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How Costume Designer Updated Looks for ‘Charlie’s Angels’ While Nodding to Past

The costumes that the “Charlie’s Angels” trio have worn over the years have always been functional but fashionable. In the TV show starring Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith and Kate Jackson, which ran from 1976 to 1981, and then in the movie franchise of the early 2000s with Lucy Liu, Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore, the functionality always fit the fashion of the time. In the latest incarnation of the franchise — written and directed by Elizabeth Banks, who also plays Bosley — with Kristen Stewart as Sabina, Naomi Scott as Elena and Ella Balinska as Jane — there isn’t much throwback to previous “Charlie’s Angels” productions, but costume designer Kym Barrett says that the spirit is certainly there.

“We have a few little Easter eggs [throughout the film] that give a nod to the past movies and TV show,” says Barrett, who designed the iconic costumes of “Romeo + Juliet” and the “Matrix” franchise. In designing the newest round of Angels costumes, Barrett felt her job was to create a strong character for each of the women — something that’s individualized but can also come together
as team-oriented whenever they’re in their group.

“The thing I really wanted to do was to show that each woman can play a part as an Angel,” says Barrett. With a plot that includes so many different events and destinations, the costume design was always going to be dependent on form and function. “They come from all walks of life, and their clothing is there to support them in whatever situation they might find themselves in,” Barrett says. “They might be in high heels, but they can still perform an amazing stunt.”

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Since the film moves across so many countries, that meant Barrett and her team also had to. They filmed in six cities in three countries on two continents in 57 days. Barrett sourced what she could when she could, but mostly had her team making costumes from scratch in their traveling caravan.

According to Barrett, the look for Stewart’s Sabina is a little bit androgynous and a little bit of a chameleon. She can scrub up into a beautiful blonde Barbie or be a sporty jockey.

Each of the Angels has two (or more) sides to her, and Barrett focused a lot on the disguises, making the characters not noticeable and then suddenly very noticeable. Balinska’s Jane is ex-MI-6, so she’s the most grounded, as Barrett says. She’s very stunt-based, so her clothes are quite athletic and her other side is sweet and playful. Scott’s Elena depicts a wider representation. “We want her to be every girl in her age group in the world, who is then thrust into becoming supergirl,” says Barrett. “That was a fun costume journey, taking her from H&M all the way to Prada or Max Mara.” Banks’ Bosley is the anchor of the group. “She’s like your favorite aunt — but like your favorite stylish aunt.” 

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