Classic glamour was costume designer Caroline Duncan’s goal when building the wardrobe for Jennifer Lopez, who plays global pop star Kat Valdez in “Marry Me.” In the Universal Pictures film, in theaters Feb. 11, Kat is one-half of a mega-celebrity couple and engaged to Bastian, played by singer Maluma. The two plan to get married onstage and stream their nuptials around the world while performing the titular hit single.
Since the wedding dress is a centerpiece of the story, it needed to be a showstopper. Plucked from the runway of Zuhair Murad’s bridal collection, the strapless Cinderella-esque rose-gold metallic gown consisted of nine layers constructed of silk taffeta, horsehair and tulle. The delicate combination of sparkling crystals, silver, ruffles, embroidery and lace “made it extremely heavy,” says Duncan. “The dress weighed 95 pounds and required five people to transport it and an entourage to get Jennifer in and out of it, but it gave the dress that volume.”
The cumbersome gown, Duncan says, serves as a visual metaphor for the event, which goes sour after Kat learns Bastian has been cheating on her. In a spur-of-the-moment turn of events, Kat spots a stranger, Charlie, played by Owen Wilson, holding a “Marry Me” sign and accepts the proposal.
The wedding dress sequence ends poignantly. “First, you see her get into the car, and it’s a symbol of how that wedding had gotten too big, and it wasn’t honest and has taken over her ability to see who she was marrying,” Duncan says. “Later, you see her in the bedroom alone on what should have been her wedding night, and here she is trapped in this claustrophobic dress that’s like the concert — bigger than she is. It’s the loneliest shot in the movie.”
When dressing Kat for her popstar scenes and day-to-day life, Duncan made sure not to get caught up in trends that would lock the film in 2021. The designer incorporated nods to old Hollywood glamour while finding contemporary and fashion-forward pieces. Lopez’s looks ran the gamut from haute Parisian to ’80s Norma Kamali-inspired and cozy cashmere sets.
Duncan gave Kat a monochromatic look with white-on-white outfits, but as she gets to know new husband Charlie, a teacher, and starts to loosen up, blues and pinks enter her wardrobe, and the fabrics get softer. Duncan leaned on American designers for a lot of the looks, noting that Kat would probably have a stylist who curated her closet, pulling outfits for her. During the post-wedding press conference scene, the costume designer chose a tailored yet playful white blouse with cutouts and pants by up-and-coming designer Peter Do. “It gave her this command of the podium, but it was also a bit flirtatious and pushed the envelope.”
To ground the film in the popstar world, Duncan utilized high-end pieces from Versace, Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman and Net-a-Porter. But Lopez also wore streetwear. “Some of the stuff was not incredibly expensive. When Bastian shows up at Charlie’s school, Kat’s outfit is from Naked Wardrobe,” says Duncan. “We were not afraid to mix higher and lower brands, because we wanted her to feel aspirational.”
Duncan also gave the character a bit of history, picking out a mohair Kangol cap. She says Lopez loved the idea when presented with it. “It felt like it was something Kat started wearing in the ’90s as she was coming up, and it stuck with her, and it was the cornerstone of her day-to-day wear.”
Though Lopez is a brand ambassador for Guess, she didn’t incorporate any of her own items into the film. Says Duncan, “There was a moment where we talked about a coat of hers, but everything she wears in the film is from costume.”