During our recent webcam chat (watch above), “Loving” costume designer Erin Benach describes her initial work as creating, “a radius of the environment we’re going to be in for the story.” In her extensive research, she explains, “I knew I wanted to stay away from fashion magazines and Sears catalogues and things like that, because it didn’t feel like that was our world.” Directed by Jeff Nichols, this Focus Features release tells the true story of Richard (Joel Edgerton) and Mildred Loving (Ruth Negga), an interracial couple who in 1958 are sentenced to prison in Virginia after they are married, leading to a landmark Supreme Court case that ended anti-miscegenation laws.
Benach, a Costume Designer’s Guild Nominee for “Drive” (2011) wanted to capture the real world feeling of Nancy Buirski‘s 2011 HBO documentary “The Loving Story” (Buirski serves as a producer on this film). In looking at archival footage and photographs, she divulges, “you start to create a world by all the people your main characters are surrounded by and living amongst.” That goes for their environment as well. When the couple is forced to leave Virginia for Washington, D.C., she adds, “we were definitely playing with the small town and then also the city world, and were trying to contrast that.”
One of her chief decisions was choosing the appropriate color pallet for the characters. For Richard, who made his living as a brick-layer, she decided to, “keep it in that muted tones kind of world.” In the case of Mildred, however, “we played with color a bit to kind of carry her through different moments.” For instance, “we never see her in black, or in a very dark, solid color ever, until the moment she comes to the lawyer that she and Richard see, that they meet through the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union).”
2016 has been a busy year for Benach. In addition to “Loving,” she also designed threads for Nichols’ “Midnight Special,” Nicolas Winding Refn‘s “The Neon Demon,” and Derek Cianfrance‘s “The Light Between Oceans.” Check out our full interview above for more about her work.
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