How Nightmare Alley Costume Designer Luis Sequeira Brought Vintage Fashion Back To Life [Interview]

You have the opportunity to show a rise and fall for Stan. How would you like to communicate that bow?

In the beginning it was all about the fit, the changes in the fit, the changes in the color palette, the changes in the old versus the new, worn versus completely fresh, tweed versus smooth. In the beginning the fit was wider, softer, very well worn; which gave him a foundation of character. And then, when he moved to town, he ditched everything from that first part of the film and created this new character with only the best tailored suits, ties, silk and hats. And therefore, it was wonderful to put together, I would say, a costume collection that was consistent with this new person.

When he was performing in those shows at his peak, was it vintage or created?

We built it. In fact, we built probably 90% of everything you saw on screen for the characters. In many cases in the carnival, we had to deal with all the characters in the rain, so we built everything and then aged to have the multiples ready. And then we built them with the tails. As for the dresses, we were lucky enough to have some original British government issued dresses from the 1939 deadstock that we were able to pull patterns from, so that we really get the precise style notes and fit of that era for the clothes on your feet.

What is unique about UK government issued clothes?

There was a specific yardstick for which you had to make a dress and it would get a seal of approval. It had never been worn, had original labels all over it and we were very lucky to have been loaned by a private collector to duplicate them.

Since your work is character-inspired, and Stan is such a mystery at times, how did he inspire you?

I think it was consumption in the second half of the film, where it was simply consuming in the sense of providing this facade. On a couple of occasions you’ll see a canary in one gear and a wild tie in another and this was kind of a telltale little sign that it wasn’t quite complete. In the end, it’s this well-rounded story that couldn’t get any worse than it is. I think it was really, in the second half, about the consumption of finding out that her life was getting closer and she was just wearing armor.

You worked on “Nightmare Alley” for two years, right? Where did your work start?

I started in June 2019 and went to Europe to start collecting clothes, doing flea markets and antiques and buying fabrics that I wanted to use in the film. We had a production break in the fall for a few weeks. And then we shot our city aspect of the movie and then COVID hit and we were down, and we waited six months to start over. And then we proceeded to do the carnival and we had six weeks to get ready for the carnival, which seems like a long time but all the prep work we had done before, a lot of it was nil. Those extras were no longer available and so we had to reassemble those people. We finished around Christmas, so it was a very long process and I was thankful for the time, because even in the downtime it gave me the opportunity to really get away from the city and really focus on the country side of the film.

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