"One of the things Tom Hooper wanted for Jean Valjean was this idea that he was a man in search of a religious soul. For example, it's a silly thing, but the coat that he wears in the mountains is a very old Tibetan monk's coat made of very thick, old goat's hair. And we cut them up to make a black coat for him. I think I always wanted him to have a monkish quality with his costume, except when he was mayor of the town. But he's always wearing long coats, in a way like a monk's habit."
Meanwhile, because Javert is such a stiff, dogmatic, monolithic figure, Delgado dressed him a lot in wool, progressing from light to dark blue uniforms. He always thought of him from a vertical design perspective.
In contrast to Valjean, Fantine experiences a downward spiral going from factory worker to consumptive prostitute. "We wanted to show that she had dignity at the beginning and we decided to show her in a pink dress made of material with a lot of embroidery and hand work," Delgado suggests. "Then little by little we wanted to show degradation in her clothes, that she was falling into this grave, making the costumes dirty and ripped and bleaching the color until she becomes a prostitute when we wanted to show something more dramatic with red."
For the younger and more innocent Cosette, Delgado wanted to convey a blissful rite of passage. Therefore, she wears pretty dresses that aren't too ornate. "At the beginning, we see her in a crude convent regale. Then we wanted to show her blossoming throughout the movie into a beautiful woman. And we had to be made aware that the only romantic side of the movie is Cosette's love story."
Still, Delgado was very much aware of the undercurrent of suffering in "Les Misérables." Hugo was never far from his mind with his dramatic depiction of endless pain until revolution and liberty swept in. "It was a new way of thinking about freedom, and it is this combination of drama and musical that makes 'Les Misérables' so interesting."
We'll see how much the Academy agrees when the nominations are announced Thursday.
"Les Misérables" making of costumes featurette: