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The Designer Behind the Wild 'The Hunger Games: Catching Fire' Costumes: Trish Summerville

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood December 23, 2013 at 6:34AM

Who dreamed up and executed all those crazy costumes in "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire"? Relatively new to moviemaking, American costume designer Trish Summerville is known for music videos (Pink, Christina Aguilera, and Justin Timberlake) and dressing music stars such as Adam Lambert, Ricky Martin and Janet Jackson at stadium concerts around the world. That's why director Francis Lawrence asked her to create eye-popping show-stopper outfits, especially for archer Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) and Capitol fashion victim Effie Trinket (Elizabeth Banks) in "Catching Fire."
Stanley Tucci and Jennifer lawrence in 'Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
Stanley Tucci and Jennifer lawrence in 'Hunger Games: Catching Fire'
Trish Summerville design Catching Fire
Illustration by Robin Richesson

The grey oatmeal nubby wool cowl sweater worn by Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) has proved so popular that it was recently named the most sought-after sweater this season, admits Summerville: She went to Maria Dora, a local LA designer she found at the Church Boutique, where fledging designers do one-of-a-kind pieces with yard swatches and blended colors. "It's a piece that I wanted to show a homespun loved look and rustic appeal," says Summerville, "something her mom could have knitted for her, with an elegant shape, modern." 

She had fun collaborating with Lawrence: "She's great, she has a tiny little waist, she's curvy and lean. She's a joy to dress, great in period pieces as well, great strong shoulders. She's very open to dialogue on the different consumes, open to trying things as you try and cram as many shapes ands silhouettes as you can."

For the dramatic chariot entrance of the Hunger Games victors in the Capitol, Summerville created companion pieces for Katniss and Peta. When she met Josh Hutcherson, she thought, "he's a great dude, athletic, comfortable with himself. Let's man him up. We didn't get this manliness the first time. He has great arms, muscular, so we gave him a sleeveless laser-cut leather body of fabric lined with bronze and gold metallic fabric that shines through leather pants. Hers is a dress with a long train in back." Summerville had to work out with the VFX supervisor how to scan the fabric "so that flames would come through holes of the fabric, so that it looks like it comes from within."

Trish Summerville design Catching Fire
Illustration by Robin Richesson

Katniss's dramatic white wedding dress had a function: to spin and light up. Summerville turned to Jakarta designer Tex Saverio, whose gowns have been worn by Lady Gaga, to create a white dress that bursts into flames as she spins and reveals the dark blue mockingjay dress underneath. Summerville and Saverio worked together during Skype sessions via illustrations and sketches. 

The top bodice is made out of a metal cage to the waist with feathers around the bottom. Katniss is on fire as that dress burns away to ashes and she spins out in the mockingjay dress, made of layers of silk chiffon and printed bird feathers-- blue birds, peacocks, bluejays and mockingbirds. Summerville worked with an illustrator as they laid out photos of feathers, compiled then into a print and transferred that onto fabric to assemble the dress. 

The show demanded such a volume of costumes that Summerville worked with several designers, "doing lots of building and designing and loans and borrows," she says, "buying, repurposing. We had very little prep time, several principle actors and multiple changes on 5800 extras. You do everything you can to get everyone clothed. I was doing 106 fittings a day for 30 days to get all the fittings done while we were shooting. I had complete creative freedom. But it was very labor intensive."

Other favorite costumes were Joanna's chariot bodysuit, created with 3-D printing, and Finnick's chariot interview day skirt, "made out of dried fish pelts."

Summerville overhauled the look of the peacekeepers because "they looked too friendly as they were threatened by heightened rebellion and uproar in the district," she says. So she made them more "menacing to remove their humanity, so we would almost question whether they were completely human or structural shells. I wanted them to look like a praying mantis with a skeletal white shape." 

Movies that do not reference a specific time and place are harder to conjure. "You can do no research for a period," she says. "You're trying to see a future where you feel it should land. I used the book's flamboyant outlandish colorful world, the fantasy of the capital, and all the different characters, appropriately dressing them so they were viable and would play really well on film." 

This article is related to: Hunger Games: Catching Fire , Jennifer Lawrence, Awards, Awards Season Roundup, Awards, Oscars, Interviews , Interviews

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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.