“Godless”

July 3rd, 2018

Anna Wyckoff

Research is at the heart of any period piece. But where many find the broad strokes of a project in their preparation; it was in the details that Costume Designer Betsy Heimann found inspiration for Netflix’s Godless. Set in 1886 New Mexico, Heimann’s research included the miners, Native American tribes, buffalo soldiers, and pioneers living on the edge of civilization. Even with such a range of cultures to represent, it was the nuances that inspired her. The story was based on the real mining towns of La Belle and Creed. Heimann explains, “I started with the script and then researched women ranchers and found that there were quite a few without husbands. There were some sisters in Nebraska that had a farm. Their clothes were a real nugget of inspiration for me. In 1884 they wore large plaids, cardigan sweaters, and aprons. Also, I found some references of women miners and how they wore their skirts tucked into their belts with trousers or breaches underneath.”

Heimann limited her color palette not only to illustrate the practical nature of the characters and their meager possessions, but also to evoke the sepia tones of the photographs from her research. She feels the hues evoke not only the time period, but also a hard scrabble life far from civilization and civility, washing clothes on a rock and hanging them up to dry. Of vital importance to create this impression was aging the garments. Because Alice Fletcher (Michelle Dockery) worked on a farm, Heimann designed pieces which were more ragged and sun faded. Heimann says, “I had some amazing textile artists onboard with me, especially for all those outlaws with their shoulders faded where they were greasy, and their sleeves had been pushed up. I only used fabrics that were appropriate for the period—cotton, linen, wool, and silk of different weaves and weights.” The end result of this effort are costumes with resonant authenticity that look like they were aged on the characters themselves.

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