It’s rare to find fresh-off-the-runway fashion in action-packed films, but, thanks to Trish Summerville, The Hunger Games series plays equally with action and Alexander McQueen. Summerville, who was awarded Costume Designer of the Year at the 2013 Style Awards, has been creating iconic pop culture looks for quite some time, including Christina Aguilera’s leather chaps getup in her Dirty video and Rooney Mara’s eerie-chic style in The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. The costume designer even told us she crafted the prominent biker jacket Mara rocks throughout the film. Summerville dished to InStyle on how she prepares to costume a blockbuster hit and how Elizabeth Banks morphs into character (above in a red-ruffled McQueen frock). Plus, she shared a tiny little secret on the graceful fall Jennifer Lawrence took in Dior Haute Couture on her way up to the Oscars stage last February.
What are some of your favorite looks that you’ve styled?
That’s a hard one! I think my favorite video that I’ve ever done would be Pink’s Just Like A Pill. And I’m really proud of the biker jacket I made for Rooney [Mara] in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—but to pick a favorite is hard, I love each project individually.
Was it an easy transition to go from The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo to The Hunger Games?
I think in general for me, my color palette is usually much darker and more saturated, so I liked the challenge of going into [The Hunger Games:] Catching Fire because they were both so extremely different; it was great. It was kind of just changing my mindset and my gears to go with understanding that world and getting the color. I think that what’s great for costume designers is choosing different types of projects. We get challenged on creating this world and giving the characters clues so that they can develop these characters, so I like doing both. I like doing everything and constantly changing everything up because it challenges me.
How did you create Elizabeth Banks’ Effie look:
I try to do an overall concept, so we have a bunch of hair and makeup boards as well, to try and establish what the look will be, and we do fittings. And then we’ll send hair and makeup our fittings so they can see what the clothing looks like and what the colors will be. Elizabeth was really fun to work with; she is great during the fittings. She instantly kind of morphs into this Effie character—she changes the way she stands, the way she holds her hands, and all of that. She was a lot of fun.
How do you prepare to take on such a huge project like The Hunger Games series?
I get the script and kind of do a breakdown of the characters and the changes, and then I’ll start doing tears. I do mood boards, anything can be on the mood boards from illustrations and quick sketches to fabric to anything that inspires me—whether it’s for color or structure. And then for Catching Fire, I had a board for each of the principle actors and then I had hair and makeup boards, fabrication boards, and color boards, and environment boards—so it’s a lot of inspiration boards around the whole office. And then I just starting pulling fabrics; we have a lot of fabrics on hand that I can have stuff to make with because we made some things for extras and all the guards. So you are pretty much either buying, altering, repurposing, or manufacturing for every single person in the film. And you’re constantly looking for something that can fit in that world. It’s a lot of online shopping, too. I go all over because it will kind of take me to something I’m looking for, and then you’ll get that link that takes you to this, to this, to this. And then you realize an hour later that you’ve traveled so far away from what you were looking for.
Were there any disasters that turned into an amazing moment?
The only thing was Jenn [Lawrence] in the big wedding dress, when she had to go up the ramp, which we’re hoping that they’ll put this in the outtakes, she fell. So then when she won the Academy Award, I texted her that night, and I was like “Congratulations, I’m so happy for you! Thank goodness we rehearsed you falling in a big giant gown—you did an excellent job!” And how beautifully did she fall? She just surrendered!