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Immersed in Movies: Paco Delgado Talks 'Les Miserables' Costumes

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood January 9, 2013 at 12:16PM

For Paco Delgado, "Les Misérables" moves like a breathless action movie the way it combines gritty drama with musical fantasy. That was director Tom Hooper's cinematic vision for the operatic sing-through...

Les Miserables Hathaway
'Les Miserables'

"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.

Fantine sketch

"Les Misérables" making of costumes featurette:

This article is related to: Immersed In Movies, Les Miserables, Costume Design, Hugh Jackman, Anne Hathaway

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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.