Harry Potter’s Costume Designer Shares Secrets from Set that Not Even a Superfan Would Know
June 26 is the 20-year anniversary of J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, and two decades later, fans are still obsessively reading and re-reading the series. Case in point? Pottermore just launched the official Harry Potter book club, where superfans can join in on discussing the books from beginning to end—starting, of course, at 4 Privet Drive.
In honor of the anniversary, InStyle caught up with costume designer Jany Temime, who worked on the last six of the blockbuster films. Temime, who has partnered with Prismacolor to show how she brings her designs to life, told us everything from the easiest cast members to work with, to her favorite creations, and the atmosphere on that famed set. She began with Emma Watson and her character Hermione, whose style evolved perhaps the most throughout the eight films.
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Emma is now a style icon. Did she collaborate with you in your costume design?
With costume design, no. Emma as a young girl, she was much more a student. She wanted to study. And then she became a teenager, and she started having a lot of couturiers sending her dresses. She became one of the Chanel muses and then she was photographed by Karl Lagerfeld. But she always stayed very grounded because she is so intelligent. Her frustration was not being able to study even more. That was really her obsession: going to university.
She started later being very involved when she was discovered as a model as well. I remember helping her with her dresses for the red carpet every premiere. I remember going shopping with her, and giving her a little Lanvin dress, a beige Lanvin dress. I was going shopping with her and her mom. We were really close. But for the costumes themselves, she had a lot of confidence in me, and she really enjoyed what I was giving her. We’re still friends.
Did she ever have opinions on what she was wearing?
All the time. It was so funny because the boys had never any opinions. It was, ‘Okay, can we get on with it?’ And Emma, she had less than the little Weasley, Ginny [Bonnie Wright]. Her parents are well-known jewelers. Sheila Teague, she’s a jewelry designer. So she was more into fashion than Emma. Emma, she wanted to study. It was very funny because she became the one who every couturier was fighting for.
Now she’s so into sustainable fashion. Did she ever talk about that when she was on the set?
Not at all. She was painting. She was a good painter. She was talking about boys. She was talking about what every single teenager was talking about. She wanted to do so many things. I remember we did something together—she did a mini collection when we were doing number five, a little collection for a natural brand. I helped her with it. She had to design a few things for it. But that was not her focus.
What was your inspiration behind Hermione’s Yule Ball gown?
I came up with the color first. I’m always obsessed by color. It’s a visual art—it’s the first thing that you see. I found that ombré chiffon which was starting pink and going into purple. I wanted to use that because I thought it was a little bit magical. They had to be little witches; that was what the story was about. So I wanted something moving, and something young, not a grown-up dress but a 16-year-old dress. [Emma] loved it. She absolutely loved it, because she thought, ‘This is a dress that Hermione could have picked.’ She was a great actress.
Who else was involved with their character’s costume design?
The characters that I had from the beginning, from 12 years old, they were more used to me. They trusted me. But from the Yule Ball on, the girls started really wanting to have dresses and more fashionable costumes. But the one who was very much involved with the costume was Luna. Because Luna [Evanna Lynch], she was a Potter freak. She knew everything about Harry Potter. They gave her extensions in hair and make-up, and she would go home and sleep in her extensions. She didn’t want to take them off. She was really Luna. She loved the Christmas tree dress. She was making jewelry with me. She helped me with the lion head. She was very involved, that one.
And the boys were the most hands-off with their costumes?
The boys were easy. Ron [Rupert Grint] was always looking like a disaster because he had to look like a disaster. He was fine with it. I was laughing. I said, ‘Ron, one day I promise you I will design something for you and you will be really looking good.’ And he said, ‘Okay.’ He was never really bothered, never bothered. And he had a sense of fashion. He had a sense of fashion more than Harry [Daniel Radcliffe]. But to explain something about Ron, he arrived one day at one of the premieres—I think it was number five—and he had a T-shirt with Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter on his shirt. He was great. He had great ideas. Daniel, no. He never liked clothes. He was always fine with what I was giving him. The Weasley twins [James and Oliver Phelps], they were very much involved in what they were wearing. They loved it.
What was your approach to dressing them?
I would do it not the same but complimentary. So when was one in stripes, the other one was in squares with the same colors. Or when one had vertical stripes, the other one had horizontal stripes, because I thought it was funnier to do something complimentary than something exactly the same.
Did you have a favorite scene to design?
No, because it went on for 10 years. But of course when I read the fourth script I was quite excited. It was the big challenge, you know? It was the big costumes. I had the Beauxbatons. That was lovely, the Beauxbatons, because I had a French actress. [Editor’s note: Temime is French]. There were things that were more exciting than others, but all together in every single film there was something.
Who was your favorite character to design for?
I enjoyed Bellatrix very much. Helena Bonham Carter gets very involved. I gave her a corset because she’s born in a corset. She has been doing historical drama all her life. So I gave her a corset because the minute that you strangle her, she feels good. And also I wanted something medieval because her family is one of the oldest wizarding families, so I wanted to show that background, that sense of history. With her, it was always a pleasure. Nothing was enough. It could go so far with her. And she was always coming back and saying, ‘What about if …’ and I would say, ‘Helena, it’s fine.’ She could get very extreme.
When you arrived for the third movie, you had the kids stop wearing their Hogwarts robes around school. What was the idea behind that?
I thought that they should look normal, that they should look like normal kids. I wanted a real feel. I wanted to make Harry Potter not a little story that you read in bed but something real. Because at the end of the day, they are teenagers coming from dysfunctional families, all of them, and then living together in a boarding school and all those kids have special gifts. Sometimes they can handle it. Sometimes they cannot handle those gifts. I wanted to make it feel as real as possible. I was quite sure about it, because I could see that the actors wearing those clothes were feeling comfortable about it, because they looked cool. They were happy.
Were there any times that you gave a hint as to what was to come through the fashion design?
No, we didn’t know, because we were getting the books one after the other. During book five, J.K. Rowling said that Dumbledore was gay. I said, ‘You could have said before!’ I didn’t know, you know. I would have designed it differently. Sometimes we were asking her, ‘Do you think this one is going to die? Because then maybe …’ She didn’t know! She was also writing as it went. But sometimes she would say what she liked and what she didn’t like. Like in Quidditch, I gave Harry number seven because of David Beckham, and she liked that.
What was the atmosphere like on set?
Honestly fantastic. I had never seen anything like it. It was 10 years of my life. The kids were great. The cast was amazing. And there was the feeling that we were doing something very special. The last day of filming was very emotional. The last shot—I got a picture of it. I remember Daniel stepped on the wooden box and he made a speech and he was half crying. We were all crying. It was so emotional. I was emptying my office. It was like the end of the world.
We’re nearing the 20th anniversary of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Why do you think these books and movies have remained so universally loved?
Because they are excellent. They have a mix of something magical but also something very grounded. They’re really a metaphor for gifted kids with something special, which is the story of every single teenager. And the films were extremely well made with a lot of attention to detail. I think it was something magical happening, and I don’t know if it will ever happen again.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.