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Psycho’s costume designer talks about dressing the stars and working with Hitch

Helen Colvig, Psycho’s costumer designer, who also went on to design the costumes for Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, was interviewed on Monday 3rd December 2012 in Los Angeles:

“Of all the directors I worked with, I think Hitchcock is the one that people ask about the most. He didn’t have many failures. Vertigo didn’t do as well, but it was a heck of a good film.

He probably had it all figured out in his mind, so when he came on the set, he was as calm as could be and said roll them. Of course he gave directions, he was very relaxed about it. He didn’t lose his temper, he said cut, he didn’t scream.

Was the opening scene shocking? Was it ever. You see everything now, but it was risqué then. I thought it was shocking. That’s what Hitch was going for, a shocker. Mr. Hitchcock wasn’t really fond of Mr. Gavin. Mr. Hitchcock said, it doesn’t matter, he’s not going to be in the picture much, so he dropped him into shadow.

He allowed Anthony Perkins to bring his own sweater to wear in the movie, which was dark red, it was good for the location and the season. They worked well together. Perfect casting, he was a little quirky in real life, and his strangeness came through. I think Hitchcock knew he was gay, I realized people started to refer to him that way after the movie, I don’t think he wanted to come out of the closet, he just was.

Hitchcock wanted it to make Psycho look so people were familiar with, clothing, underclothing, suitcasing, so everyone recognizes that, it lulled you in, so that when you got to the stabbing scene it will blow you away. He wanted Janet Leigh to wear an Olga bra which would be familiar with women everywhere. Janet Leigh’s dress fabric was a very light wool, so it doesn’t wrinkle that much, so its going to look the same, scene after scene, you want it to look similar.

Vera Miles wasn’t up there attractive as Janet in the film, her character would never have done what Janet did, ie stolen the money. It’s possible that Hitchcock made her dowdy but I was never aware of it. Vera was one of the loveliest ladies, very quiet and professional.

I dressed ‘Mother’ and made twelve different dresses for her in various sizes. That was a lot of fun to do.

In my interview with him, Mr. Hitchcock told me what he expected from each character and how it should look. He said some shocking things, he’s been and seen everything. He likes to share. I did like him, first of all comes respect, if you respect someone, then comes like.

I liked his directness, his way of explaining things to you, was very detailed and precise. He had his own ideas which was going to be followed and those weren’t compromised.”

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One response to “Psycho’s costume designer talks about dressing the stars and working with Hitch

  1. Pingback: Fashion and Horror: Iconic Films

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