The extremely talented Ellen Mirojnick is an award-winning American Costume Designer who is admired worldwide for her outstanding work in Costume Design. This week her latest masterpiece “Maleficent 2: Mistress of Evil” opens in movie theaters.
We had the extreme honor of speaking with Ellen Mirojnick about the Maleficent costumes and her inspirations.
Ellen Mirojnick: The Beginning
How long have you been in the business?
I have been in the business as a costume designer for 38 years.
What drew you to costume design?
I always loved the movies, it was a magic infusion to my imagination. I originally designed ready to wear, but after 7 years I was ready for something new and costume seemed a natural segue.
How did you get your start?
It began when I was visiting my husband in New Orleans. He was working on a film called “The French Quarter.” It was a very low, low budget film that took place in a house of prostitution in 1910. They didn’t have a costume designer and asked me if I would do it. I was so excited. They had no money and I had to figure out how to design a film. I was thrown into the fire and loved it. As hard as it was, I was hooked. I knew Costume Design was what I wanted to pursue.
What early lessons did you learn in the costume design industry?
The earliest lesson I recall was when I was a costume assistant on “Fame.” We were about to shoot when the director, Alan Parker wanted to change the principals. Everything that was originally approved didn’t work at that moment. I had to find a solution that would work ASAP! The lesson was thinking on your feet, don’t stay married to any choice and always be flexible.
Ellen Mirojnick: The Maleficent Costumes: Inspiration
Were you inspired by anything in particular when designing the Maleficent costumes?
I am always inspired by the text and what the challenges before me would be. This film is a new chapter in the Maleficent/Sleeping Beauty story. I was tasked to create a story beyond the fairytale but lived in a fairytale style.
In general, I draw inspiration from paintings, photographs, fashion, children’s illustrations, and costume history. I go very deep while looking for hidden treasures.
Ellen Mirojnick: The Maleficent Costumes: Designing Maleficent
What was it like designing costumes for Angelina Jolie, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Elle Fanning?
Designing the 3 queens was exhilarating. Each woman is so totally different. It was important to design costumes that reflected who they were: their strengths, weaknesses, likes, purposes and how they play off one another.
Were there any costumes that had truly unique challenges?
This is an iconic Disney character with lots of fans and I always had that in mind as I began to design. The challenge that was immediately apparent was that Maleficent now has wings. Other challenges were that Aurora is Queen of the Moors and what would the fairies be able to create and there is also a new group, The Dark Fey, a lost civilization.
What was your favorite costume to design and style?
I don’t have one favorite. The evolution of Maleficent and how her costumes tell her story and purpose is certainly a favorite. I also loved designing Queen Ingrith. She is a powerful ruler that uses her opulence to hide her intentions.
This is the 60th anniversary of Sleeping Beauty. I loved celebrating that milestone by adapting the Sleeping Beauty collar to Aurora’s dinner dress for meeting the family. I also loved designing a new Sleeping Beauty dress at the end of the film for the next 60 years.
Ellen Mirojnick: The Maleficent Costumes: The Process
Did you spend much time on the set of Maleficent?
We shot at Pinewood Studios in London. All of our offices and shops were on the lot, so it was easy to be on set to establish and then check-in.
How long does it usually take for you to come up with a new costume design concept?
I work quickly after doing my research. I am always motivated and informed by the text. As long as I’m clear on the vision, it doesn’t take long.
What makes for a particularly great or difficult design?
Great is when it works on all levels of storytelling and contributes to the whole. A difficult design wouldn’t serve the whole. Sometimes it is difficult because of too many voices thinking they know what the design should be.
Do you work with a team?
I always work with a very strong team. My job would be impossible if I didn’t. I form my team based on the size of the film and type of project.
What happens to the costumes after a film is wrapped?
That depends on who is the producing company or studio. Sometimes the costumes are stored in warehouses, in costume departments. They can also be sold or given to the actors.
Ellen Mirojnick: Our Valued Customer
How did your relationship with Manhattan Wardrobe Supply begin and how has it developed over the years?
My relationship with MWS began as soon as it opened more than 20 years ago. Tommy (Boyer) and I had worked together on films. He was an exceptional and brilliant costumer. Knowing how passionate he was and is serving our industry, makes MWS the only place you need to shop. They are always on the cutting edge and reliable. No matter where I am in the world Tommy or Cheryl (Kilbourne-Kimpton) is the first call I make for everything.
Our deepest gratitude to Ellen Mirojnick for her time and dedication answering our questions. Ellen has won an Emmy and multiple Costume Designers Guild Awards and we expect we’ll see many more prestigious awards, honors and magnificent designs in her future.