I've known Brett for about 13 years now. Circumstances brought him home for the summer and to bide his time until he heads back to L.A. he had a couple of projects lined up. We were at the bar about a month ago when he approached me with his idea for a short film. I read the script and he asked me if I was interested in helping. The part that intrigued me most was the first costumes we see our main characters in. These characters have been wandering for months and are refugees of something horrible. I got very excited about how these costumes could really tell a whole story. There isn't much dialogue in the script so the surroundings and clothing really get to tell you a lot of the story.
Read more about my process of distressing the clothing below...
Concept and Shopping
Our first stop was to the thrift store. The main idea I had in my head was layers. If people are travelling long distances and living most of their lives outside or in temporary shelter they will have a ton of multipurpose layers. For the woman we really wanted to put her in a couple of skirts. She wanted to hold on the the shed of femininity she had left. We picked out two skirts that would layer very well. As for tops I wanted to play with seeing all of the layers I accomplished this with getting varying necklines for both the woman and man. Our actress Rachel, is rather slight so we could really pick out anything and we knew it would fit, It also allowed us to add some bulk to her frame that we could strip away so her look can become more streamlined.
Brett was the actor and fortunately came with me so we could fit everything to him there and then. For the man basic utility was my main concern. We picked up a solid pair of corduroy pants. I know from personal experience that they are nearly indestructible. they always end up being my favorite pair of paint pants. They also have a nice texture and will make the man look a bit more worn. We also grabbed a polo shirt, a visually interesting thermal, a too big sweater, and a flannel. I wanted to hit all of the different textures so when we see a stripped down version it was more of a contrast. Below you can see all of the items pre-distressing.
I started all of the distressing with a sure-form tool and scissors. I really thought about where the natural wear patterns would occur if these people had been on the run for months upon months. For the woman's over shawl I did the most damage to the ends of the sleeves, the front edges and the bottom. There was also general distressing all over the garment. Snags and tears where the clothes could have gotten caught on debris and plant life. I tore up and shredded her undershirts. Some of them I tore and stitched back up again. The female character is savvy enough to keep her and her partner's clothes in the best condition possible. For the man's clothing I focused on distressing collars and sleeve ends.
I then started the discoloration process. I took bleach to a couple of spots to lift the color. I pilled in spots with gloved hands using a splatter and splash technique. I also scrunched parts of the fabric in my hands with bleach residue. The skirt was originally green so I bleached out all of the color leaving it a wonderful cream color. That was my intent for the green polo and green tinged corduroy as well. Those unfortunately turned an alarming shade of pink. All of the clothes then took a ride in the washing machine. The next step was to tea stain the clothes. I focused on where sweat stains would occur. I then brought in some stronger dyes. After I set the sweat stains I brought in some heavier duty dyes. I used Rit Tan and Dark brown colors. This helped dial back the color and contrast on the striped undershirt for the woman and helped to correct the color of the pants and polo. After another ride in the washing machine all of my dying was done. I then took some black spray paint to a couple of items suggesting they had been burnt in the past. I let that all dry and we were good to go.
Day of Shoot
I was on site for the day of the shoot. Getting Brett and Rachel into costume was really easy. I only had to focus on the wardrobe because we had Ashleigh Nelson Coartney, a makeup artist from Champaign to take care of hair and makeup. I made sure all of the layers were in he correct order and that some bottom layers were peeking out in the right places. I had a ton of fun meeting and working with the entire crew. I look forward to when I can work on a project like this again. Thanks Brett for bringing me on!