Each time she steps onto a red carpet, Lupita Nyong’o looks flawless. So when costume designer Clint Ramos learned that he would be giving the star a major make-under for her Broadway debut in Eclipsed, he knew he had to get it right.
“When I first found out that Lupita would be in the play, I was really anxious because she’s such a style icon,” Ramos told InStyle on Tuesday, just days after winning the Tony Award for Best Costume Design of a Play. “She’s become a very decorated young actress in a very short amount of time, and I had only heard really great things about her—but I didn’t know how far we could push her in the theater.”
But as soon as he began working with Nyong’o—who portrays "The Girl," one of five women brought together while fighting to survive the Second Liberian Civil War—Ramos’s apprehension quickly subsided. “Once we started talking about the costumes, she just asked all the right questions,” he said. “It was a very photographed war, so I was able to pull images while researching the wardrobe. As we sifted through the photos together, I’d study Lupita’s reaction to see what really resonated with her.”
Nyong'o was on board to do whatever it took to look the part. Still, Ramos “didn’t want to lose the idea of Lupita,” he said. “I wanted her to look convincing without distracting people by making her look unrecognizable, because she really has this inner light. When you look at her, there’s an unbelievable luminosity that just pours out of her skin. So while we celebrated the extreme of her character’s look, I didn’t want to overwork the idea and lose sight of who she is.”
Even so, the wardrobe had to accurately reflect the plight of the characters at the play’s core. “I didn’t want to make the costumes prettier than they should be just because it’s on Broadway,” he said. “I wanted to capture these characters by being honest and truthful, because the subject is unflinching and we’re forced to watch their painful story.”
While the hard-hitting play wraps its limited run on June 19, it’s already made history as the first-ever show with an all-female cast—and the cast and crew couldn't be happier. “It’s really profound that a play like Eclipsed, which deals with the darker and grittier aspects of humanity, is so successful,” said Ramos. “And the fact that it means a lot to so many people is wonderful.” Scroll down to see the costumes from the play and get the scoop from Ramos himself.