Natalie O’Brien interview: ‘I’m Your Woman’ costume designer
“This was very new for me,” says “I’m Your Woman” costume designer Natalie O’Brien about capturing 1970s style in the Amazon crime thriller. “I had done 18th century, 14th century, some ’80s and ’90s, and some other stuff of course,” so she was “excited” to expand her repertoire to yet another era. She discussed the film with us as part of our “Meet the Experts” costume designers panel. Watch our interview above.
The film tells the story of Jean (Rachel Brosnahan), who goes on the run after her criminal husband disappears. It’s an original story directed by Julia Hart and written by Hart with her husband Jordan Horowitz, so O’Brien was “building these characters from scratch.” What’s more, Hart wanted “to make sure that we’re pulling references from the ’50s and the ’60s” as well as the ’70s. That opened the door for an even wider range of costumes, and “it’s nice to have that freedom.”
O’Brien was guided by Jean’s character arc. The film begins “at her height” with “the most at-home glamorous look that you have.” But then she comes closer and closer to danger, and “as her costumes change, so does she. She goes through these different struggles,” and the extravagance of her wardrobe gives way to more practical, down-to-Earth attire — except for a scene at a mobbed-up disco that requires her to be dressed to the nines in order to blend in.
But that’s nothing compared to the logistics of dressing an infant. Jean spends most of the film caring for a child, and adapting to motherhood is a core aspect of her emotional journey. But it also meant costuming the youngest members of the cast (the boy was played by twins Jameson and Justin Hall). The costume department made most of their clothes because “you can’t really get ’70s little kids’ costumes, and also it’s not very sanitary,” O’Brien explains. “We had to make four to five” versions of every costume “because we have the doll, we have Jameson and Justin, then in case something happens to one of the kids — things that babies do — we have to have another one ready to go.”
On the plus side, it turned out to be a good workout. “If you notice, Rachel is literally holding the baby in every scene,” O’Brien points out. “I asked her afterwards, ‘Are your arms getting exhausted and tired?’ And she’s like, ‘I’m getting kinda ripped.’ Honestly, it was quite wild.”