For those of you who haven’t had a chance to go out and see The Help yet, we here at JBR HIGHLY recommend going out and seeing it. Not only is the story inspiring, up-lifting, and rich, the costume design is to die for! All we could think about as we watched the movie was that we needed to blog about it after! As you watch the movie each of the character’s have very distinct styles, even the different housemaids had slight variations to their costume design. For costume designer Sharen Davis, this isn’t the first time she has designed vintage clothing for a movie. Davis worked on Ray and Dream Girls. Davis said that it was exciting to work on The Help because it was a chance to use more color.
For Davis this was a departure for her in terms of color palette as well as the resources available to her. Davis said that she had to spend time hunting through vintage stores for the accessories, looking for patent purses and hats. As for the actual clothing, Davis purchased vintage material and made the costumes for each of her characters. Unlike the 1960’s inspiration for Mad Men, which is centered around the sleek look of secretarial outfits and city women, The Help is focused on southern women who are working for the women’s league and taking care of their children. According to L.A. Times, The Help describes the characters within the book as children raising children. Davis took this to mean women who do not necessarily have a refined sense of fashion but are two years behind the real fashion trends; instead what Davis did was to look at old JCPenny catalogs and Sears to find her inspiration.
For main character Skeeter Phalan Davis looked at old Ole Miss yearbooks to see what students in the 1960’s were wearing. Skeeter’s look was more about being a tom boy and functionality, she was a woman who wanted to be taken seriously and never truly assimilated to the life of being a happy housewife.
The most amazing part of the the stories behind the costumes is the personal connection Davis had in creating the costumes for the Help. According to L.A. Times.com: “For Davis, who is African American, creating the costumes for the black maids had special meaning because her grandmother, Nelly Moseley, worked as domestic help in Louisiana during the same time period as the film’s.” Davis said that traditionally women who were housemaids wore white uniforms to work, but in filming the white was not making a visual statement; the costumes looked like they were intended to be worn by a nurse and not by the domestic help. Instead Davis took inspiration from her grandmother and created a costume that was grey, similar to her grandmother’s.
If the story line doesn’t seem appealing to you do yourself a favor and at least look at more photos from the movie. All of the costumes that Davis designed for this movie are awesome, it made us here at JBR go into our warehouse closet and see what we could wear that was similar to our favorite characters in the movie. And if you have seen the movie leave us a comment and let us know which character in the movie did you most connect with on a fashion level.