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How The Craft: Legacy’s costume designer dressed a new gen of weirdos

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As the cult movie’s follow-up lands on screens, Avery Plewes talks working with an occult consultant, Wiccan influences, and the subtle feminist symbolism that underpins the witches’ wardrobes

Twenty-four years after Nancy Downs uttered the iconic line, “We are the weirdos, mister” the sartorial offerings of The Craft continue to resonate with outcasts – and, as of late, mainstream fashion retailers – the world over. In-keeping with the current vogue for 90s nostalgia, Deborah Everton’s costumes resonate perhaps even harder today than when the supernatural vehicle first debuted, as components of the coven’s look continue to find space in shopping carts and across social media. 

In Zoe Lister-Jones’s new film, The Craft: Legacy – an intersectional, Gen Z sequel to Andrew Fleming’s OG – references to the coven’s celebrated style are subtly distributed amongst the four new teens, with visual acknowledgements quietly played out in the details. Unlike Nancy, Sarah, Bonnie, and Rochelle, who dressed as if from the same rack, Frankie, Lourdes, Tabby, and Lily are united only in dressing according to their Wiccan element. Beyond that, the four observe their own rulebook when it comes to their palette and silhouette, says costume designer Avery Plewes. 

This same logic, sampling but rarely occupying the same space as the original film, is applied throughout Lister-Jones’s sequel. The premise remains, as Lily (Cailee Spaeny) moves to a new town and becomes the ‘fourth’ to Tabby (Lovie Simone), Lourdes (Zoey Luna), and Frankie (Gideon Adlon)’s coven, her powers similarly exercised on a male classmate who tries to publicly shame her. In this incarnation however, the attitude of the girls is a warmer affair, the friends’ ultimate aversion to one another in ’96 replaced with a sisterhood that puts them on equal footing.

In Timmy, the object of the girls’ future bewitching, we’re introduced to a familiar symbol of toxic masculinity. Mocking Lily when she bleeds through her jeans – menstruation and its symbolism are keenly observed, likewise that “trans girls got our own magic,” delivered by Luna without missing a beat – once under the girls’ spell, Timmy shuts down an insensitive classmate during sex ed, talks of reading a Janet Mock book, and sings Princess Nokia’s praises. Describing how she “uses her artistry to deal with race politics and gender politics” while still making “the sickest jams”, the moment was given the rapper’s seal of approval earlier this week, as she called the shoutout “beyond my wildest dreams” on Instagram. 

Despite the witches essentially using their power for social good, all does not, as fans of the horror genre would predict, continue to be well. More patently political and largely self-aware than its predecessor, The Craft: Legacy is also a more optimistic place, with the four leads visually embodying the confidence it presumably hopes to inspire in its words and actions. 

Here, Plewes fills us in on the decision to drop school uniforms, Untypical Girls, and why it was important to create looks fans can try at home. 

What was your relationship with the 1996 film?

Avery Plewes: I grew up watching it. I’m a millennial so I didn’t watch it when it first came out, but it was important to me in high school. It was one of the first films where I saw teenage girls who felt really empowered in being different and odd, and that was special to me. 

Did you have a favourite look? 

Avery Plewes: I think it’s actually the pieces in the original film – Fairuza’s patent leather jacket, her chokers, her witchy boots – the important pieces that have stayed within the zeitgeist even now. 

“We had an occult consultant, and consulted with the crystal store we were dealing with on what crystal would represent each girl, and that really influenced everything they wore” – Avery Plewes

How did you get involved with The Craft: Legacy?

Avery Plewes: I was recommended for the job and met director Zoe Lister-Jones and Natalia Anderson, her producer, for dinner. I brought moodboards with me and this book that I love by Sam Knee (Untypical Girls: Styles and Sounds of the Transatlantic Indie Revolution). He’s a punk historian that I follow on Instagram, and his book is one of my favourites for costume references for women because it so perfectly captures how women and girls who are a little different dress, and so I brought that and we really connected over it. Doing a teen movie, it was important to me all of the girls felt multi-dimensional. I think a lot of movies with teenage girls feel very one dimensional, they fall into one category, and I wanted each of these girls – they’re supposed to be outcasts – to feel full of life and ideas, exploring themselves. That book really captures that. 

Both the original film and Deborah Everton’s costumes remain iconic today. Did that bring additional pressure to the job?

Avery Plewes: Yes and no. At first I found it daunting because I’m a fan, and I didn’t realise how much the original had affected all of the people around me, in my life, until I got the job. I think it’s one of those films that everyone feels is their special film, so I definitely felt the pressure. When I met with Zoe and Natalia I said you can’t re-do what was done in the 90s, it’s just not going to land well, and so we decided to design each girl based on their elements. Each girl is very different, you know in the original they all look like they’re from the same clique, so what we wanted to do with these girls was make them feel like they didn’t belong to any clique but had all come together to form their own coven. 

But there are some subtle references to the original in the new film?

