20 Jun Man of Steel’s Costume Designer Was ‘Distracted by Henry Cavill’s Perfection’

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It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s a Superman post on Fashionista! The latest Supes flick, Man of Steel, is currently crushing the box office, having earned $125 million (the biggest June opening in history) in its first weekend, alone. Folks are going bonkers over the newest installment in the quintessential superhero saga, with some obsessing over the story’s heavy origin aspect, and many others just freaking out about Henry Cavill’s glorious chest hair.

We’ve been Superman fans for quite a while – with super hotties like Christopher Reeve, Brandon Routh, Tom Welling, and now Henry Cavill filling the title role (and its requisite skin-tight suit), it’s not hard to see why. So we were beyond thrilled when Man of Steel‘s costume designer, Michael Wilkinson, agreed to answer our burning questions about his work on the blockbuster. From Clark Kent’s glasses to Lois Lane’s designer workwear to the “incredible specimen of humanity” that is Henry Cavill, read on for Wilkinson’s musings.

What changes did you make to the Superman costume for this film?

We wanted to create a costume that was both appealing to a modern audience, and grounded in the mythology of the story. It was important for us to explain why the suit looks like it does – so throughout the film, we showed how the suit fits into Krypton’s traditions and aesthetics.


What drew you to this project in particular? Were you at all nervous to put your mark on a classic?

I was very excited by the opportunity of working again with the director Zack Snyder – I have such immense respect and trust in his vision, it is truly an honor to be a part of his team. And of course it’s both thrilling and humbling to be contributing to the legacy of Superman – we put our nerves aside, rolled up our sleeves and got to work!


What update did you make to the costume that you feel was most vital and why?

Because of availability issues, the legendary James Acheson [costume designer for Spiderman 1, 2, and 3] started off the project with some concept art and prototyping. James and I wanted to link the suit to the clothes of Krypton, so we showed that on Krypton, the citizens wear a protective “chainmail” skinsuit like Superman’s suit, with the same texture and detailing. We showed that all Kryptonians had a family crest or “glyph” on their chest that denoted their lineage, much like medieval heraldry. We gave the suit a hi-tech metallic sheen that helped instill the impression of Superman as the “Man of Steel.” The suit had a dimensional texture that gave it a sense of depth, an other-worldly feel.


What was the most difficult thing about fitting Henry Cavill for the costume?

Henry was an absolute dream to work with – he has to be the most patient, calm and professional man on the planet. He never complained, even after fittings that lasted four and a half hours, or working in 100 degree heat in the cornfields of Illinois. I think the toughest thing for my team was not to be distracted by Henry’s perfection – he really is an incredible specimen of humanity!


What glasses does Clark Kent wear in the film – and is there any story behind them?

The frames are Paul Smith – the process of selection was surprisingly streamlined. I think the fact that Henry Cavill was born to be Clark Kent helped us there – everything just made sense on him!


What clothing labels does Clark Kent wear, and how did you choose those outfits?

Zack liked the idea that Clark’s clothes help him hide from the world, that the clothes help him disappear – so we chose oversized shapes that hide his physique. He has a Dickies/Carhardt/workwear vibe – worn-out canvas pants and faded plaid shirts, army navy jackets with fleece trim. And of ourse he wears Levis Jeans because they are an American classic. Zack wanted to add in a few references to his homestate, so he wears a University of Kansas t-shirt and a Royals t-shirt.


What was the inspiration behind General Zod (played by Michael Shannon)’s costume? What went into constructing it?

We see Zod in a couple of different costumes – at first he is in his “ceremonial” armor, when he is on Krypton. This follows the aesthetics of the planet – it has biomorphic lines and a worn, oily quality that suggests great age and alien, unfamiliar materials. Then when he is imprisoned, he is stripped down to his skin suit which is like Superman’s, but in slick graphite tones. For the rest of the film, he wears a dramatic armor that has been put together from scraps that have been harvested from his travels to the Kryptonian colonies – it has an angular, intimidating silhouette. The armor is in fact digital – I designed it, and we drew it up in full detail – front, back, and sides – and the visual effects team created it in the computer!


What updates did you make to Lois Lane’s clothes? Any particular brands she wears? Did Amy Adams have any say in what her character wears?

Amy is a wonderful collaborator – smart, funny, and disarmingly down-to-earth. She looks amazing in anything, but we wanted to make sure that Lois was taken seriously, that she held her own in a testosterone-filled environment. When she’s working on location in the Arctic north, she is dressed practically but stylishly in a Canada Goose down jacket, warm leggings, and tough boots. In Metropolis, she wears sharp tailored pieces – a Prada suit, a Tom Ford vest, and Theory pants. I designed her final costume and had it made – it goes through a lot of action, so we had to have 10 multiples, in various stages of “distressing.” Amy was open to any brand, silhouettes, ideas – she is an intelligent and grounded actor whose instincts are very intuitive and character driven.

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