Holly Waddington | First The Undergarments, Then The Great Expanse

Via the 25th Anniversary Issue, Under The Silver Moon!

Written by

E. Nina Rothe

Photographed by

Christopher Fenner

Styled by

Katelyn Cutbirth

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CONNOR BAXTER dress, headpiece, and gloves.

When Poor Things premiered at this year’s Venice Film Festival, the Oscar buzz was deafening. Director Yorgos Lanthimos tells a tale of a child trapped in a woman’s body, traveling through a strange new world and ultimately, discovering her sexual freedom. The film’s success is a combination of art design, magnificent acting, and breathtaking costumes. The latter is the creation of costumer Holly Waddington. Waddington holds a degree in Fine Art from The Ruskin School of Drawing, Oxford University. “I probably didn’t realize there was a job called ‘costume design’ until I was quite old,” she admits. “But when I look at my life, I think that I was always doing costumes, dressing up, making clothes—it was a thing that I used to do at home.”

Waddington credits her passion to her mom, who has always been into antique clothes. Together, they would shop “in some very interesting antique clothes shops in Lancashire where [Waddington] grew up, near Manchester.” Once old enough to scour the racks by herself, it became Waddington’s Saturday ritual.

Her eye for styling clothes from different eras has come in handy. For Poor Things, Emma Stone’s wardrobe is an eclectic, irreverent mix of Victorian tops, 1930s tap pants, and Courrèges sleek white booties. Bella Baxter, Stone’s character, possesses the brain of a child so she never gets fully dressed. Like a toddler asked to dress themself, Bella forgoes the bottoms of most of her outfits.

Waddington loves working in theater because “the work there doesn’t often ask for a literary response to a script or a story—you’re not verbatim recreating a period in time, which is often required of film projects.” Lanthimos, known for previous films The Lobster and The Favourite, is another beast, as his films often involve elements of past, present, and future worlds. His larger-than-life characters feel at home in fantasy landscapes.

“In film and TV, you get the script and literally, off you go, you’ve got 10 weeks to prepare the whole thing.” Waddington continues, “Whereas in theater you may be offered a project, and you have a year, maybe six months to build the ideas—not working all the time, and possibly juggling different projects at once.” Partly due to the pandemic, the initial meeting for Poor Things came a year before production started. “Then, six months before production,” she continues, “We started properly prepping, and having conversations with Yorgos and Shona Heath, the production designer on the film.”

“The brief from Yorgos was not prescriptive,” shares Waddington in regards to the story’s time period. “He’s not a prescriptive director, which is a great thing, he didn’t give us a sort of framework really—but he did tell me he did not want it to look like a period drama or a sci-fi film and it couldn’t go too fashion-y either.”

Lanthimos and his creative team put together “a 100-page bible filled with references, images, where we might be filming, how they would interpret the location—it was very very dense” and included detailed character descriptions.

The black-and-white scenes at the beginning of the film—before Bella ventures out into the world—were not planned in terms of costume color choices and shades. This is surprising, given those details were important during the black-and-white film era. Instead, Waddington and her team used textures and fabrics to create a monochrome yet brilliant palette.

If you haven’t watched Poor Things, be warned: there are vagina-inspired blouses and a yellow condom raincoat— appropriate wear for a raunchy sexual story about a woman discovering her freedom of choice. Waddington’s favorite scene—as well as mine—is an unorthodox cruise ship dance sequence featuring clothes fit for a night out in 2023. If I could find it in my size, I’d be wearing it next Saturday. 

CONNOR BAXTER dress, headpiece, gloves, and shoes.

Photographed by Christopher Fenner

Styled by Katelyn Cutbirth

Written by E. Nina Rothe

Hair: Reve Ryu

Makeup: Lee Will at Caren Agency 

Location: Town Hall Hotel

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Holly Waddington, Flaunt Magazine, Issue 190, The 25th Anniversay Issue, Under The Silver Moon, Poor Things, Christopher Fenner, E. Nina Rothe, Katelyn Cutbirth, People,