The same dystopian North America that saw Katniss’ Mockingjay aid a rebellion serves as the backdrop to the franchise’s forthcoming film, The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. The difference? The new story takes place 65 years before the events of the original trilogy, a time jump that allowed director Francis Lawrence to imagine a retro aesthetic— a 1940s feel showcased through the film’s fashion and beauty.
“[The film’s] dystopian future meant I could create the period look but with the somewhat madness of post-war and push it with a little more eccentricity and a slightly edgy feel, especially on the Academy students and the Capitol crowd,” says Nikkie Gooley, who headed up the hair department, which included a team of up to 25 stylists. “We had it all on this film: wigs, swimming with wigs, scalp bleaches, bald caps, buzz cut wigs, cuts, colors!”
The film’s metaphorical “songbird” is Lucy Gray Baird (played by Rachel Zegler), a character who visually embodies her upbringing. “For Lucy’s character, she’s part of this group called the Covey—it’s kind of a troupe of traveling musicians and performers,” says costume designer Trish Sommerville, who created an eccentric ingenue through tiered tulle, smocked blouses, and hand-painted corsets. “She’s a bit vaudeville, so I really liked making her completely different from what we see of the Capitol.” Along with softness and handwork to juxtapose the Capitol’s regimented forms, Somerville incorporated Easter eggs for herself and the fans: look closely at Lucy’s corset, and you’ll find flowers known to District 12, including primrose and katniss.
The hair, makeup, and costume teams worked closely together to create a myriad of similarly meaningful moments reflective of both character personality and circumstance. Character looks were developed by the costume department—led by Sommerville—who provided references to hair and makeup. Intricacies of each District were incorporated into beauty looks for both utilitarian and visually pleasing purposes. “Each District is known for a different supply or manufacturing skill and different financial situations,” explains Gooley. “Tribute Wovey’s District 8 is known for clothing, so we wove ribbons and buttons in her hair.”
On the other hand, district 12’s coal miners were inspired by the Appalachian region of the 1930s. “You see this mirrored in the makeup with period facial hair, dirt, and soot from the mines and an overall feel of the struggles and hardships the people of District 12 endured,” says makeup department head Sherri Berman Laurence. In contrast, Laurence notes that Lucy and the rest of the Covey, who find work performing in District 12 bar the HOB rather than the mines, enjoy a bohemian and natural—though at times elevated—aesthetic.
“We got to be really playful with [the performance looks],” says Laurence. “One of her HOB looks was reminiscent of an old Hollywood movie star with a crimson red lip, holographic green and blue-winged liner, and beautiful highlights on her skin.” (Gooley adds that Lucy’s menu of gypsy-style wigs kept the team creatively busy throughout the shoot.) “The HOB was also a place where the people of District 12 went to dance and enjoy the night out, so the actors in those scenes would be more cleaned up, some having a more ethereal, carnival-like look,” says Laurence. “Being so poverty-stricken, there wouldn’t have been much access to makeup, so I would create backstories to where the makeup would come from using natural elements like wild berries, crushed beetles, and coal to name a few.”
Meanwhile, the Capitol sees well-known franchise characters like Tigris (played by Hunter Schafer) in their youth, each visually exuding the perceived wealth and status that they so rely on. “Because she does make clothing, and we know she eventually has her own atelier, I made her pretty much the most fashionable person in our film with extreme shapes, but also doing wear on her garments to show that they’re in repair,” says Sommerville. “She’s trying to maintain the image and uphold this narrative that they still have money and that they’re still a prestigious family.” Laurence remembers the character’s ombré lips and pointed bleached brows, while Gooley cites her luxurious and old-style Hollywood hair as a standout moment. And as for new mains, like Viola Davis’ villainous Dr. Gaul? “She’s kind of our madcap mad scientist/Dr. Frankenstein character, so we made sure that she had a lot of texture,” explains Sommerville, who worked with Laurence and Gooley to conceptualize her playful, frightening presence, along with her scarification. “Her fabrics are probably manufactured within the Capitol where she lives and works, and she brings in a lot of color with her.”
The film’s beauty and costuming teams are just as passionate about the franchise as the fans—and it shows. “This movie ran the gamut with makeup looks, hairstyles, and costumes,” says Laurence. “We got to live in so many worlds, and switching back and forth between them was incredibly rewarding and challenging.”
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