Greta Gerwig on Finding the Perfect Rose Pink

When Greta Gerwig worked with costume designer Jacqueline Duran on „Little Women,” the pair visited a building in London’s Docklands to find inspiration for the adaptation.

„There were old file cabinets labeled 'British Gardens 1830-1835′ and things you can’t find anywhere else,” Gerwig recalls. „There were unprinted books and original frames for making corsets and hoop skirts.”

A few years later, the director turned to Duran to help bring the „Barbie” aesthetic to life. She didn’t think Duran would want to cooperate again. „I almost killed her,” Gerwig jokes about the film’s 200-plus costume changes. But Duran, who didn’t get the chance to work on many projects in the US, said yes. It turned out to be their biggest collaboration to date. „Barbie was all about clothes, and that was intimidating,” says Gerwig.

Here they discuss that collaborative process, how Barbie’s look came about, and how they found the perfect Birkenstock sandal for Margot Robbie’s Barbie.

How did the garment process evolve?

Duran: When we started, we didn’t have rules for the world. Even the idea that we’d be grounded in Mattel’s history rather than just fashion wasn’t a given. It evolved as Greta wrote the starting point in 1959, so it became an idea of ​​what we could do costume-wise. There were a lot of things to work on. There was a world where clothes could have been as ugly as big Velcro stick-on clothes. So, it took a lot of conversations.

Gerwig: She is a toy. The proportions, the sizes and even the way the pattern works – you don’t have a small pattern in a toy, you have a large pattern – so it’s a puzzle to figure out. Not a single frame has hours of meetings behind it.

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Was there a costume or scene where you saw and felt like, 'we can do this’ when pressured?

Gerwig: We shot the opening scene in the first week itself. It was almost like a silent film because it was her day. It was like a ballet. Everyone looked so beautiful and perfect. You can see her neighbors, floating in her car, the jogger and the milk lady. It felt exactly how I wanted it to feel. Jacqueline always says, „A Barbie doesn’t dress for the day, she dresses for the function”, and that was hilarious.

Duran: It’s not just Margot. Every Barbie is.

Which scene required the most work costume-wise?

Gerwig: Beachwear. I don’t want them in string bikinis. I want a 1950s or 1920s bathing suit.

Duran: In the art department, they had boards and reference boards. They had photographs from the 1950s of groups of girls playing on the beach. It was interesting to see groups of girls playing with beach balls. They were nostalgic and had an innocence about them. It was groups of women doing things on the beach, and it was by no means ignored.

What about the use of Birkenstock sandals and when did it come about?

Gerwig: I want to know that Birkenstocks is not a product placement. We loved Birkenstocks.

DURRAN: wrote Greta.

Gerwig: It was always like that. When she first held the shoe up, it was the classic suede version. As she becomes more human, a lot of things – clothes, fabrics, patterns and even jewelry – are more delicate. That’s what Margot and Jacqueline did. But ultimately Birkenstock shows how Barbie changes from start to finish. We wanted it to be pink because she is still Barbie. We saw bright pink. There were hundreds, and this (Arizona Big Buckle Nubuck Wagon Leather Birkenstocks in Rose) was subtle. It was sweet, charming and filling. I feel like I’ve seen 100 versions of anything on screen.

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Duran: Kate McKinnon was great with that Birkenstock option on display. Weird Barbie is a great example of how this process worked. Kate brought up the idea that the weird Barbie from the bottom of the box was a mess, but Greta said, „No, she’s supposed to look like something.” So, it was an evolution of the idea of ​​a different Barbie.

Gerwig: Find out if there is decay in barbiland. Are the items dirty? And then we were like, „No, that’s not distortion.” It may be odd and mixed, but even if her face is painted and her hair is cut, it is somehow in the immortal present. The example I used, I don’t know if it’s true, but I believed it – it was the idea of ​​space junk. If you throw a burger into space, the wrapper won’t disintegrate because there’s nothing to disintegrate. It floats endlessly in the universe. I don’t know if this is correct, I guess. But again, that’s something we’ll have to come to. I don’t want her to be a moth. I wanted it to still be somehow primitive in its strangeness.

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