Last week, Costume Designer Steven Noble called me from the Barcelona set of his next movie A Monster Calls, which re-teams him with The Theory of Everything darling Felicity Jones. While he laughed when I joked that two of them really need to start making more upbeat films (AMC is also about a terminal illness), he had nothing but serious praise for the actress.
“Both she and Eddie [Redmayne] were incredible, but I just thought Felicity was outstanding,” Steven boasted of her portrayal of Jane Hawking.
To Steven’s credit, the actress’ performance would not have been nearly as outstanding if she wasn’t able to embody Jane on the outside as well as she did on the inside.
Below, the costume designer explains in his own words how he brought this strong-willed, loyal wife to the big screen via vintage fashion. Then keep scrolling for a few get-the-look options.
OSS: What was your initial process when you came on board?
STEVEN NOBLE: Initial thing is to read the script. I wrote a lot of notes when I was reading it. We didn’t get to meet [the real] Jane Hawking until very much later on down the line. There was just enough narrative in [Jane’s] book, and we also looked at references to the period around that time. We also traveled to the locations to see the place, look at the light, look at people — it’s a different period, but it’s still quite relevant to Cambridge now.
Eventually we did get Jane to send the family photograph album, which was very helpful. We span four decades in the film, from 1963 to the early 90s. It was quite a task to put all that in place!
OSS: How would you describe Jane’s overall style?
Stephen was more bohemian, in a more static world than Jane was. I tried to make Jane look, not vulnerable, but prissy, young, and fun. She’s quite exhausted as the film progresses and so does Stephen’s disease. I tried to make her look heavier with the costumes. The fabrics got heavier and the palettes got darker. If you noticed at the beginning, she’s wearing a lot of the pale blues, light and airy colors.
OSS: Why did those light blue shades work so well?
At the beginning, when Stephen’s biking through Cambridge and we first meet Jane. He has a blue jacket on, which was in the script and something he did actually wear, so that was the springboard for that whole first period. We used that jacket and kept everything light and in that palette —blues and greys.
OSS: How did you change her clothes once Jonathan Jones (her future husband) came into the story?
Yes, we put her in a fresher palette. She starts off in the blues at the beginning, and then she’s in browns, khakis, deep purple colors. Then after she meets Jonathan, she’s in a lot of creams and blues. Toward the end she starts living again, so to say.
OSS: Even with Stephen’s disease getting worse, she always looked so put together. I keep thinking if this happened today, we’d all be in sweatpants! Was that a sign of the times?
[Laughs] She was a lot less put together than what she would’ve looked then. I wanted to keep an essence of her strong character there — didn’t want to pull Jane out of the character completely. Also it’s sort of dramatic license, as well. These films, things have to be slightly heightened a little bit.
OSS: Where did you find her May Ball dress?
We found it at a thrift store in England. The original piece looked more festive, and I adapted it. The color was in the palette we were using. It had sleeves and it had a much fuller, sort of petticoat full skirt. We took the sleeves off and we sliced the neckline slightly. We pulled the skirt up and we cuffed it to make it fit Felicity. It was just so beautiful.
OSS: Did you know it was going to glow under the black light or was that an accident?
We tested the men’s shirts previously to make sure they’d work, but I had no idea at all the dress was going to react that way. So it was a bit of a wow factor when the uv lights came on set. It’s a shame you don’t actually see the full-length [view of the dress] in the cut because it’s stunning!
OSS: Is it true Jane sent her original wedding dress to be used in the film?
We thought about using it a lot, and we decided not to use it in the end. It was very white, and it was way too iconic of the period in some ways. I wanted it to be more subtle than what it was. It is a beautiful dress, and it’s in beautiful condition. It would’ve had to be slightly altered to fit Felicity, which obviously we didn’t want to to that to her precious wedding dress after 40 years. We had three to choose from: One that had been made that you saw in the film, Jane’s dress, and a dress from a costume company.
OSS: Looking back at the whole movie, what was your favorite look for Jane?
I supposed it would have to be the May Ball dress. It was very simple but chic. It was perfect for the young Jane Hawking at the time — it wasn’t a fancy piece, it’s only cotton. It melds into the story in a sense because this young girl is falling in love.
JANE’S PALE BLUE, SLEEVELESS DRESS WORN WHEN SHE MEETS STEPHEN:
GET THE LOOK:
1. Alice and You Dress
2. ASOS Skater Dress
3. Amanda Uprichard Dress
JANE’S BLUE GEO-PRINT FIT AND FLARE DRESS:
GET THE LOOK:
Luck Be a Lady Dress
JANE’S PALE BLUE, LONG LACE DRESS WORN AT THE MAY BALL:
GET THE LOOK:
1. Ethereal Girl Dress
2. Sequin Hearts Dress
3. Paper Crown Dress4. Amsale Gown
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