What happens when a veteran of the costume-design industry—four-time Oscar nominee Jacqueline West—and a newcomer—Julie O’Keefe—combine their powers? The dazzling array of authentic costumes on display in Martin Scorsese’s epic ‘Killers of the Flower Moon.’
West, known for her work on films like Dune, The Revenant, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, embarked on a journey to create costumes for ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ that would not only transport the audience to another era but also accurately represent a Native American culture seldom seen onscreen.
"Film is like time travel; you get to immerse yourself in another culture and another time," says West, emphasizing her passion for creating costumes that draw viewers into the movie’s world.
Based on David Grann’s 2017 book, ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ tells the story of a series of murders in the Osage Nation during the 1920s, a period when newfound oil wealth made the tribe immensely affluent. Starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Robert De Niro, and Lily Gladstone, the film transports us back to 1920s Oklahoma, where the Osage Nation is fighting to prevent the murder of its people.
The authenticity of the costumes in the film was a result of the collaboration between Jacqueline West and Julie O’Keefe, a member of the Osage Nation who served as a costume cultural adviser. Their work involved close cooperation with Osage artists to create costumes for the cast members representing the Osage community. They blended historically rooted clothing with more modern fashion elements to reflect the tribe’s newfound prosperity.
Vanity Fair spoke with West and O’Keefe about their research and the significance of Osage blankets and ribbon weaving. The article highlights the importance of telling the story of the Osage Nation accurately to modern audiences.
Embracing Osage Culture
In ‘Killers of the Flower Moon,’ the costumes took center stage, with some standout elements that showcased the rich cultural heritage of the Osage people. Two remarkable features that stood out were the use of ribbon work and otter hats.
West shares her discovery of ribbon work’s historical importance in Osage regalia. She decided to incorporate it into the costumes, which ultimately led to the creation of a significant wedding scene in the film. This attention to detail was a vital aspect of portraying the Osage culture authentically, ensuring the movie didn’t resort to stereotypical representations.
Julie O’Keefe emphasizes the importance of correctly representing the Osage people, highlighting that much of their history is embedded in the materials of their clothing. The Osage silhouette and materials have remained largely unchanged for over 150 years. When they moved to Oklahoma in 1860, they brought this tradition with them, a legacy they still uphold today.
O’Keefe adds: "We have fantastic artisans—some of the best art doesn’t come from large studios, it comes from kitchen tables." They engaged the expertise of some of the oldest ribbon-maker families to ensure authenticity. Each costume piece was crafted from authentic, original materials, leaving no room for compromise.
Community Project and Emotional Impact
The creation of the costumes for ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ was a true community effort. The artisans and experts who contributed to the project did so with a shared commitment to getting it right. For instance, Lily Gladstone’s blanket, worn under her wedding coat, used 27 yards of ribbon, all meticulously chosen to preserve historical accuracy.
The culmination of this painstaking work was most profoundly felt on the set. One emotionally charged scene stands out for Jacqueline West—the delegation leaving at the train station from Fairfax to Washington, DC. It was a scene that carried a deep sense of tragedy, portraying the sadness etched on the faces of the Osage people. The presence of numerous Osage Nation members in this scene added to its authenticity, leaving a lasting impression on everyone involved.
In conclusion, ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ is not just a cinematic journey into a historical period but a testament to the power of authentic representation, as seen through its meticulously crafted costumes. Jacqueline West and Julie O’Keefe’s dedication to preserving the Osage culture in every stitch and design has created a visually stunning and emotionally resonant film that pays homage to a community’s heritage and history.
For movie enthusiasts and those interested in Native American culture, ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ promises to be a treat for the eyes and the soul. The costumes, with their rich historical accuracy, play an integral role in weaving authenticity into this cinematic masterpiece.
Intriguing Insights Worth Exploring
What is the significance of ribbon work in Osage costumes?
Ribbon work holds immense significance in Osage costumes. Osage Nation citizens Dana Daylight and Janet Emde regard it not only as an art form but as a powerful means of expressing their spirituality. For Osage people, who are deeply prayerful, ribbon work becomes a conduit for their spiritual connection. Through the intricate patterns and colors of the ribbons, they convey their prayers and connect with their cultural heritage, making it an integral part of Osage costume traditions.
Why is Killers of the Flower Moon Rated R?
The MPA assigns an R rating to ‘Killers of the Flower Moon’ due to its content, which includes "violence, grisly images, and language." The film contains a substantial amount of violence, encompassing not just murder but also scenes involving poison, explosions, and brutal gun violence.
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