Michael Gracey’s “The Greatest Showman,” a screen musical that tells the story of larger-than-life showman and businessman P.T. Barnum, played by Hugh Jackman, displays some of this year most flamboyant movie costumes.
Ellen Mirojnick, who was tasked with creating more than 500 outfits for the movie as well as dressing better than 1,000 extras, has been nominated for a Costume Designers Guild Award for excellence in a period film. The detail and extravagance of her work speak for themselves.
Barnum’s iconic ringmaster guise was threaded from silk and wool and tailored by wardrobe cutter Barak Stribling, a Mirojnick collaborator for 25 years. The fabric of the deep red jacket worn by Jackman was picked for its luminescence, and the entire design emphasizes the actor’s long shape while offering flexibility for choreography.
“The red needed to be the most electric pure red we could find,” Mirojnick says. “The coat gives the impression that it wraps around his body, so all the lines are curved to make him look strong and to make a statement.” It was finished with custom-made buttons and gold trim and embroidered with a “B” monogram. His black pants hug his body, and riding boots trimmed in gold marry the ensemble. “The moment Hugh put the jacket on, we couldn’t take our eyes off it,” Mirojnick recalls. “You just knew it was perfect.”
Barnum’s wife, Charity, played by Michelle Williams, is dressed in delicate lavenders and pinks, embodying a classic romantic look. “She’s always the salt of the earth with two feet on the ground,” Mirojnick says. “This is a beautiful love story, and you feel steadiness from her — and later, her disappointment when he breaks her heart. We felt the best way to present her was to not try to impress.”
In creating the signature colors for aerialist Anne Wheeler, played by Zendaya, the designer mixed turquoise, purple, silver and gold with Swarovski crystals. A pink wig helped set her
performance apart. Mirojnick admits the actress’s beauty and gorgeous skin allows her to wear anything. “Like Michelle Williams, Zendaya has a presence that can shift into anything you want her to be. We had to pull back the work to make it feel real. We wanted the audience to identify with her in an aspirational way rather than a particular place in time.”
Mirojnick also gave a particular style to songstress Jenny Lind, played by Rebecca Ferguson. “She always performed in white, and there’s no softness in her coloration,” she says. Her gowns were custom-built and reworked contemporary pieces. When we first meet her inside Buckingham Palace, she’s draped in white duchess satin with encrusted Swarovski crystals. Offstage, the vixen-like Lind wears colors that are not sweet or gentle, including a deep blue dress by Marchesa that she wears for a train ride with Barnum on her U.S. tour.
“I’ve been doing this for a long time,” says the 68-year-old Mirojnick, who has more than 50 movies to her credit, “but this film changed my life. Michael [Gracey] craved richness of color. I became freer and bolder, and the boundaries were limited only by the imagination.”