Welcome to FrockTalk, the web’s only costume-based movie review site. The goal of Frocktalk is to shed light on the magnificent artistry of costume design in motion pictures. Reviews on this site are written by working costume designers in the entertainment industry – people who know, better than anyone, what it takes to make it all happen. The focus of FrockTalk is not to comment on the big flashy costume dramas, but to call attention to the seemingly ordinary costume design work in film that silently and persuasively moves the audience toward understanding the characters. Costume design for motion pictures is an art form that deserves more recognition than it usually gets. Fancy, pretty costumes do not always equal effective, appropriate costumes. The art of the costume is in letting the audience know who the character is, before the actor even has a chance to open his mouth. Read on, and enjoy. ** CAUTION: ALL REVIEWS CONTAIN SPOILERS! **

Sleepy Hollow: Ask the Costume Department


Welcome to the first installment of “Ask the Costume Department”.  We here at Sleepy Hollow get a lot of questions about a lot of things, and I thought it might be nice to take your questions and answer them in a public forum, once a week.  If you have questions that you’d like to have answered, please tweet them to me @frocktalk with the hashtag #shcostumes.  I will do my best to answer between five and ten questions every Monday here on Frocktalk.com, so let ‘er rip, Sleepyheads!  Here are the first questions:


CGI, lighting, costume, makeup, camera – we all work together to create this show.  We have many meetings during the week – concept meetings, production meetings, “how the heck are we going to do this” meetings – we are constantly collaborating to make the show happen.  Some things, like the character of the Sandman, are a real team effort.  Makeup did the skin, closed mouth, black eyes, elongated fingers, raised chest texture.  We did the skirt and armbands, and visual FX did the finishing, effects (sand pouring from his chest), and the magic that is otherwise totally imperceptible.  Then, of course, there’s the creature performer (Marti Matoulis) who is simply amazing who stayed in that makeup and could not speak, drink or eat for hours at a time… we are all passionate, committed people, but Marti went above and beyond in creating Sandman.  He brought him to life.

Update: a few words from Jason Zimmerman, our Visual Effects Supervisor/Wizard!

“We really didn’t have to tweak him at all in post other than for our dedicated VFX shots of turning him to glass. In turning him to glass we had to recreate a complete CG version of sandman that we could surface, texture and break apart as we wanted. Ultimately the design in both MUFX and Costume was instrumental in allowing us to accomplish the VFX in a timely manner on this tight post schedule we have. Had he been a lot more ornate it would have taken significantly more time to create our CG sandman which may not have been possible on the schedule.The overall design of the character lent itself well to the VFX requests on the episode and allowed us to make something really cool for everyone to see.”


Our color palette was set in the pilot.  Legendary costume designer Sanja Hays designed the pilot (and all the costumes you see in the pilot that have thus recurred: Crane, Katrina, and Headless), and the direction we received was very clear.  We have carried this palette on to the series, and I am so pleased – I think it helps to create the moody, misty world of Sleepy Hollow.  Do I ever want to put a splash of color in there?  Well, I think of the show as a symphony.  Greys are the violins, blacks are the cellos, navy blues are the violas, purples are the woodwinds, deep greens are the horns, browns are the percussion instruments… and things like red or yellow – that’s the triangle.  You don’t hear the triangle very often, and when it chimes in, you go, “Oooooh!”  It’s the rarity of its appearance that makes it special.  That’s what color is in this show.


Flashback scenes on Sleepy Hollow are really, really fun.  We have a blast with them.  Brad Watson is the assistant costume designer on this show, and there is probably no one more enthusiastic ON EARTH about dressing BG than him.  It’s infectious.  We all get so excited about creating these characters in another world.  Everyone gets a bit of a back-story, from “She’s the poor, hapless cousin who they HAD to invite to the party and she borrowed one of her rich cousin’s dresses for the occasion”, or “He’s the lonely widowed blacksmith who drinks too much”, or whatever we can come up with to imbue these BG with a more realistic sense of story.  We fit every BG artist a few days before they work, and we take great care to make sure that all of the details of their costume are taken care of.  Every woman gets stays and a bum roll.  Every man gets buckles on his shoes.  Every person (BG and principal) is important to us in these scenes, because they set the tone and tell the story.  We might be crazy for going to such lengths with the BG, but we have a fun time doing it, so call us crazy.  And by the way, if you thought the “Lost Colony” stuff was nutty, just you wait until November 4 – it gets bigger and more badass as far as the costumes go.  Gotta hand it to our writers – they are coming up with amazing things for us to do!


We coordinate with the hair department for wigs and the makeup department for facial hair.  When we have a new character come in for a fitting, we dress them in their costume and take their picture, and then we send them to the hair department with their hat (if they wear one) so that they can be fitted for a wig.  Since a wig adds an inch or more to the circumference of the head, we need a great number of hats in very large sizes.  Most everyone is wigged, and if we are shooting outdoors, most everyone wears a hat.

As far as facial hair is concerned, the time period we deal with most (1773 – 1782) doesn’t require much facial hair.  However, when we did the “Lost Colony”, it was facial-hair-fantasma over there.  Our makeup department applied lots of little beards and Van Dyke-looking things on the men.  If you look closely at that episode, you will also see the great detail in the ladies’ hairstyles – they looked beautiful.


We have six complete sets of Ichabod’s “hero” costume look. We have many things to consider: stunts, water work, multiple units shooting at the same time… it can get pretty crazy around here.  We have a very special way of cleaning the jacket (and it’s not dry cleaning) that we are going to keep under our hats.  If we took the coat to a regular cleaner, we run the risk of ruining the meticulous aging we’ve done to the coat.  That would be truly sad.


This is the question I get on an almost daily basis.  So, I will answer it for you here, and perhaps I won’t be asked the question again.  Regarding Ichabod and his getting – or NOT getting – contemporary clothing added to his costumes:  I am not a writer on this TV show; I am only the costume designer.  A decision as momentous as that is far above my pay grade.  Honestly, I have no idea.  For what it’s worth, I love 18th century Ichabod, and I hope he can hold on to his look.  It suits him.  Consider this – let’s say you are an American woman, and you are dropped in the middle of Afghanistan or Saudi Arabia.  Are you going to immediately want to wear a burqa?  It’s not your custom.  It’s not comfortable.  It’s not who you are.  Consider that for a minute, and think about the parallel to Ichabod finding himself here in 2013. If you’d like to continue to pose the question, that’s fine… but just realize that I won’t have any answers for you.  The writers hold the keys to this one; sorry!!!

Thank you so much for your interest in the show – I will be taking another round of questions and publishing answers next Monday here on Frocktalk.  Don’t forget to tweet using hashtag #shcostumes, and I will see you here next week!!  Thanks, everyone!!!



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