Sybil H. Mair, writer-director of the acclaimed film The Equestrian tells us about her new film, The Adventures of Selika and the costumes appearing in the opening scene…
The Adventures of Selika tells the coming-of-age story of Selika, a young African princess displaced by war, has been sent to be brought up by a noble family in France, during the Second Empire (1861-63). Now a young woman, following an unfortunate incident, Selika is forced from the security and comfort of the life she has known. She sets off for Paris, and determines to forge her own curious and independent path in the world.
How do you start making your choices for costume?
In film, costume communicates character. Clothing and accessories can represent different aspects of a character’s personality or stage of development. I would like to tell you about some of the ideas explored in creating the looks for the main character Selika (Karidja Touré) and Gaspard (Luke Elliott), her riding companion, in the opening scene of the film.
My starting point for Selika was her personality – a young woman who is vivacious, independent, feminine and proud. And the opening scene needed to make an impact, to capture the viewer’s eye as well as introduce the main character. For this I chose to base the colour palette on heather. We were able to draw on these naturally occurring colours to create a look that would make the lead character stand out from — while at the same time be a part of nature.
How important is it that different characters’ costumes complement each other?
This can be difficult to get right. The foundation of Selika’s riding outfit are a burgundy fitted jacket with matching belt and breeches. Gaspard also required a riding ensemble that was striking yet did not compete with that of Selika. Each element of his outfit is a different colour: the cutaway tail coat is black, the shirt and stock – white, the waistcoat cardinal red, the breeches – stone, his top hat dove-grey and gloves a soft cream.
What else do you need to think about?
Not only does the costume need to stand out and be appropriate for the period and relevant to the social standing of the character. Using authentic period accessories can help create the right look and feel. Sometimes fabrics need to be used from other clothing items to add period details; for example for Selika’s hat, a mid-forest green melusine was used, embellished with an inky navy grosgrain ribbon around the base. Lace taken from a 1890’s bodice and 1860’s silk gown provide the period authentic soft face-veil.
The textures of the materials like the velvet of a jacket, silk of a stock or delicacy of a silk veil also help to express the character’s social standing.
To learn more about The Adventures of Selika:
- Photographs by Lens & Hound
- Costumes by Bristol Costume Services, Jane Walton of Hats Period and Annoushka
- Location Chillington Hall