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Artwork: Andy Park..©Marvel Studios 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp‘s Costume Designer Explains Insect Couture

British costume designer Louise Frogley spent the first 35 years of her career focused on Steven Soderbergh and George Clooney movies like Traffic and Good Night, and Good Luck. In 2013 she got her first taste of the Marvel Cinematic Universe via Iron Man 3, followed by the re-booted Spider-Man: Homecoming. Now she’s taken on the skin-tight couture featured in Ant-Man and The Wasp. “When you design costumes for a Marvel movie It’s very technical, really,” she explains. “They conceptualize everything and then people like me have to make the costumes come alive.”

From the Marvel Cinematic Universe comes “Ant Man and the Wasp,” a new chapter featuring heroes with the astonishing ability to shrink. In the aftermath of “Captain America: Civil War,” Scott Lang grapples with the consequences of his choices as both a Super Hero and a father. As he struggles to rebalance his home life with his responsibilities as Ant-Man, he’s confronted by Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym with an urgent new mission. Scott must once again put on the suit and learn to fight alongside the Wasp as the team works together to uncover secrets from the past.   “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is directed by Peyton Reed and stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena, Walton Goggins, Bobby Cannavale,  Judy Greer, Tip “T.I.” Harris, David Dastmalchian, Hannah John Kamen, Abby Ryder-Fortson, Randall Park, with Michelle Pfeiffer, with Laurence Fishburne, and Michael Douglas.   Kevin Feige is producing with Louis D’Esposito, Victoria Alonso, Stephen Broussard, Charles Newirth, and Stan Lee serving as executive producers. Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari wrote the screenplay. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” hits U.S. theaters on July 6, 2018.
Evangeline Lilly as the Wasp and Paul Rudd as Ant-Man. Courtesy Marvel Studios.

In two previous Marvel movies, Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man character wore a vintage-looking outfit akin to a 1960’s-era motorcycle suit. This time around, Frogley modernized the costume. “We wanted to take the sleekness of the look up a notch,” she says. Raised printing, rubber tubing and laser-cut “four way stretch” fabric imported from France helped sharpen Ant-Man’s fashion sense. “We used different shadings, colors and shaping with a light body [form] that goes underneath the suit to emphasize certain muscles. It’s a series of tricks, but they don’t work unless you have an actor who’s already in great shape and Paul Rudd is very fit.”

Marvel Studios ANT-MAN AND THE WASP. Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). Photo: Film Frame. ©Marvel Studios 2018
Marvel Studios ANT-MAN AND THE WASP. Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). Photo: Film Frame. ©Marvel Studios 2018

Evangeline Lilly‘s Wasp costume, based on drawings by concept artist Andy Park, required a four-month period of research and development before filmmakers arrived at a satisfactory result. Frogley says “We tested 30 different shapes, which was incredibly time consuming, but the costume had to look absolutely perfect, like it just miraculously came like that. If we hadn’t done all that testing, it would have looked cheap and terrible. There’s nothing worse than a bad costume.”

Photo: Ben Rothstein. ©Marvel Studios 2018
Marvel Studios ANT-MAN AND THE WASP. Ant-Man/Scott Lang (Paul Rudd). Photo: Ben Rothstein. ©Marvel Studios 2018

The Wasp‘s bodice was saturated with a reflective silver tone background color and topped with 90 gold-tinged patent leather pieces cut in a honeycomb pattern on two different levels. “The most difficult part is getting it so the actors can raise their arms,” says Frogley, who studied medieval armor for clues about upper body mobility. “They’d already worked all of that out in ancient times, so I found it to be incredibly helpful.” For the Wasp, she says, “The fitter built in all these secret slots so these bits in the body of the costume could slide in under each other, like scales of lizard. This allowed Evangeline to raise her arms.”

The Wasp/Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) BTS on set. Photo: Ben Rothstein. ©Marvel Studios 2018
The Wasp/Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) BTS on set. Photo: Ben Rothstein. ©Marvel Studios 2018

Teamed with Marvel’s head of specialty costumes Ivo Coveney, Frogley also experimented with the characters’ magnet-embedded helmets until Rudd and Lilly could perform without distraction. She says, “It took ages to get to the point where Evangeline wouldn’t steam up her Wasp mask, where she could breathe comfortably and where she wouldn’t be too hot.”

Marvel Studios ANT-MAN AND THE WASP. Wasp/Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). Photo: Film Frame.©Marvel Studios 2018
Marvel Studios ANT-MAN AND THE WASP. Wasp/Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). Photo: Film Frame.©Marvel Studios 2018

Frogley, leading a team of more than 50 artisans, set up her wardrobe shop in a warehouse outside Atlanta, where Ant-Man and the Wasp was filmed. “We did everything in house,” she says. “All the sculpting, all the molding, all the laser cutting, all the 3-D printing, all the sewing.” Once production began, costumers shifted into high gear. “It was very intense, like being [the pit crew] at a race track,” Frogley recalls. “We always we had a team standing by repairing costumes, mending nicks and scrapes and things.”

Frogley, who cites “Silver Age” comic book artist Steve Ditko as an especially inspiring touchstone for her Marvel designs, approaches each movie as a massive research project. For Ant-Man and the Wasp, she says, “I got very interested in learning about why plastic melts when you try to laser-cut it. I looked up formulas on line and figured out which element causes laser machines to break. Then I found the material that doesn’t have that element in it, which turns out to be patent leather. This allowed us to use laser machines happily without them all catching fire!”

Featured image: Evangeline Lilly as the Wasp and Paul Rudd as Ant-Man. Courtesy Marvel Studios. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Hugh Hart

Hugh Hart has covered movies, television and design for the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Wired and Fast Company. Formerly a Chicago musician, he now lives in Los Angeles with his dog-rescuing wife Marla and their Afghan Hound.

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