“Dear Evan Hansen” costume designer Sekinah Brown is grateful to actor Ben Platt for keeping the memorable blue-striped polo shirt from the Broadway musical. Platt, who played the titular role onstage, is reprising the part for the film which, opens the Toronto Intl. Film Festival on Sept. 9 and bows in theaters Sept. 24.
“He brought the original shirt with him and his New Balance shoes,” Brown says of the outfit and iconic striped top that has become synonymous with the character, a self-conscious teenager who prefers to hover in the background and is fearful of stepping into the spotlight. While she had to stay true to elements from the stage show, originally created by costume designer Emily Rebholz, Brown had freedom in other areas, creating 42 costume changes for Evan alone. “While I did see the costumes from the show, I didn’t get to see it onstage, so that allowed my vision to grow and make it my own,” she says.
Brown breaks down key looks from the film for the lead character and for Kaitlyn Dever’s Zoe, Evan’s longtime crush. The two become close after a classmate — her brother — commits suicide.
“Ben brought the original clothes because he said those bring him good juju. They had perfectly aged for the film. That polo was so important because people dress up every Halloween in it. [As a costume designer] I was so grateful because that shirt is no longer around.
We’ve all been around this kid in high school. He blends in and no one notices him. You see him in the hallway and walk right past him. I wanted to make sure there was a clear distinction between his color palette and his wardrobe versus the other characters, such as his best friend Jared [Nik Dodani]. Jared is vibrant, and I dressed him in textures, colors and patterns. When you see those two next to each other, I wanted to show how Ben’s character is basic. He has a middle-class single mother. Mom is busy and works double shifts — she goes to Walmart to get cleaning supplies and grabs a shirt for him. That’s the vibe I wanted for him.”
“She had this tomboy chic to her. She isn’t the stereotypical pretty, popular-girl cheerleader. She wears oversized clothing, but it’s understated. I didn’t want to put her in short skirts. Instead, I wanted to add layers and depth to her character. With Zoe, she wore overalls and floral dresses in the play, so I took that and tweaked it a bit. She’s an Urban Outfitters girl who wants to be comfortable and cool.
There are two homecoming looks in the film with Zoe and Evan. In the first, she wears Doc Marten boots, which is that tomboy chic, but when we get to the second homecoming scene, she’s in this beautiful white tulle dress. Evan is in that electric blue suit, and it’s a change from when we first see him in tan and beiges. It’s a transformation for both of them, and we see how they’ve grown and become free. Zoe also wore stars, so you’ll see that she draws them into the cuff of her jeans, and you’ll see them in her room. That’s where the two worlds of production design and costume intertwined. I discussed the color palette with [production designer] Beth Mickle, and we’d coordinate on little details like that.”