Denis Villeneuve’s “Dune” costumes alone tell a rich story.
Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan have teamed up to create the 1,000 or so looks needed for the film’s three main worlds: Arrakis, Caladan and Giedi Prime. “For research, I watched David Lean’s films – ‘Dr. Zhivago, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ – [as well as] “Fahrenheit 451,” West says. She says she also referred to Greek and Roman mythology because she believed there was a connection to House Atreides and House Harkonnen. “It all sounded like some sort of real Greek and Roman tragedy on one level,” West says. Other far-reaching inspirations included the art of Goya, Giotto and Caravaggio; the clothing of desert people such as Bedouins and Tuaregs; tarot cards; classic Balenciaga fashion; and the colors of the rocks and sand in Jordan, where much of the action was filmed.
But the centerpiece of the film, currently on the festival circuit and released on October 22, are the “stillsuits,” meticulously described in Frank Herbert’s 1965 novel “Dune,” and needed to sustain life on the desert planet of Dune. ‘Arrakis. “It was the first thing I worked on after doing some general research,” West explains, adding that she had engaged the services of concept artist Keith Christensen (“Black Panther,” The Batman “). When Villeneuve saw one of the concepts that “really moved him”, West brought it to Jose Fernandez at Ironhead Studios in Los Angeles, where a prototype was built.
Then they took everything to Budapest, where the filming of “Dune” was based. Each costume is bespoke – “Each one had to be cut out of a mold of the actors’ body, because the movement of the body is what theoretically activates the stillsuit and turns it into a distillery.” In both the book and the movie, the suits take human wastewater and turn it into gas, “then it filters through all the tubes in the suit as coolant with gauges and regulators.” And we put it all on the stillsuits.
The team made what West called a “micro-sandwich” of acrylic fibers and porous cottons that would wick water away from the body and keep the actors cool in the costumes. “When we shot in Jordan in the desert it worked like Under Armor,” she says.
West notes that “because of the way we got all the tubes going through all the layers of the micro sandwich,” it looks like the suit can actually pump water. But they also had to make sure the costume was flexible. Each costume took over two weeks to make in the Budapest workroom. “It was really a group effort from a fabulous team,” says West. “Frank Herbert said only 15 milliliters of water leaked per day from a person wearing a suit, so we had to pretend it would do that.”
Each world also had its own color scheme. The suit remained gray, according to the novel, and functioned almost like a cover-up. The colors of the Jordanian desert rocks inspired West’s costumes for Arrakis, the desert planet. When site manager Peter Bardsley visited Jordan, West asked him to bring back rocks and sand vials: “There was sort of a coral color, a pink color, a peach color, a peach color. kind of beige beige color. “She still has sand and pebbles in her LA office.
West also used dyed gauze for the Desert Fremen. “I had made a line of gauze years ago when I was a fashion designer for Barneys, and I remembered how you could still see people’s bodies, their shapes and their movements. And I thought the gauze moves like sand. I dyed it in all those desert sand colors. It has become their palette.
Morgan notes that Villeneuve was a solid collaborator, walking into the costume store frequently to see what was going on. “We were lucky enough to be literally across the street in Budapest at the studio. And he could just walk on it, ”Morgan says. “He could see the fabric and see the texture.”