The 'Sharp Objects' Costume Designer On Hiding Camille's Scars & How To Spot The Perfect Caftan
With a show as staggeringly beautiful as Sharp Objects, it's difficult to pinpoint just one thing that it does well. The acting is gripping, the cinematography is gorgeous, and the editing is masterful, yes, but perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Sharp Objects is the costumes. While Camille's wrinkled shirts and repetitive outfits may seem innocuous to the casual viewer, it's a very deliberate character choice. And no one knows these characters' sartorial choices better than their costume designer, Alix Friedberg.
"There's a real sense of timelessness throughout the whole show and Wind Gap and the way that the people are dressed," Friedberg tells Bustle. The Crellin house itself also played a big role in dressing Sharp Objects' main cast. "The canvas of the show is the set design," she says. "And the house is such a huge part of the choices that we made for costume, because they were such powerful colors." It's fitting that Camille, Alan, Adora, and Amma are physically tied to the home through their clothes, just as they're thematically bound in a toxic familial relationship. The results of Friedberg's research are authentic, lived-in wardrobes that perfectly emphasize the personality of each character. Here's exactly what went into crafting some of the show's most memorable looks.
Camille Preaker (Amy Adams)
While Camille is the protagonist of Sharp Objects, she's easily one of its most disheveled characters. But her messy, muted ensembles begin to make sense as audiences learn about her abusive relationship with Adora. "For [Camille], it's all about a dark, bruised palette and retreating in the background as much as possible," Friedberg says.
And the costume designer kept Camille's socioeconomic status in mind, too. Since Adams's character is a struggling journalist, she's likely getting paid pennies. "A character's means is one of the first things that you look at in terms of where those characters shop," the costume designer says.
And what Camille shops for is mainly long-sleeved shirts in dark colors and black jeans. As soon as viewers catch a glimpse of some of the words she's cut into her skin, it becomes clear why she's wearing such oppressive clothes during the summer in Missouri. Furthermore, Friedberg says that Adams' character always had a tank top underneath her shirt, which she calls "a form of protection" for Camille.
She adds that she and her team knew exactly where Camille's scars were on her body in order to craft her wardrobe around them. "The special effects makeup people that did the applications sent us all a map of where [the scars] would end and where the actual words were so that we knew when we were going to reveal which words," she says.
Not only is Camille's wardrobe deliberately modest, it's also very repetitive. This, too, is a conscious choice. "Amy Adams is very method," Friedberg says, "so she wanted to do what was right for Camille. And that meant the same pair of boots. And I think it might have been two pairs of jeans. She shows up in one and has [another] in her bag."
While Camille doesn't have many items in her rotation, her clothes function as armor. They protect strangers from her scars and her secrets, so she picks them out very intentionally.
Adora Crellin (Patricia Clarkson)
That dress. Everything that Adora wears in Sharp Objects can be summed up with the stunning gown she wears to Calhoun Day. It's over-the-top, expensive, and ultimately perfect for the character. "We had a bunch of different ideas of dresses that we were going to build, and we ended up finding that dress," Friedberg says. "And [Patricia Clarkson] put it on, and it was magnificent. And it seemed like nothing else mattered after that."
The gown is from the British designer Temperley, Friedberg explains, and the embroidery was all done by hand. So while the gown is too dressy for the backyard barbecue that she wears it to, it works for Adora's character. "The addition of the hat and the wedge sandals brought the dress down a little bit," the costume designer says. "But you could easily have put on a pair of stilettos and worn that to the Oscars."
And when Adora steps onto the porch during Calhoun Day, she pauses by the stairs and smiles at her adoring public.
Alan Crellin (Henry Czerny)
Other than Amma, Adora's husband was Friedberg's favorite character to dress. "Alan was so much about wallpaper and costumes," she says. "Because he doesn't insert himself into the dynamic of the girls and doesn't let anybody know his pain or what's happening underneath his skin. So for him, it was so much about the way he looked when he was sitting in the chair."
Alan always looks immaculate in his pressed trousers and pastel button-ups, but it's all for show. Friedberg describes him as someone "who had the intention of having a life in the morning as he's meticulously matching his socks and his pocket square. And ends up, really, staying in the house and tending to his queen all day."
