The 'Still A Rose' Costumes Transport This Inclusive Take On 'Romeo And Juliet' To An Elegant Past — PHOTOS
On Wednesday night, the Frameline39 San Francisco LGBTQ International Film Festival premiered Still A Rose, an LGBT-inclusive take on Romeo and Juliet. Directed by hazart, the short film portrays the balcony scene through four different pairings of Shakespeare's classic couple: a male Romeo and female Juliet, male Romeo and male Juliet, female Romeo and female Juliet, and finally female Romeo and male Juliet. In just under 13 minutes, it transports you back to the Elizabethan era in which the play was originally set, and much of its success in bringing that time period to life in such a short amount of time is owed to the costumes of Still A Rose.
Costume designer Sarah Jeanne Mgeni hand-made the outfits worn by each of the film's four stars, Troian Bellisario (Juliet), Brandon Crowder (Romeo), Tinuke Oyefule (Romeo), and Will Branske (Juliet). Though multiple actors play the same character in Still A Rose, and the film continuously cuts between all four pairings, the costumes ensure you can easily identify each character, which Bellisario (who also stars on a TV series known for its fashion, Pretty Little Liars) credits to the color scheme chosen for the Romeos and Juliets. "They come from two different houses, so the choice was that the Montagues would have a color scheme, which I think was black and blue, and the Capulets would have a color scheme, which was white and gold," she explains. "It was important that everyone be in the same time period...and that the Juliets maintain the Capulet house colors and the Romeos maintain the Montague house colors." This focus on color is clear in the design sketches and boards Mgeni shares, where the contrast between each house is most evident.
When these colors are paired with the historical style of the clothing, viewers are instantly transported to the time of Romeo and Juliet. This just strengthens the film's message of inclusivity and the universal power of love, as it shows that Still A Rose clearly not a "modern" take on Shakespeare's play. It's simply a beloved scene from Romeo and Juliet shown with a combination of straight and gay couples.
The costumes really stand out in moments when the film very quickly betweens different actors playing the same role. While sometimes one portrayal of Juliet may linger on the screen for many lines, at other points, it is cut at a pace so quickly, the actors almost blend into each other. Though the dialogue remains the same, the costumes shift before your eyes, immediately drawing your attention and making you notice elegant details that add to the romantic atmosphere. Take for example the two Romeo costumes, though they each adhere to the Montague colors, they are distinctively different outfits. Oyefule's contains a skirt, emphasizing her femininity, which is important considering how much gender and sexuality contribute to the theme.
The same can be said for the two portrayals of Juliet. Bellisario and Branske are both outfitted in bright white with gold accents, but her long gown is clearly different from his pants and shirt. As Bellisario says of hazart's intentions with the costumes, "They didn’t want Will to be in a dress, but they wanted him to be in Capulet colors."
If you're curious as to how exactly Mgeni created these four stunning costumes, they all started with the fabric samples shown above and hand-drawn sketches. Through a process that was the designer and hazart's "most complex and intricut work-to-date," the outfits you see here were created, hand-made for each individual actor. Though they lack that key color scheme, from the sketches you can already see the filmmakers' vision for bringing the actors, and audience, back in time. Here's how the Juliet outfits began:
And the Romeo costumes:
Just as every frame was carefully selected to reflect the four pairings, the costumes of Still A Rose ensure that the audience knows they are watching that classic scene from Romeo and Juliet, and that love does not change across genders or sexual orientations.
Images: Courtesy of hazart & Sarah Jeanne Mgeni (11)