December 24, 2014

“Unbroken,” based on the book of same name, follows the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympic athlete who became a solider in World War II. After a near-fatal plane crash, he and fellow crewmen spend 47 days in a raft before being caught by the Japanese navy and sent to a prisoner of war camp.

Directed by Angelina Jolie, “Unbroken” stars Jack O’Connell as Zamperini, Takamasa Ishihara as Mutsushiro Watanabe, Garrett Hedlund as John Fitzgerald, Domhnall Gleeson as Russell Allen “Phil” Phillips, Jai Courtney as Hugh “Cup” Cuppernell and Finn Whitrock as Francis “Mac” McNamara.

Costume Designer Louise Frogley had the ultimate in research: “The family of Louis were extremely helpful. They lent us original pieces so we could really understand them.”

The movie posters feature a key scene where Zamperini is wearing a track jersey lettered with the name of his hometown, Torrance, Calif. Though it was a simple costume, Frogley said it had a rich backstory.

“Louis had an allergy to wool. So his mother used to make his running stuff out of her old clothes, so it was rayon and that sort of silky thing. Stuff that looked correct, but wasn’t such a nasty wool that hurt Louis’ skin. One of Louis’ tank tops he raced in was made from an old skirt of his mother’s. It was slightly see-through, so we decided not to pursue that.

Jolie was frequently involved in the costume decisions. “The only thing she didn’t like was the slightly see-through tank top. We all agreed it looked slightly porn-y, really, like ladies underwear,” Frogley said.

Based on further research, Frogley determined that handmade clothing was the norm in first-generation immigrant homes such as Zamperini’s.

“The lettering on the tank top was all cut out and lovingly stitched on. I wanted to have not-quite-perfect lettering so it would have that crummy homemade look,” Frogley said.

She made the running shorts from a sturdy cotton twill and replicated the era’s drawstring waist. Each of those key items was made in Los Angeles.

“And we did overdyeing and playing about with the colors to make them look used,” Frogley said. “I really, really believe in a lot of work being done by the aging and dyeing department.”

Though the basic shapes of the shorts and tank top might seem like an easy design project, Frogley knew they were too important not to get exactly right.

“It’s always the simple ones that take longest,” she said.

“Unbroken” is in theaters on Dec. 25.

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