One of the best parts about filming Bigger is getting to work with talented visionaries such as costume designer extraordinaire, Melissa Vargas. As an actress, wardrobe is absolutely essential when it comes to getting into character. Melissa created a brilliant collection of looks to represent the style and essence of Betty Weider for this film.
I am fascinated by Melissa’s process, like: What inspires her to choose certain colors? What details does she look for in accessories? What are some of the challenges she faces? I asked Melissa if she’d share some insights into her world, and was so generous to say yes!
See what she has to say below…
For an actor, I understand that putting on a costume is like putting on a mask. Once they’ve got the look, they’re ready to go. I see our relationship as costume designer and actor as a partnership. I want to work with them in order to help them get into character. This requires a great deal of detail. I might pick out a pin, which nobody but Jules will ever see, but it will help Jules become Betty.
One of the most exciting aspects of this film is that we span the 1920s through the 1980s. This has been the most fun project I’ve ever done as far as spanning time. Through costume, we want to convey each specific era and let the audience know they’re watching Betty when she was young versus later in the movie, when she became a woman. With costume, there should be a beginning, middle, and end. It should give a visual reference to see who this person was at this point in her life and how she fits into the overall story.
When I was piecing together Betty’s wardrobe, I took note that she was a very put together girl. I noticed as a pin up girl in the 1950s in photos she was sexy but in an overwhelmingly sweet way. It made me think of pastels, pinks, canary yellows, light-blues. I also considered how great these colors would go with her blonde bombshell hair.
In the 1960s, Betty’s style was noticeably bolder and brighter as she came into her own womanhood. I added a lot of jewel tones to her wardrobe for this era. At this time, Betty was starting to come up with the ideas that inspired her husband, Joe, to build their empire. In the 1970s, as she matured I gave her more crème colored looks. In the 1980s you’ll see Betty in more neutral, sophisticated tones. The transgression of color really helps guide Betty’s personal journey.
The most transformative thing we’ve have to do for Julianne to get into character is shape her body to resemble Betty’s. Sometimes actors will wear a prosthetic nose or a body suit to play a certain person. Betty was known for her impossibly small waist. She was also bustier than Jules. We want Julianne to stay true to Betty’s looks but in a natural way. We’ve been recreating this iconic look by adding a bit of padding to the bust and choosing styles that accentuate the waist. The magic of tailoring has been essential. The shape is the foundation to all of her outfits. Everything has to fit just right in order to accomplish our goal to recreate Betty’s look.
I’d really like to add how much Jules inspired me on this project. She was such a positive influence in creating this character with me, and I’m just grateful we were able to connect in that way for the Bigger film. I hope you enjoy our creations when you see the movie!
Follow Melissa on Instagram @sweeetmeli.