As Wanda Maximoff (Elizabeth Olsen) played out a family fantasy across multiple decades of sitcom television in Disney Plus’ “WandaVision,” veteran costume designer Mayes C. Rubeo had to dress her for the part. But while she played with color and texture to represent fashion trends of gone by, she also had to create present-day, real-world looks for those trying to get down to the bottom of what was going on with Wanda, as well as offer a new take on the iconic Scarlet Witch costume.
What rules did Marvel set about what could or could not be changed from previous iterations of the Scarlet Witch costume for your design?
This costume was made in collaboration with the great artist Andy Park. Every designer that works on a new Marvel project tries to bring something else to the character, and we wanted a more mature, more weathered Wanda Maximoff. She has gone through so much — this show is about grieving — and we wanted the costume to reflect that. It shows less flesh; we didn’t do any crazy corset or tights; we wanted to elevate this character and give her well-deserved recognition as an amazing superhero.
In addition to collaborating with Andy, did you collaborate with the stunt team in order to make sure the costume allowed for right kind of movement and rigging?
We worked very closely with the stunt coordinator to see what kind of harnesses they were going to use for the action — is there going to be wire work? We estimate to have two to four hero costumes, and then two or three stunt hero costumes for the main actor to wear if she’s going to do wire work and two more for a stunt double. We sacrifice a little of the costume [on those versions] because we have to cut them open to get to the point of the harness. It’s very technical.
But for the other costumes, like the ’50s housewife dress or sleepwear, you don’t need as many doubles, right?
Not as many, but for me, as for many costume designers, one is not one; two is one. So I never have only one because if someone bumps into them or drops coffee on their shirt or it rips, I just can’t have that risk!
How did you develop the color palette, given that we wouldn’t even see the colors of the first costumes to which we were introduced, since the early episodes were black and white, but also that so much of the action is playing out in a fake world from a grieving woman?
All of this comes from the pain Wanda is feeling inside — the grieving. The first episode was about how to blend in a normal utopia of 1950s homes, with the housewife in the kitchen and the husband with the briefcase who goes to work. So we started with that and we built to the color through the 1960s and with the nosy neighbor played by Kathryn Hahn and Wanda being pregnant and then the wins. When we got to the twins, there was much more color than you’d seen in the show because it was in the middle of a very weird Halloween.
Speaking of that Halloween episode, what inspired the idea to be so true to the comics with the cut of their costumes? It was almost like they were hiding in plain sight thanks to exaggerated looks.
It was Kevin Feige’s idea to go back to the actual comic book look with that pop of really vibrant colors in how these characters were portrayed. So, in that episode she was in that super, super read bodysuit with pink tights, and then Vision had that bright, bright lemon yellow color with super bright green and a very, very red face. It was like if you went to Comic-Con. They became very iconic, those two costumes, but they were so cheesy.
One of my favorite looks for Wanda was actually just the simple long jacket with a hood she was wearing when she first saw the empty lot that Vision had bought for their family home.
Oh I think the hoodie was from James Perse and the coat, I think, was from Zara.
And also Wanda’s real-world look when she met up with Monica. It’s modern and sleek but also heightened enough that it feels more elevated than something you could walk around in and not draw attention.
It had to be a little bit scientific-looking, without being crazy exaggerated. It’s more of a tech costume that also gives you the feeling you can wash the garment at 200-degrees and it will not fall apart. That was the goal, to really give that impression.
But what were some of your favorite designs from the season?
I liked the ’50s; I liked Vision’s suits very much. I love, love, love the wedding dress. That was an homage to Audrey Hepburn because I think there was no more beautiful wedding dress in that period of time than the dress she wore in “Funny Face,” and we got exactly the same fabric from the factory in France. We went all the way. It was supposed to look like a bonbon — like a beautiful object of delicacy.
There are so many big costumes in this show, but was there anything that was deceptively complicated?
The off-the-rack stuff — the really comfy sweatpants, the sweaters, the lounge stuff. That was all much more expensive than many other things.
Is that just because you wanted the highest quality fabrics?
It’s just the way things are knitted and constructed.
How easy was it to find these pieces to source from the various time periods, versus building from scratch?
There are many costume houses that have fantastic pieces. I wanted to do something different, unique for every character. When we go and rent costumes from special fashion periods like in the ’50s, in the ’60s, those clothes, if they were to fit right, they have to be built for the person, if you want them to look amazing. Everybody’s torso measures different [and] it was important that it fit well for the circumstances of the of the story and to really portray a blending of sitcoms with Marvel. It was maybe 80% built, and then we were able to rent from very special houses and very special collections. We were very lucky to have all of those available [because] of the time and the knowledge of fabrics and how garments were constructed in the ’50s or ’60s they had.
How many options did you present to actors like Elizabeth so they’d have a say in this essential piece of their characters?
I would bring so many things to Lizzie and she would say, “This piece, not that one.” We would talk about the color and, “What do you think about this? Is this too long or too short?” Lizzie, Kathryn, Teyonah [Parris] were all particular about details, and when I have actors that care that much, it’s great because they’re engaged and we can build the characters together.