“Lady Bird”

November 28, 2017

Anna Wyckoff

Working on the coming of age film Lady Bird was a very personal experience for Costume Designer April Napier. “I had the exact same story as Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan),” she says. “Going through punk rock, through thrift stores, stumbling sometimes, while trying to discover my own identity. I felt very akin to what she was going through, and I think the reason that it’s been hailed critically and it’s doing well at the box office is because it’s a universal story.”

The movie is set in 2002, a time that isn’t quite categorized as period clothing yet, but can’t be just bought off the rack either. To come up with nearly a hundred changes for the protagonist, Napier spent hours hunting through vintage stores and flea markets to find eclectic items to represent a character experimenting with her own sense of self. For Napier, that meant reliving many of her own experiences and re-creating those of director Greta Gerwig. “There’s one sweater that Lady Bird wears, a sort of rainbow striped Gap sweater. I had it then. Everybody did. I found that sweater and Greta was, like, ‘Oh, my gosh, I remember that sweater. I can taste that sweater.'”

Napier combined references as varied as Chloë Sevigny, Alanis Morissette, Kirsten Dunst of the period, Kathleen Hanna from the band Bikini Kill, and a little Patty Smith for her lead. “There were some things of that era,” she explains, “like that kind of alt-girl world—but then there were also things that were not of that era. I watched [the film] Kids because that kind of street style was really important to me.” As the story culminates in New York, Napier gave Lady Bird’s costume a sense of sophistication. The final outfit: a shrunken boys blazer, cropped jeans, a striped vintage t-shirt, paired with short boots exudes newly found confidence.

The lived in quality of pieces gave the film’s costumes an air of authenticity, but there were drawbacks. “Because it’s all old,” Napier explains, “I didn’t have multiples.” But since realism is her passion, she preferred to have pieces with palpable patina. Napier adds, “I love the idea that that there’s a long connecting thread that binds us together. I think that’s why a story like Lady Bird is resonating. Because everyone can understand it.”

Lady Bird is in theatres now.

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