lot of Victoria Beckham. I had that in mind for her as fitting her body and she agreed—we wanted a clean lean silhouette type wardrobe. I did a virtual pull on my phone with the folks in London, and Rosamund was kind enough to pack all of that stuff into her suitcase (she’s a great packer!) and brought it to Boston for the shoot. Some of the stuff we ended up using came from that, including the red dress she uses, and the patterned top, not quite floral, that she uses with a coat in her office.

The dress where she is in the hospital with her feet up on Peter Dinklage’s character’s bed was also Victoria Beckham, but I found those in a resale shop, which I couldn’t believe. It was a white cut dress with little islet patterns and the shoulders. She looks very innocent when she is at her most devious, as she sits there with her coffee. I thought that was perfect for that moment.

I Care A Lot
Peter Dinklage (L) with Pike

BTL: Tell us how you came along to the white suit that Rosamund’s character wears towards the end of the film in a key scene in the story?

Newhall: As we moved along, the idea was to remove color. She becomes more successful and more untouchable. It leads to more clarity in what she wears and how she looks. So we came up with wanting white, and white sparkling earrings too. That ended up being my favorite costume by the way. Rosamund had like four or five pairs of earrings from her favorite brand and those were one of those.

BTL: What about the disguises for the kidnapping scene, how did you come up with those?

Newhall: That was very fun. For Marla it was finding a coat that made sense — all of a sudden I see a coat hanging as I was shopping, I got it, put it on her with some jeans, and a hoodie later that night, and it all just fit perfectly. For Roman, I wanted something opposite from the dark stuff he wears, something where he could blend into the crowd, so I thought of a fun and simple tracksuit that makes him supposedly think he’s hiding but calls some attention to himself.

Marla's white dress
Marla’s white dress

BTL: Where did the uniforms come for the staff at the nursing home, Berkshire Oaks?

Newhall: I found those online and I wanted the place to feel like a spa. The colors had to be soft and have the women all feel the same. So that the clients there are so fogged over in medication, that they can’t tell who’s who or connect who’s giving them this pill or that pill. I went for a soothing blandness for them. The orderlies were a tad darker because they were basically musclemen.

BTL: Tell us about how it was working with Rosamund Pike as a costume designer? We’ve heard how some actors are very hands on and some are happy to follow the designer’s lead. Where did she fall in that spectrum?

Newhall: I’ve done thousands of fitting, and I’ve found all of these types—you have to be a teacher and a psychologist and a mother. What I do is I call everybody very early on, so that they can never come to me without the benefit of that conversation first. I even call supporting actors to check in, get their sizes—the idea is to make them feel involved at the beginning so that they know me before they come see me and take off their clothes. This is a process worth doing—whether it all gets used or not does not matter.

As for Rosamund, she was very open and ready to go. The first fitting she was very tired from traveling. But we got through quite a bit that day. She is good. She understands what my job is, and she can sense what to comment on and what is going to work. After that first conversation I had so many ideas and many feet on the ground at the racks as the concept of the movie had crystallized. Then we were just laughing through all of it, because it was all working so well.

I had found shoes in the brand that she liked and when she brought it up, I was like, “Wait a second, I have them already!” So we clicked very quickly and that made my job easier.

 I Care a Lot is now available to stream on Netflix. All photos courtesy of Netflix except for sketch illustrations, courtesy of Deborah Newhall. (Click on images for larger versions.)

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