When you watch a film, the costumes are a key element. They influence how you see a character, their environment, place and time. Without the right costumes a film would be lost.
One of my favorite things is to talk to people who do different things in the film industry. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with costume designer and wardrobe stylist Lynn Falconer. You might not realize it, but you have seen her work before. She most recently designed the costumes for the upcoming film ‘Ouija 2: Origin of Evil‘, but she has been involved with so many projects. Just to name a few, ‘Oculus’, ‘Before I Wake’, ‘The Frozen Ground’, ‘Silent House’, ‘Straw Dogs’, and many others. Falconer also dresses actors for various commercials for companies such as Verizon, Radio Shack and even the Super Bowl.
Horror Fuel: “Have you always been interesting in fashion?
Falconer: “Yes! And there is quite the documented history of it in my archives….when I was 6 years old, and for many years after, I would draw the Miss America Pageant on a tiny little white tablet. Ms. Arizona would have her own little page with a distinct hairdo and dress and shoes, as would Ms. Hawaii and Ms. California. When I ran out of states i would move on to the Miss World pageant. Cut to high school –where I worked at the only cool little dress boutique in my small town of Porterville California, and wrote the fashion page in the school yearbook. It’s also due to a love of fashion that I moved to New York City –without having spent a second there previously! I went there to attend Parsons School of Design/The Fashion Program.”
Horror Fuel: “How did you get your start as a costume designer for ﬁlms and television?”
Falconer: “This is a cool story, but I don’t think it’s a common start in ﬁlm to be honest. I had worked at Seventh Avenue(Fashion Avenue in NYC) for several years, but there was something missing in the fashion industry for me. I was at a fork in the road, and was speaking to my dear friend Christian Vincent, who is a very talented ﬁne artist, and his new love, actress Peri Gilpin. (They are still happily married now!) –I offhandedly mentioned: “I think I want to be a Costume Designer”! The timing was impeccable because Peri piped up and said “I know someone producing a ﬁlm right now!” The producer sent me the script, and I spent the entire weekend designing massive mood boards for the characters. I got the job, and had never set foot on a ﬁlm set before. It was a small budget indie, but there were some decent name actors.”
Horror Fuel: “When searching for wardrobe pieces for a ﬁlm or series what do you look for?”
Falconer: “This is an onion kind of question with many layers! To begin with, I do extremely thorough research and mood boards, before I look for anything. I call it my “rudder” of design. I focus a great deal on the presentation and ﬁnding really good images on street blogs, fashion sites–the gamut. Some images are for feeling and others are fairly speciﬁc in terms of silhouettes and color palette. As well, if the project is contemporary and a shopping job (as opposed to building pieces from scratch) I still hand draw the character’s wardrobes. These boards formulate a feeling for the character that is very hard to put into words, but most important: it is almost a contract with the people that I’m working for, such as the director or the actor. When the “minds” have come together, i then go out and let the “rudder” lead me to the pieces that I’m looking for in the character. I’m also very open to some clothes that make me wonder “Have I lost my mind?” But those pieces usually bring extremely interesting and happy accidents in a character’s wardrobe. Overall, I think a great character “closet” is ﬁlled with an interesting cross section of vintage, new/contemporary, rental, building from scratch and modifying existing clothes.”
Horror Fuel: “How did you go about ﬁnding the perfect pieces for ‘Ouija: Origins of Evil’? Was it harder since the ﬁlm is set in the 1960’s?”
Falconer: “The script began as 1965, but the Director, Mike Flanagan, was open to push the project a few years to around ’67 and ’68. Because one of the main characters, Alice (the mother) was clairvoyant, I felt that the fashions of the later 60’s, like those of Biba and Ossie Clark, were more appropriate for her. As well, I looked to the London Youthquake movement for Lina’s character, as she is the rebellious teen daughter. Because we ﬁlmed in Los Angeles, I was able to source from the costume houses, however last fall, it seemed like there were so many 60’s era projects out there, that i couldn’t rely on the costume houses. They felt like they had been picked clean, so I had to build some pieces and / or modify to adhere to the 60’s period. More importantly, I used the resources of my vintage clothing business: Estate Sales. In fact, most of the key pieces on the characters were from estate sales from Los Angeles and San Francisco, where I live. I travel all over the country to estate sales and this time period is my specialty. It is timely because it seems like most of the estate sales in Los Angeles are ﬁlled with aging starlet’s clothes. I love rescuing these pieces and giving them a second life.”
