Hunger Games' Costumer Spills On How She Dressed The Districts

The Hunger Games series is not a tale of fashion, glamour, or beauty, despite what the fancy collaborations and movie tie-ins might infer. Instead, it attempts to critique a world where the distribution of wealth is so wildly uneven that, in order to maintain control, a dictatorship forces young people to fight one another to the death. But, when you have incredible poverty paired with remarkable wealth, the stark visual contrast can be truly dramatic. Fortunately, Catching Fire's costume designer, Trish Summerville, understands the tension between the wealthy and poor, and instead of turning the second Hunger Games film into a "fashion bonanza," she took the time to use fashion to tell a story — even if that story isn't always chic.
Of course, that doesn't mean that the fashion isn't gorgeous and straight off the runways (Effie is admittedly very McQueen, Summerville says). The Capitol is image-obsessed, using extreme dyes, modifications, and uncomfortable style to communicate the excess experienced by those who don't live in the districts. And, as much as this story isn't about fashion, it is about what Katniss is wearing: to be subversive, to be protected, or to be a fantasy princess paraded in front of the people. "There's a lot to translate," says Summerville, who acts like the real-life Cinna to the new film. Check out what dressing all of Panem means — and exactly how she did it.
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Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate.
What it was like designing for an already-established world:
"Well, I think that the liberty we have with Catching Fire is that, inside The Capitol, fashion is constantly changing. There wasn't anything we had to float over from the first film because fashion, makeup, and style change so rapidly within the world of Panem. The one thing that I tried to stay true to the first film is the districts that we did see, so I kept both 11 and 12's dust-bowl, Depression-era feeling."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate.
What it was like to dress Elizabeth Banks as Effie:
"A lot of the runway pieces lend themselves perfectly to Effie's character. Fashion houses like McQueen were really lovely and generous with what we could use. With her character, there is always a sense of portraying her inner turmoil — she is really fashionable and fun, but she is quite tormented about these Reapings. Also, she can never be comfortable. I have her on these really high heels, her waist is cinched a bit too tight, and she's always wearing these oversized garments. She is always on a grade and very erect. She has a lot of jewelry, and she seems weighted down, teetering around on heels."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate.
On dressing 12 distinct districts:
"In Catching Fire, we do see a lot more of the districts, for the Reaping, and it's particularly exciting because we see them in both the summer and winter. We are introduced to the fishing district, the textile district, the luxury district, and more. For each district, we are trying to keep the costuming relevant, either by what they represent or what they manufacture. In the the fishing districts, say, there were some things we made that were constructed out of fish pelts and seashells. We used lots of yellows, greens, and blues. In the textile districts, all of these people would have a spin-off of extra yardage they didn't send to The Capitol. I had the makeup people stain actors' hands so they were stained with the dyes used to color the clothes. They are still workers, and they have their hands stained for working. That district was really fun to dress."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate.
On Katniss' wedding dress:
"With the dress, we had to get something that looked incredible design-wise, but we needed it to have a specific function: It had to catch air and lift. We needed it to be spellbinding and intense. We wanted to cause the audience to be absolutely in awe. The garment needed to be extreme, something that people in The Capitol would covet. For me, I always had to relate to her being the "girl on fire" and the Mockingjay. On the wedding dress, we laser-cut feather shapes on the bodice. I very literally wanted her to become a Mockingjay."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate.
On what it was like to style a "stylist":
"I am a costume designer and a stylist, so I definitely can relate to Cinna and his job. That was one of the best parts about the costumes: He is a bit dark and layered. Because he is going throughout his day, he is fashionable, but he has to be very functional. For instance, he has very comfortable shoes. Cinna exists in the darkness, so it lets him work and lets the client shine. Of course, he is still in The Capitol, so he accessorizes with his own kind of flare. It is such a pleasure and an honor to dress Lenny (Kravitz) as Cinna. He really vibes with the character."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate.
How she tackled making things both cool to look at but also functional for the games:
"You have 24 different tributes that all have different body types, and they range from ages 17 to 80. We had the challenge to make everything look good on-screen — but also be true to themselves and authentic. No one is wearing Spanx underneath all these costumes. We are literally designing for the elements that everyone will be in. I expected them literally to be in the water, in the jungle, and running. The suits need to be functional, moving, and stretchy, but they couldn't be too hot for the body. I conceived of them as quite modular. There is the base body suit, but the top, kneepads, and sleeves can come off. Brutus is in just the pants, Enobaria is just in the sleeves and the sports bra. We had to try to protect their bodies as much as we could, so we did a couple of pieces with a type of pad."
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Photo: Courtesy of Lionsgate.
Trish Summerville dresses a fantastic Effie.