You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

‘Queen and Slim’ Designer Shiona Turini on the Power of Costumes

When costume designer Shiona L. Turini saw Daniel Kaluuya’s classic Reebok with the rubber sole, she knew she had found her sneakers for “Queen & Slim.”

The beautifully crafted road movie follows a young black couple who go on the run through the South after a police officer is killed in self-defense. When we first meet Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Kaluuya), the two are on a first date in a diner.

“When it came to the design, it was so important to screenwriter Lena [Waithe]. We put a lot of care and attention into the waitress’ costumes that you see in the opening,” Turini said. “I wanted it to be that perfect shade where it’s not too pink and too red.”

For Turini, earrings were the standout costume piece.

“It told such a cultural story at that moment,” she said. “The iconic hoop earrings were so iconic. [Director] Melina [Matsoukas] wanted the first half of the movie to feel very cold, so with the costumes we used very cool colors.”

With waitresses setting the tone, we also see how Queen is out-of-place. Her outfit is an elegant turtle neck. That look, Turini says, was inspired by political activist Angela Davis.

Popular on Variety

“I looked at the Black Panthers. Their words and actions did the work, so their clothing didn’t have to,” Turini said. “I wanted to convey that with Queen. She is fighting for the freedom of black men and women throughout her career.”

Queen and Slim’s road trip leads them to Uncle Earl, a superb turn from actor Bokeem Woodbine.

“His look is a throwback to culture and fashion,” Turini says of his classic old school Gucci attire. “We collaborated with Dapper Dan for that because he’s such an icon in fashion. We wanted it to feel old school. Being able to sketch that and use the rich yellow velvet, I was so pleased with how that turned out.”

The stop at Uncle Earl’s allows the characters to change. “Lena wanted Uncle Earl to have a closet of tracksuits.” It’s not just any old tracksuit, Turini and Matsoukas discussed the look and color in-depth.

“We wanted a color to stand out at night, and we wanted a color that looked beautiful against black skin,” she said. “We camera tested so many different looks. I even flew back to New York one weekend to test more red velvet. We wanted it to feel very rich in texture with a rich sheen.”

Aside from the right shade of red, the piping was important to completing Slim’s look. Turini added in the white piping so the stripe could be seen no matter which angle he was standing.

It’s not just Slim who changes, Queen steps into an animal print dress. It’s a revelation, an even more empowering look. At this stage, Queen also removes her braids, showing off her natural short hair, and it’s striking.

Despite being on the run, the duo later make a stop at a juke joint where blues musician Little Freddie King is playing. “I collaborated with designers for his look,” Turini said. “I noticed his personal wardrobe is filled with life. So, we had him in that red suit. I wanted that look in that joint to feel authentic with the women dressing over the top, and others in just jeans and a tank top.”

Chloë Sevigny’s character provides a temporary sanctuary for both. “She’s like the Tory Burch woman.” laughs Turnini, describing her as the woman who would be in line at the outlet to get a cardigan. “I loved her outfit. When she sits down and you see the gold and her shoe. That’s the ultimate Tory Burch woman.”

Turini used the power of the costumes to tell the visual narrative of “Queen & Slim” and propel the film’s themes of power and resilience. “We used very cool colors for the first half of the film. As they’re traveling through the south, it becomes this explosion of culture and personality.”

More Film

  • Two-time Oscar®-winner Tom Hanks portrays one

    How Production Designer Jade Healy Recreated the Beautiful Neighborhood of Mister Rogers

    Production designer Jade Healy is doing double duty this awards season. For one, her work can be seen in Noah Baumbach’s “Marriage Story.” There, she created a world of angst and individuality, making use of negative space as a couple reaches the end of their relationship. In Marielle Heller’s “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood,” [...]

  • Eddie Murphy Awkwafina

    The Golden Globes Polish Up Their New Respectability (Column)

    It’s always a fun ritual to peruse the nominations for the Golden Globes, because you’re probably going to see a handful of eyebrow-raisers and maybe a jaw-dropper, the sort of “Oh, did they actually do that?” choices that make the Golden Globes the Golden Globes. That’s the theory, at any rate. But it may be [...]

  • Greta Gerwig Lulu Wang Ava DuVernay

    Hollywood Responds to Golden Globes Female Director Snub: 'Advertisers Should Weigh In'

    Snubs and surprises are par for the course when it comes to award show nominations, but outrage over the shut-out of women in the best director category for the 2020 Golden Globes is proving considerable. Women nominees and Hollywood gender equity watchdogs have expressed disappointment and anger over the exclusion of at least four women [...]

  • Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) is

    Golden Globes: Six Things to Know About the Film Nominations

    Most of Monday morning’s Globe nominations didn’t come as a big surprise. “Marriage Story,” “The Irishman,” “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” and “Parasite” have been ruling awards season – their many nominations were expected. But Globe wins don’t necessarily translate to Oscar gold — about half of best pic wins have been in sync [...]

  • Rey (Daisy Ridley) in STAR WARS:

    Daisy Ridley on Life After 'Star Wars': 'I Am Working on Liking Myself'

    When Daisy Ridley was cast to play Rey in 2015’s “Star Wars: The Force Awakens,” she vaulted from the quiet anonymity of a young working actor in the United Kingdom to sudden global mega-fame as the star of one of the most anticipated movies of the century. Since then, she reprised her role in Rian [...]

  • Game of Thrones Avengers Endgame

    'Game of Thrones,' 'Avengers: Endgame' Among Most Popular Tweets of 2019

    Twitter released its top-trending topics and tweets of 2019 with “Game of Thrones,” “Avengers: Endgame,” and actor Tom Holland commanding the most tweets in the TV, movies, and actors categories. BTS holds both the No. 1 spot in the most-tweeted-about musicians category and the second-most-retweeted tweet worldwide. Since its release in June, a video of [...]

  • Lorenzo Soria77th Annual Golden Globes Nominations,

    HFPA President Responds to Golden Globes' Female Director Shut-Out: 'We Vote by Film'

    Despite gains in the number of films and TV shows helmed by women, female directors were completely shut out of the Golden Globes once again this year. The snub was immediately called out on social media, with filmmakers like “Honey Boy” director Alma Har’el tweeting, “do not look for justice in the awards system.” However, [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content