“Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters”

Feb. 1, 2013

When asked to spotlight one costume, character or theme from the newly released feature film “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters”, Costume Designer Marlene Stewart decided to focus on the mood and the look of her designs. Having worked on numerous period as well as fantasy films, Stewart describes “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” as a bit of a hybrid – a period fantasy, or a fantasy period.

When working on the development of the two main characters, Hansel and Gretel, Stewart not only wanted to portray the fairytale components but also a superhero look. It was important that these two characters transcend the period and stand out from the background. Although we all know the iconic story of Hansel & Gretel, this film is set in a more contemporary framework shot in the woods in Germany. As Stewart describes, “fairy tales have their dark side and this was a humorous take on what many remember as a memorable but frightening childhood tale.”

Over a period of eight weeks, 100 costumes (in multiples) were built for the film, including more than 50 intricate witch costumes. Most, including shoes, were constructed in a workroom at Babelsberg Film Studio located just outside of Berlin. Stewart was fortunate to be able to work with many local craftspeople and take advantage of their expertise and knowledge from working for the opera. Technology proved to be key in the overall success and creation of the main costumes. Stewart worked with Costume Illustrators including Phillip Boutte and Christian Cordella (oftentimes emailing sketches back and forth) to perfect the look and mood of the characters.

For the two main costumes for Hansel and Gretel, Stewart spent a considerable amount of time communicating via Skype with the main cutter/fitter on the film, Mary Ellen Field, who is based in Los Angeles. For Gretel, Stewart wanted her to look as though she belonged to the forest. She made sure the look was not too earthy, but rather feminine, contemporary and fun. She sourced period pieces for the patterns and then selected the materials, incorporating mole-skin, shearling, muslin, and hardware she found in Europe, into many of the key costumes. For pieces such as jackets, vests, boots, corsets and pants, Stewart had the leather aged and dyed, hand stitched and worked on by many craftsman to get just the right surface texture and wearability.

In the end, the mood and look truly convey the duality of the characters: hard-edged and capable yet softer within.

“Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” is currently playing in select theaters nationwide.

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