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Mothers' Instinct ... Interview with costume designer, Mitchell Travis

26th March 2024

Be prepared to be dressing like a 60s IT girl after watching this spring's most gripping and discussion-worthy thrilling drama.

A captivating, detailed, intricately thought-out thriller that will leave you gawking at the screen. With surprising twists and psychological games keeping you wondering what the truth really is, this subtle, steady building but unnerving story between two suburban female friends will have you hooked. Opening with captivating costumes and home design, you have a glimpse into a seemingly ordinary 60s family life; full of celebrations, neighbours as friends and extremely well trimmed gardens. But when tragedy hits, suspicion, paranoia and revenge seeps into the lives of friends Celine and Alice. Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain, who also produced this movie, hold it to unmissable standards; exploring motherhood, friendship, family roles and the sexism of the era on a deep and multifaceted level. While you think from your experiences of watching thriller movies in the past, you know what’s going to happen, you’re left stunned at every turn, not knowing the characters next moves and often questioning the outcome.

The visuals of this film were impeccable. Holding space alongside the outstanding performances, highlighting the characters and making the scene’s feel realistic - taking you, the viewer, on the journey in real time. We interviewed costume designer Mitchell Travers, the man responsible for the incredible style of the characters and ...

From the home decor, to the colours and the styling. The chicest of gardening outfits, cat eye sunglasses, hourglass silhouettes, bold colours, soft silk gloves and lady-like top handle bags. Fashion lovers will be engrossed in the visuals of this film.

What was your inspiration for the costume besides the 60s in general? Did you base the characters off any icons of the 60s?

I began my research by looking at period catalogs from the early 1960s. I wanted to do my "shopping" in the same way that a housewife in the early 60's would have. I looked at certain style icons like Tania Mallet, Jackie Kennedy, Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Polaroids of Marilyn Monroe & the stars of Hitchcock films. I was also heavily inspired by the pulp art of John McClelland & Jon Whitcomb.

What was your process creating the characters' styles? Where do you start?

The first thing I needed to identify was a year. I felt strongly about setting the film around 1962 as it gave me the ability to go back and forth between the late 50's A line shape and the more streamlined linear look of the early 60's. It was such a transitional time in fashion and I thought the stark contrast between those two silhouettes in womenswear would give me the perfect foundation to build on top of. I knew the film would depend on the tiny differences between the way these two women dressed for the day. 

Alice seemed to wear a lot of colour and fun, youthful styles, was that intentional?

Jessica and I wanted Alice to feel very much alive. We wanted to sense that she wanted more from the world and had an independent streak to the way she presented herself. A lot of her clothes have an energy and movement to them, in contrast to Celine who is
quite still and reserved. Celine was so together and chic at the beginning of the film. She looked very traditional and sleek but gradually let go of that as the film went on and her character and story developed. Were there any small touches you added to highlight this? Tell us a bit about that change?

Annie & I were really inspired by the idea of traditional mourning dress. We felt this character was very classic in her approach and that her loss of identity as a mother would completely change the way she dressed. We charted a course from completely black ensembles, through deep purples and grays, all the way up to lavenders and white again. We really had one opportunity to show this character without grief and the pink dress hit all the right notes for us both.

Were there any designers from the time that you took inspiration from?

Its hard to talk about this era without Dior, but I also love looking at vintage Geoffrey Beene, Pauline Trigere, Burke Amey, Anne Klein, Albert Nipon, Galanos etc.

Were there any modern day moments from fashion you internationally added or did you stick wholly to taking inspiration from the 60s era?

I felt it was important to stick to the established rules of the early 1960's. I like period pieces that follow the rules, so I made sure to include hats & gloves. I love all of those elements of formality that we have done away with over time.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your career. How did you get into costume design?

As soon as I learned that Costume Design was a career, I was sold! I have overlapping interests of fashion, art history, personal style and storytelling. This career allows me to constantly learn new things and I'm always surrounded by the most creative people. It's such a privilege to dive into new projects or eras and fully immerse myself in them. I have never had the same day twice which suits me!

Want to have your go at 60s revival? Our favourite pieces right now to add 60s elegance to your wardrobe.

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