[WATCH] ‘Hidden Figures’ costume designer Renee Ehrlich Kalfus on recreating ‘conservative’ 1960s

During our recent webcam chat (watch above), costume designer Renee Ehrlich Kalfus divulges that her work on “Hidden Figures” required, “a very, very specific look.” Set in the early 1960s, this Fox 2000 release stars Taraji P. Henson as Katherine Johnson, a real life African-American mathematician who helped NASA launch their first successful space missions while fighting against the laws of segregation. “It was very conservative,” explains the costumer about the period threads, “which is kind of interesting because it was also the beginning of a very tumultuous time, and that contrast just for a costume designer is very interesting.”

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In researching the film’s true story, Kalfus and director Theodore Melfi found that Johnson, “not only was a math genius,” but also, “sewed her own clothes, which was just remarkable in-and-of itself.” Upon first meeting with Henson, she presented her with various dress patterns which, “would’ve been appropriate for her to make for working at NASA. It really informed the character, and it also gave us a little leeway.”

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Unlike most films mired in the past, Kalfus reveals, “we decided we were going to have a sort of contemporary look at a time, at this period.” While she took great pains to create a sense of accuracy, “we weren’t a slave to the period.”

Kalfus previously competed at the BAFTAs for “Chocolat.” Is her first Oscar nomination next? Check out our full interview above for more about her work on “Hidden Figures.”

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