The Muppet Couture
When it came to costumes for the Muppets, costume designer Rahel Afiley had her work cut out for her. “The biggest challenge was proportion of the Muppet body,” says Afiley. “Even if you design something that looks good on a person, it doesn’t mean it will look good on a Muppet. You have to keep in mind how much detail there is in the outfit, because if you have too much, it just takes over. If you have too little or if it’s below the waist, the detail is lost since the Muppets are only shown from the waist up.”
According to Afiley, fabric selection is critical in designing costumes for the Muppets. Lightweight fabrics aid in the ease of maneuverability of the Muppets. The costume designer also considered how each fabric would lay on the Muppet’s felt “skin.” And though cost was certainly a consideration, the needs of the scene were always top of mind. “We didn’t skimp on the quality of the fabric,” she says. “Miss Piggy has a jacket made of cashmere that cost 300 dollars a yard.”
True to her character, Miss Piggy was the biggest wardrobe challenge due to the quantity of costumes she required as well as her role as editor of Vogue Paris. Says Afiley, “James [Bobin] and I are not really into trends. We both love classic looks, and it was really important to us to bring Piggy back to how she was in the early Muppets.
“If you watch old movies,” Afiley continues, “you can take an outfit worn by someone like Audrey Hepburn that could easily be worn on the red carpet today. That was my inspiration for Miss Piggy’s fashions.”
To dress a fashionista like Miss Piggy, Afiley called on notable designers like Christian Louboutin, who designed a pair of glitter platform stiletto heels complete with the Louboutin signature red bottom. “We sent him a picture of the potential outfit the shoes would be worn with and he designed a custom creation based on that,” says Afiley.
Zac Posen was also tapped, designing a signature dress for the diva. Says Afiley, “I felt it should be a vintage-inspired gown.” The result? A spectacular Posen-designed gown in lavender that was used in the film’s finale.
Miss Piggy wasn’t the only Muppet who captured the attention of the fashion world. Kermit was dressed by the high-class men’s fashion house Brooks Brothers, which was already involved in the film—providing much of Chris Cooper’s wardrobe as well as tuxedos for other cast members. The Brooks Brothers design was worn by Kermit in the scene when he and Piggy walk the streets of Paris together.
Walter proved a fun challenge for the costume designer. The first task was to establish the newest Muppet’s character, and Bobin was convinced a powder-blue suit would do the trick, says Afiley. “Walter is like a proper little man, and James felt that the powder-blue suit represented this manly personality.” Brother Gary donned a similar suit for the film’s early travel scene, which helped showcase their attachment to each other.
Afiley had a clear vision for costumes for both Amy Adams and Jason Segel: timeless and classic. Because Segel is so tall, vintage clothes were hard to find for him because they tend to run small. “We literally went from thrift store to thrift store looking for his clothes,” says Afiley. While Gary’s character goes through an evolution in film, so did his attire. “He kind of grows up and evolves,” says the costume designer. “He transforms into a more mature person and we tried to reflect that in his wardrobe.”
According to Afiley, small-town girl Mary had to have clothing that wasn’t too trendy. “In the opening number, I wanted Amy to stand out and, because it was such a happy number, I wanted her outfit to reflect that. The yellow skirt was definitely a strategic choice to represent the happy world she came from.”
Mary’s wardrobe was to reflect her positive attitude across the board. The catch? Afiley was assembling the wardrobe during autumn months. “Everything in the stores was black, brown and gray,” says Afiley, “so we decided to go the vintage route. I designed all of her dresses with a vintage inspiration and then we found vintage fabric.” And like Gary, Mary’s character evolution inspired her wardrobe, says Afiley, who dressed the actress in a sophisticated look for the finale.
Related Link: Read the Full Production Notes for The Muppets Movie