Avery Plewes: I referenced some of the most iconic pieces and silhouettes, like Lily wears a lot of 90s silhouettes; Lourdes has a couple of patent leather jackets a la Nancy Downs, and then Lily wears quite a few layered chokers, which is also a nod to Nancy – but hers are pearl because her element is water. Tabby and Lourdes are really adorned in lots of layered jewellery, that’s also a nod to the original. We used the original as a blueprint with some of the silhouettes, but I didn’t want to recreate something that’s already brilliant in that regard. 

And school uniforms are noticeably absent…

Avery Plewes: Yeah, in my interview I said do you want to do this uniform thing – because it’s such a big part of the original – and Zoe and I both agreed no, we wanted to harp on their personal style as much as possible and capitalise on it. You don’t get the full scope of someone in a uniform.

In terms of creating the girls’ looks, how involved were the actors? 

Avery Plewes: Pretty involved, I am someone who really believes the actor brings a whole other dimension to their character once they get in the fitting room. You can have a total vision and concept and it will totally change by the end of the fitting, but all four of those girls are super stylish in real life and into fashion so they definitely collaborated with me on some of the looks. Tabby’s original party concept wasn’t working, so we talked it out and ended up with something I think is actually much better. Gideon collects vintage and is super interested in and loves clothes – they all do – so it was really helpful for me, to see how they wear clothing themselves and integrate some of it into my work. 

“I referenced some of the most iconic pieces and silhouettes, like Lily wears a lot of 90s silhouettes, Lourdes has a couple of patent leather jackets a la Nancy Downs, and then Lily wears quite a few layered chokers, which is also a nod to Nancy” – Avery Plewes

In terms of the characters’ style icons and outside influences, who did you look to?

Avery Plewes: That’s hard. I didn’t look at many people except for Tabby, I looked at FKA twigs and a young Lisa Bonet, and then for Lily, Zoe really likes Reese Blutstein on Instagram. I wouldn’t say any of them have a style icon because we really built their closets based off of their elements, so I guess their style icons would be the crystals that they each have based on their elements. We also had an occult consultant, and consulted with the crystal store we were dealing with on what crystal would represent each girl, and that really influenced everything they wore: Tabby is Sunstone, Lily’s Aquamarine and Pearl, Frankie’s Amethyst and Lourdes’s Malachite. 

In The Craft: Legacy the girls exist in the era of social media. Were you conscious of Instagram in regards to their style?

Avery Plewes: To an extent, I mean I definitely did a lot of research on Instagram in terms of how kids are dressing right now. It’s such an incredible tool for a costume designer because it’s instant access to society, so I definitely used Instagram and Pinterest as a tool in that regard. 

How did you go about sourcing the pieces?

Avery Plewes: A lot of online and also going to stores. I shopped a lot of their jewellery at Courage My Love in Toronto because I wanted them to feel authentic: I shopped there as a teen too. I find it can be tricky for costume design in terms of having to buy new if you need multiple pieces of the same garment, and for me, a way that remedies that can be involving vintage into the looks.

You worked on 2019’s Ready or Not, creating the ‘Swiss Army dress’ that won praise as a weapon against the patriarchy. Was there a piece on this project that carried a similar significance in terms of being subversive? 

Avery Plewes: I didn’t build it, but Lily wears a blood red moon T-shirt in the cafeteria scene, when she’s the most empowered, and that was, I guess, my feminist projection of taking ownership of your period and not being embarrassed about it. Also, in the party scene Lourdes’s dress is made entirely out of safety pins. We made that in-house as I really wanted to have an item in the movie that one of the girls could have made at home, that kids who see the movie and want to have a piece of it could easily make. In high school I would often make my own clothes, and I thought that Lourdes was the perfect character for that, to make a nod to how creative and brilliant teenagers are, how resourceful. They often don’t get enough credit, as a society we often dismiss young people, and so I wanted one of them to have this piece that they would have come up with and made themselves that felt interesting, smart and empowered, creatively. 

We mentioned how the 1996 costumes are still relevant today. What kind of legacy (sorry) do you hope 2020’s looks might have?

Avery Plewes: I think every costume designer hopes their work lands with people enough to be admired in that regard, and going in I felt the pressure to make something really iconic. Something I did on Ready or Not though, was I had a mandate to just enjoy the process and get lost in the filmmaking, not think about how people were going to receive it. After a week on The Craft: Legacy I was like ‘you’ve got to apply the same mantra to this as to Ready or Not’, so I just lost myself to the process and enjoyed it. So I wasn’t really thinking about it, except for maybe the safety pin dress, but that was more something fabulous but accessible for young people to participate in. The biggest form of flattery as a costume designer is to see someone cosplaying your costume because it means that it’s really resonated, and I’m always blown away and flattered when people like what I’ve done enough to dress up. 

Finally, do you have a favourite look from The Craft: Legacy

Avery Plewes: I love Lily’s blood red moon cafeteria look, also Lourdes’s safety pin dress because it was so fun to make. She needed two people to get her in it, and it made her feel really special you could tell when she walked on the set. I love seeing an actor really feel good in their costume.

Watch The Craft: Legacy here.