So while Mr. Crellin looks fabulous sitting in his chair, listening to classical music, and reading his Bible with a magnifying glass, that's his whole existence. He is the very definition of "all dressed up and nowhere to go."
Jackie O'Neill (Elizabeth Perkins)
Although Jackie wears a black dress to Natalie Keene's funeral in Episode 2, her life is built around a collection of flowing fabrics. "We had a completely different idea of what Jackie looked like [at first] and tried on a lot of things," Friedberg recalls. "And then [we] had one caftan in the fitting room that was kind of for when Vickery comes over at night, and it was just [when] she was drinking in on the veranda because she was hot and sweaty."
The Sharp Objects designer explains that the other clothes they'd stockpiled for Jackie were tight and cheap. But there was something so different and interesting about this caftan. "It just became part of her visual story," she says. "And we decided to scrap the whole rest of it and build a theme of caftans and big floaty fabric."
As for where she and her team found these flowy garments, Friedberg says "everywhere." "There were some vintage ones, there were some that we found that were nightgowns that we embellished to make them look more like day dresses," Friedberg says. "I believe the one she wears to Calhoun Day may have been Cavalli, believe it or not. And it might have been a beach cover-up that we lined."
The end result is an alcoholic woman who wears forgiving fabric to self-medicate in. "I think that it totally works for somebody who sits and just drinks all day long in the heat," Friedberg says.
Detective Willis (Chris Messina)
Detective Willis has no fashion sense, but that's the whole idea. As Friedberg points out, you wouldn't want a well-dressed policeman trying to solve murders. "He's a detective living in a motel," the costume designer explains. And, just like Camille, he's working with a limited set of options. "He thinks he's going to solve this case in a week, and he ends up staying longer," she says, "so he has a lot of repeating looks."
And since Willis isn't bringing in the big bucks, either, his clothes reflect that. Friedberg describes his aesthetic as "a little bit Italian, Macy's, kind of the off-the-rack" and "a little ill-fitting." His shirts are always soaked through with sweat, which shows he didn't pack appropriately for Wind Gap.
"He wears a lot of jewel-toned shirts that are definitely poly-cotton, stretchy — not [what] someone with a refined taste would buy," Friedberg says. "But it's not his thing. He's a detective from Kansas City. And, you know, his sunglasses, too, are dated, but I think there's a reality to that."
Amma Crellin (Eliza Scanlen)
"I love the duality of Amma," Friedberg says. "The way she dresses for her mom and the way she dresses for her outside world." In Episode 1, for instance, Amma wears a lemon-print dress that looks more suited for a porcelain doll. Two episodes later, audiences see her wearing a crop top with that same print on it. The designer says this was a nod to Amma's citrus-themed dress. "It is something subtle that we smirk at, but we always hope the audience will understand that," she says.
And there's a duality in the price point of Amma's clothes, too. "Amma's wardrobe when she's at home with her mom is expensive," Friedberg says. "We used a lot of kind of Oscar de la Renta little girl dresses. Whereas, when she goes out, there's a lot more commercially available clothes."
Indeed, Amma is a sexualized character, and her clothes reflect that when she's roller skating around Wind Gap with her friends. "She sort of cuts up her floral dresses and wears [them] with a denim jacket and high socks or Victoria's Secret bra popping out," Friedberg explains. It's classic teen girl, experimenting with showing skin.
Jodes and Kelsey (April Brinson and Violet Brinson)
Sharp Objects director Jean-Marc Vallée came up with the roller skates idea, Friedberg says. This concept wasn't in Gillian Flynn's novel, but it has a huge impact on the HBO series. "It lends itself to this weird eeriness — like these birds that are floating through the city," Friedberg says.
And since they're copying Amma's outfits, Jodes and Kelsey dress in very revealing clothes, as well. "These are typical teenage girls that are showing way too much skin, and it's in the middle of the summer, and they all want to look like Amma," she adds.
Indeed, their dynamic is similar to Jackie and Adora's toxic relationship. Amma constantly berates her friends in the same way Adora does, and yet Jodes and Kelsey are still at her beck and call.
Although we'll finally learn the killer's identity when Sharp Objects draws to a close on Aug. 26, a murder mystery was never the show's main focus. Sharp Objects was more interested in its characters — what they say, what they don't say, what their clothes reveal, and, in Camille's case, what their clothes hide.
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