How Do You Dress Up a Killer Doll?

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How Do You Dress Up a Killer Doll? Alamy

The It girl everyone can’t stop talking about isn’t a socialite or an actress—M3GAN is an animatronic doll with a taste for blood, the eponymous Hollywood slasher movie, and viral dance moves. (Side note: We’d love to see M3GAN and Jenna Ortega’s Wednesday Addams compete in a dance competition.)

Hollywood has a long and rich tradition of spooky doll movies as hell, but M3GAN has already established its own visual identity in the canon. She doesn’t have Annabelle’s blatantly creepy look or Chucky’s cool carrot top hairstyle. Instead, M3GAN sits at the heart of what cultural critics call the “uncanny valley”—the idea of ​​something almost human-like, but also not quite, with a disturbing effect. This disturbing effect comes from her lively face and unusual eyes, of course, but it also has a lot to do with her costume: a perverted and boring babydoll dress; flattened, massive grosgrain cat bow; narrow striped t-shirt; and white cotton tights.

We spoke with the film’s costume designer, Daniel Cruden. Avatar: Way of Water, Stranger, and the hobbit moviesTo learn more about creating a creepy doll aesthetic for the 21st century and what pieces one or two actors may or may not have stolen from the set.

There are too many creepy doll movies out there already. Tell me about your research process for M3GAN.

Gerard [Johnstone]our director had a very clear idea of ​​what he wanted for the M3GAN. I’ve created a pretty extensive reference board, but most of it came from his references and having a very specific idea of ​​what he wanted to create.

The first thing I saw when I saw M3GAN’s costume is the babydoll dress. It started as lingerie, then became popular as a cocktail dress in the mid-20th century. How did you decide to use a babydoll dress?

That’s right, babydolls were actually underwear. Then they became this hybrid of lingerie and casual wear. We’ve made a few tweaks like the sleeves, the high Peter Pan collar so that M3GAN’s baby doll will look less sexy and more innocent, which adds to the spookiness. It’s unexpected that this baby turned into such a demonic creature, because it doesn’t look like it. And it’s important in the context of the movie that M3GAN was designed by the character Gemma, so we see her aesthetic come through.

How did you make the babydoll dress feel like this? creepy?

A neutral color that adds to the spookiness. You don’t look at it right away and associate it with anything good or bad. For a doll this is unexpected because we usually expect dolls to dress in bright, friendly colors, but the M3GAN is a very sophisticated doll.

The dress is made of silk satin, this fabric is very unforgiving. But I think what makes it so creepy is the combination of everything: the dress, the shirt, the leggings, the bow. This camel-colored satin with those innocent puffy shoulders and those boyish Mary Janes. There is something not quite right about the combination and you can’t help but look at it and feel startled.

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Alamy

Was it difficult to make a dress for a robot?

While shooting this movie, we had three versions of the M3GAN to capture all the scenes and actions the M3GAN character had to do: an animatronic, a robotic M3GAN; a lifelike mannequin M3GAN; and we’d also have an actress dressed as M3GAN. So what we designed had to work on all these versions of it.

We knew it had to run on all fours, we knew it would kill people, and the babydoll was great because it didn’t restrict movement. And the t-shirt she wore layered under the dress was great too, because it covers the arms – obviously because an actress with human arms doesn’t have the articulated metallic arms of a robot, so there’s great continuity on screen. when switching between shooting on the robot, model and actress.

Tell me about the cat spring M3GAN wears. How did you get down to that fabrication, that shape?

We worked with simpler, longer, more pendulous tie pieces; less stiff springs; everything. It took a lot of testing, but we finally got the version you see in the movie because that’s what Gerard had in mind as a statement piece.

Historically, the cat bow is somewhat of a feminist statement, because it was worn by women in male-dominated environments. Again as a roboticist, Gemma created this bow and works in a highly male-dominated environment, so she makes a statement about how she dresses this doll. And at the end of the movie, throughout the final action scenes, we see the cat arc appearing less structured and making it look more boring, making it sag more as if the M3GAN had physically experienced something. So this arc tells a story of that action.

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Alamy

You mentioned Gemma, the creator of M3GAN, several times. What can you tell us about his style?

Gemma’s house is very 50’s, very medieval modern and we see Gemma’s aesthetic come through in her creation of the M3GAN. Gemma herself is actually quite androgynous in her style. He’s wearing a lot of oversized shirts. A lot of basic J.Crews wear Citizens of Humanity jeans—some kind of high street, mainstream brands, nothing designer-level. Gemma puts all her energy into making toys. The only thing special to Gemma that we custom made were some silk screen t-shirts that were highly androgynous, the kind of promotional t-shirts you get for attending an event from robotics or scientific conferences.

I ask this of every costume designer. Have your actors tried to steal anything from the set?

We’ve had several M3GAN suits that have disappeared from our inventory. We started around 25 and then our inventory dwindled. Not to point out, but there are too many actresses on set that could fit in those dresses. I’m just saying.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

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