Horror Fuel: “What is your favorite part about working on ‘Ouija: Origins of Evil’?”
Falconer: “Creating the story of each characters clothes and then sculpting it around the Ouija story. And of course, working with the Director, Mike Flanagan. He is a solid human being and he really trusts my design instincts. He is loyal, and it has been lovely to form a ﬁlm family around him.”
Horror Fuel: “What was it like to work with Kim Cattrall on ‘Sex and the City’?”
Falconer: “Well technically I did not work on the set of SATC. For a period of time I was Kim Cattrall’s stylist and several of my outﬁts were featured on the show. That was a very exciting time in my career, but as I mentioned, it all happened very fast, and I had no one to mentor me through anything. It was sink or swim! I’m still swimming! I loved celebrity styling, but I feel much more at home with a script and designing for a character. At the time I was being pulled in both directions, but fashion styling is a much harder “edit” for me. I would pull truckloads because I couldn’t see that I had enough options. A great fashion stylist, like Carine Roitfeld, can make a story happen with a fur coat and converse sneakers! Long story short: I’m a Costume Designer.”
Horror Fuel: “You also own another business, the Lolita Freeland Vintage collection. Can you tell us about that?”
Falconer: “I would love to! I have a side business selling high end vintage at a few select fairs in California and New York. Again, the estate sales and out of town ﬁlm locations (where there aren’t a million stylists roaming around!) ﬁll my coffers with really cool pieces, and I’ve had celebrities and designers shop my booth often. However, I love just meeting people and I get inspiration by the customers–they are also usually artists or just really cool people. I set my booth up like a pretty little jewel and many ask me where my real store is! However, I like the ﬂexibility of just a few high end fairs. I just pack up and do it when I have beautiful pieces to share. I was one of the original vendors of the Brooklyn Flea, which is almost more of a happening then just a vintage market. As for the name: Lolita Freeland was my Hawaiian grandmother who was a very elegant wahine (lady). Everyday she wore ﬂowers in her hair and very high end muu muu’s. Her initials are mine, and I think her inﬂuence led me to where I am.”
Horror Fuel: “Are you working any a projects now?”
Falconer: “I’m on a wardrobe truck right now! Lol. Yes I’m in Cleveland Ohio shooting Little Evil with Director Eli Craig for Netﬂix. It’s a dark comedy that pokes fun at horror and it is a great script. I’ve had the pleasure to dress Adam Scott and the beautiful Evangeline Lily. And guess what? The vintage clothing here is amazing.”
Horror Fuel: “What would be your advice to someone who is interested in becoming a costume designer or wardrobe stylist?”
Falconer: “Even though my entry was kind of a dream come true, by stepping straight into the role, I would highly recommend interning or assisting as much as possible. I made a ton of mistakes because I never assisted anyone! And although that experience made me very capable and good at my job, I still think it’s more favorable to make the mistakes under another Costume Designer. Also, go to museums, read literature, and constantly look for inspiration–in life! Understand textiles and the history of fashion, or look into a good Humanities Degree. I had no idea how valuable my bachelors in English Literature was until I became a Costume Designer. Collect picture books and keep abreast as to what the fashion world is doing as well. Look at people on the streets and take pictures of real people…..I ﬁnd that many young designers only admire their immediate culture, and this has me scratching my head a bit. To be really talented and enjoy this career, you have to be able to think divergently and scour history many disciplines to create wardrobe for a character. Lastly, Films are now going where tax incentives are (Hence why I’m in Cleveland), so the industry is not just focused in LA or New York anymore. There are many opportunities out there.”
Horror Fuel: “What is your favorite horror ﬁlm and why?”
Falconer: “I like what Flanagan calls “Beautiful Horror” so I’d say that it is a direct split between The Shining and Oculus. The Shining’s hotel set and ghosts evoke the same feeling I get when I open up my mother’s hope chest. It’s full of memories and lifetimes passing through that leave their “mark”–some beautiful and some just plain old scary! And Oculus because it was my ﬁrst ﬁlm with Flanagan and the script’s story is just brilliant. Also because I wrapped my life around designing 12 ghosts from different time periods (for two months!) and they really only show up for about 10 seconds in the movie. I knew this would be the case but it was totally worth it.”