Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky on Ending Avengers: Endgame on a Muted Note
What do you wear when your schedule includes traveling through the quantum realm, reversing half of humanity being killed off, and attending the funeral of one of your most iconic comrades? In Avengers: Endgame, all the remaining characters from the Marvel universe get together to undo super-villain Thanos‘s work in the preceding Infinity War when his successful collection of five infinity stones let him wipe out half of life on Earth. The superheroes who are left are still numerous, if down on their luck. After five years of despair, they plot and scheme how to get their loved ones back. Around them, the Earth is still in a population control-induced funk. When the action takes off, the theatrics are bigger and badder than ever, but then, so is the world’s depth of despair. For veteran costume designer Judianna Makovsky, whose work with Marvel began on Captain America: Winter Soldier, the tenor of the film meant the costumes needed to take a back seat to the action.
After 11 years of movies, Endgame is the most impactful moment in the Marvel universe, but for Makovsky, one challenge was not making big costumes to go with a big movie. “A lot of the time, on these kinds of films as a designer, you want to go kind of crazy, have a lot of fun, and a lot of color,” Makovsky told me. “My opinion was, this was more about character, story arc, and interpersonal relationships, and I wanted the clothes to almost not be noticed so much.”
Even Tony Stark and Pepper Potts, usually more slickly-clad than their colleagues, are outfitted in low-key, muted basics suited to new, atypically under-the-radar lives at a cabin hideaway. “All the characters, by the end of the movie, have been through a lot. For a lot of the story arc, we tell it with palette and color, which means adjusting the color from other films so it’s not so bright,” Makovsky said. In addition to reflecting the somber mood, the restrained undertaking helped the designer streamline the characters’ looks, “which was a little bit of a challenge since they’re coming from ten years’ worth of movies.”
Of course, in a superhero franchise not known for its shy, retiring leads, some characters were bound to stand out no matter how natural the fabric of their costumes. Chief among them is Thor (Chris Hemsworth), who has embraced sloth and six-packs to contend with the grief of failure. Among the garments Makovsky tested on newly hirsute Thor was a pajama onesie, which she pointed out Hemsworth was totally game to wear. Sadly for meme-makers the world over, “I think we may [have been] watching that and not watching the story,” she said. She and her team went with the look from their first sketch, a raggedy, belly-exposing t-shirt and a big cardigan that evokes Thor’s Scandinavian roots, in terms of both its traditional knit and innate ability to look fashionable no matter what. He retains his ramshackle appeal on Asgard, where he skulks around in a hoodie and a red bathrobe—intentionally reminiscent of his cape of better days—and tries and unsurprisingly fails to remain discreet.
The designer’s work also extended into the digital realm, which required alternative costuming techniques from Makovsky and the “huge” team who worked with her on Endgame. For a freshly bespectacled, erudite Hulk (Mark Ruffalo), whose new persona in this movie entails dressing like a Brooklyn hipster, “I’ll find examples of real clothes and go over it with visual effects, and they create it,” Makovsky said. “If it’s something more like Thanos’s children, who are more in the super-realm, we create the fabrics for them and show visual effects how we would actually sew these together. We don’t always make a full costume for those kinds of characters, but often we’d make a maquette, a small model, to scale.” One of the designer’s trickier tasks, however, was all in person: handling Tony Stark’s funeral, which was kept a secret from the actors until the day of shooting. “We did fittings for them all, and I said just trust me, you’re wearing black,” Makovsky explained. She told them they were being dressed for a wedding. “Most actors didn’t have a script, anyway, so they had to trust everything that we did.”
Attending Endgame’s premiere was cathartic, Makovsky said, but also bittersweet. “It was an amazing experience that I don’t know if I’ll ever have again, to sum up ten years of films with the most amazing people, who are lovely to work with.” But nobody outfits films that attain pop culture icon status quite like the designer, whose long list of other credits include movies from the Harry Potter and Hunger Games franchises. If a cultural phenomenon like Marvel’s is ever wrought by the industry again, Makovsky seems by far the most qualified candidate to outfit a whole new crop of culturally