It’s been three months since Greta Gerwig’s modern take on Little Women was first released in cinemas on Christmas Day. If you ask us, it deserved far more than its six Academy Award nominations, but the film did win big in one department: costume design.
Costume designer Jacqueline Durran swept award season with both a BAFTA and an Oscar for her dazzling work on Little Women. In fact, the wardrobes in the film inspired some of this year’s most talked about fashion trends (ever heard of a waistcoat?). But a shiny gold statue isn’t all that she gained for a job well done. She also acquired a long list of admirers.
This week, in honour of the digital, Blu Ray, and DVD release of Little Women, Sony Pictures asked four sewing influencers to adapt Durran’s iconic costume designs in their own styles. Angela Clayton of Angela Costumery, Rachel Maksy, Cynthia Settje of Red Threaded, and Taylor Shelby of Dames a la Mode will showcase their final designs to their sizeable Youtube and Instagram followings. Each of the four women was assigned a sister to design for: Clayton with sophisticated and worldly Amy, Maksy with determined and androgynous Jo, Settje with feminine and old-school Meg, and Shelby with homebodied and shy Beth.
“I'm so impressed by what they've achieved and I'm so impressed that they haven't copied the designs in the film,” Durran says of each of the four women’s final products. “They used their own style and inspiration to create great costumes.”
Anyone who’s read Louisa May Alcott’s famous novel or seen any of its many film adaptations knows that each of the March sisters has her own distinguishable personality and style. To create Oscar-worthy costumes that showcased those differences took creativity and talent that only a costume designer of Durran’s level of expertise could pull off. "The fact that there was so much to do to create five characters made these costumes extremely fulfilling to design," she recalls. But as the designer behind the iconic green dress in Atonement — not to mention all of Belle’s costumes from the 2017 rendition of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast starring Meg March herself, Emma Watson — we had no doubt that she’d do the job perfectly. Now, she’s passing the mantle to up-and-coming costume designers, giving them a chance to show the world what they’ve got.
“Making Meg’s whole gown in less than a month, while managing a business and everything else that happened in the world in March, was quite tricky,” says costumer Cynthia Settje. Because, it’s not just sewing that these designers are doing: They’re also researching their characters and the history of the plot, purchasing fabrics, arranging patterns, and at last, putting the entire ensemble together.
Rachel Masky, the costumer behind Jo March’s gown, took the task a step further, challenging herself to use only pre-existing materials for the job. “I felt like this was really fitting for how resourceful Jo is, and felt like she would’ve done the same with whatever Marmee had lying around,” Maksy tells us.
Like Durran, all four of the women asked to participate in this challenge gave it their all, effort that’s apparent in each of their final gowns: Amy’s, which mimics the sister’s interest in artistry and luxury; Jo’s, an example of creating something beautiful out of existing materials; Meg’s, a gown that her character would fawn over; and Beth’s, a frock that symbolised the illness that shaped her short life.
Experience the design process behind each dress on Youtube, check out a never-before-seen clip of the stars of the film discussing Durran’s costumes below. And if you haven’t yet, experience the Oscar-winning film, out now on all platforms.