Any bride will tell you how difficult it is to find the perfect wedding dress, but costume designer Aude Bronson-Howard was tasked with finding several gorgeous gowns to outfit Missy (Amanda Seyfried), the bride in The Big Wedding.
“I bought a bunch of [them] and cut them up [to make] one,” explains Bronson-Howard, who deconstructed several copies of a silk gown she scored off the rack at Saks Fifth Avenue and used the fabric to design an original dress with a structured silhouette, floral embellishments and intricate beading. “We basically took [them] apart and put [them] back together.”
And because of all the action that takes place in the big screen comedy, which arrives in theaters today, Bronson-Howard had to make more than one copy of the one-of-a-kind dress. “Missy ends up in the lake, and you need to shoot that several times. So yeah, there were duplicates. One to stay dry, two to [get wet],” she says. “It would have been much easier, I suppose, going to a designer and getting a nice dress from them, or me designing it from scratch, but it’s kind of a combo platter.”
Also in the mix: hair accessories, jewelry and shoes that the costume designer says reflect more than just the character’s style.
“She’s constantly unhappy about the perceived stuffiness of how she should be. [But] in light of the fact that there are all these wacky parents, formality is not the letter of the day,” Bronson-Howard says of making the decision to tuck wild flowers into Seyfried’s hair instead of shrouding her in a more traditional veil. “If we could have gone more formal we probably would’ve gone with [jewelry from] Cartier or Tiffany, but that’s not the nature of the character. She would have gone to Lord & Taylor or Saks. Her shoes look nice, but they aren’t very fancy.”
As for the other ladies, Bronson-Howard says the relaxed yet elegant pieces from Calypso worn by Bebe (Susan Sarandon) are a nod to her new age vibe, while the more conservative Ellie (Diane Keaton) suits up in Ralph Lauren.
When it came time to outfit the groom (Ben Barnes), the designer also took style cues from the script. “[The character is] a pretty stylish guy, so we didn’t want to make it look like he rented his formal wear,” she says of Alejandro’s custom suit. In fact, the designer and her team created most of the men’s looks, though some pieces, like ties and shoes, were sourced from classic American clothiers like Brooks Brothers. “We did a lot of shopping on Greenwich Avenue in Greenwich, CT. because [that's where the film] takes place. Greenwich has a look, and the Greenwich Avenue stores have just the right stuff.”
Still, Bronson-Howard didn’t want the male actors to look like a band of preppy clones. “There was a great deal of care taken in making each of the characters look individual,” says the designer, who did use a few sartorial elements to ensure that the wedding party looked like a cohesive group. “The accent color for the wedding was lavender, [so you'll see] that Alejandro’s brother (Topher Grace) and father (Robert De Niro) have lavender accessories.”
The perfect dress, a dapper groom, and a color coordinated family — sounds exactly like a typical real-life wedding party. Not so, says Bronson-Howard. “In life, you get everybody’s looks from the same place and [they all] look the same,” she points out. “Movies are slightly different, you do want the characters to look different. At least, that’s what we wanted to do.”
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