Recently, Disney released its highly anticipated new take on the classic animated tale Sleeping Beauty to DVD and Blu-Ray: Maleficent. In creating a truly unique costume for Angelina Jolie to wear while playing the film’s title role, the costume designers turned to exotic leathers to create a truly inspired, one-of-a-kind look that evoked memories of the old animated classic’s character, and evolved that look for a modern audience.
Why Use Exotic Leather for This Character?
For most common fashion applications, exotic leathers are used because of their inherent beauty, strength, texture, or ability to symbolize affluence. In this movie, however, exotic leather was used in Maleficent’s costume not only because such leathers were perfect for creating an instantly memorable and visually compelling design, but because they actually help to characterize Maleficent herself.
As Jolie recalls in an interview posted on Yahoo Movies, “She’s not trying to [look] sharp… She just finds skins and snakeskins and skulls and bones.” In other words, the exotic leathers used in the costume are there to add to the authenticity of the character’s look by giving her a wardrobe made from what would be available to her in her forest home.
What exactly was available to Maleficent in her forest home?
Exotic Leathers Used in the Maleficent Costume
To clarify, there were actually several costumes made for Maleficent, each one incorporating different hides and with slight variations on the design. For example, in an article featured on Ematterzpro.com, it’s revealed that Justin Smith, a milliner who worked on Jolie’s Maleficent costume, “created six different headpieces that corresponded with the seasons and specific scenes.” Each of these headpieces incorporated different materials as necessary to fit the scene, including:
Stingray Leather. Tough, beautiful, and water resistant, stingray leather possesses a unique, bead-like surface texture that is unlike most other leathers. The calcium rich beads in the stingray’s skin allow it to resist abrasions and punctures that would rip regular cowhide to shreds.
Python Skin. Used specifically for Maleficent’s “summer look,” python skin is a popular material for projects with large panels. For the movie, the natural scale patterns were bleached out and dyed over to get a more uniform appearance that would blend well with the rest of Maleficent’s outfit for those scenes.
Other natural materials used in Maleficent’s movie costume include soft goat “Nappa” leather for her robes, duck and other bird feathers for her shoulders and a set of physical prop wings that were used as a model for the CGI wings in the movie, and bones for her jewelry.
Where did the inspiration for this costume come from? According to Yahoo Movies, the team of costume designers was led by Oscar-nominated Anna B. Sheppard, who took inspiration from French and Italian art ranging from the 15th century through the Renaissance, in addition to the original character design from the 1959 animated feature.
For this movie, exotic leathers were the perfect way to heighten the authenticity and the exotic nature of the character of Maleficent, creating a more fully realized character that is more striking than “evil witch in black robes” would be with plain cloth.
If you know of any major movies to use exotic leather, share it with us in the comments below. To get answers about different exotic leathers for your next project, contact Pan American Leathers today!