In Netflix’s Rebecca, Costume Designer Julian Day (Rocketman, Bohemian Rhapsody) customized alluring costumes with the touch of a bright, fresh, and exciting appearance so that modern audience could like and understand the clothes. Based on the 1938 novel by Daphne du Maurier – previously adapted for film in 1940 by Alfred Hitchcock —Rebecca follows a young and naïve woman smitten with wealthy Englishman Maxim de Winter (Armie Hammer) when they meet in the South of France. They’re soon married and move into the Manderley estate where the new Mrs. de Winter (Lily James) wrestles with the mystery of Maxim’s first wife Rebecca whose legacy is entrenched in the house.
The original Hitchcock film wasn’t used as a reference, but sources such as the novel, photography, and design catalogs were instrumental. Day referenced, “Daphne du Maurier’s book is fantastic, has lots of great ideas, and the base of everything. Photography is a really good place to start. We get people in real ways and it’s reflective of real people. I used original silhouettes. It’s all different shades and fabrics. I chose the big vivid colors. I found this amazing catalog in Paris. On each page, it has illustrations of the design of the clothes and the other side has little fabric swatches. One of the things I really took reference [from] was that the fabrics were vivid colors and they had incredible patterns. Lot of people think the ‘30s as boring and drab, not very many primary colors; but it was completely opposite with vivid yellows, blues, reds, and greens.”
The outfits and garments Lily James wears progress and transform from when she is first introduced to the very end. Her wardrobe transitions from a dull outfit to an array of various fabrics and ends with a form fitting power suit.“When we first meet her, she’s in a fuddy-duddy, dark, heavy, old, brown suit in the South of France. She’s then transformed into the first flashes of love. She wears cotton, silks, linens, some florals, and palazzo pants. Then we go to Manderley, where she gets sucked into the darkness, she almost takes on some of Rebecca’s London chic and fashion. I put her in a lot of form fitting skirts and blouses. I used a lot of pant suits on her which creates an interesting silhouette. Much inspiration came from strong characters from women in the 30s. In the end of the film, it’s this idea that she puts on a power suit and becomes the hero by saving Maxim from himself and everything around him,” the costume designer detailed.
Maxim stands out and is introduced in this bold yellow suit, as the costume designer illuminated, “Maxim lives in Manderley, where he wears tweeds and cords. When he’s on his holiday in the South of France, the crowds were in this off-white linens and creams and I wanted him to stand out in this yellow gold suit. That fabric is a representation of Lily’s character looking as if it’s the prize she is after. It was a different way of seeing how a man dresses in the 30s.”
Day continued, “For Mrs. Danvers, we built this very powerful, almost no corset like suit that was very restrictive and restraining. Her blouses were made in chiffon. The suit represents the idea of how a bruise changes over time; it starts blue, goes purply, then red, and finally ends up ochre. It was a manifestation of the pain that she felt when Rebecca is lost because she’s deeply in love and obsessional about Rebecca.”
The costume design incorporated over 300 costumes with Day utilizing a collection of fabrics from linens, silks, boyles, palazzo, cotton, tweeds, corduroy, chiffon, and Chanel fabric. “There were 300 costumes, about 40 of them were made. Each cast has maybe 10 outfits. Then we sourced all the clothes from vintage shops, vintage hire places, and dressed all the crowds. In the South of France, it was very lightweight linens, silks, boyles, and very naturalistic summery fabrics. The more the heavier tweeds and corduroy were used in Manderley. Lily’s suit for the end was this amazing Chanel fabric I found in France,” the costume designer described.
The color palette varied from pale colors to primary colors. “In the South of France, it was a very washed out palette with very pale colors for the crowd and the background but then our cast were in eye catching color. When we get to Manderley, the color shifts to greens and the very naturalistic colors of the of the countryside. The countryside includes the colors that we see all around us. It also fitted in with the seashore and the rock formation,” Day highlighted.
The costume design in Rebecca features a more modern design that reflects the current day and resonates with the audience. The spectrum with pale colors and vivid primary colors were fully inserted to accentuate the main cast, provide a strong contrast, and to showcase the naturalistic colors of the countryside.