The Coen Brothers head back to the Old West with their latest film “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs,” the costumes of which are now on display at the Museum of the Moving Image.
Dedicated to the creations of costume designer Mary Zophres, “The Coen Brothers Go West: Costume Design for ‘The Ballad of Buster Scruggs’” showcases 16 ensembles, along with costume boards and hair pieces from the film.
“The period for this film has a very specific fabric pattern and silhouette,” Zophres told amNewYork. “I start with research and then kind of realize through the script who the characters are and then dress the characters according to what is written on the page,” she said.
“I am also influenced by the cast.” For Stephen Root’s crazy cookware-amored bank teller, “I had to specifically see what kind of pans they were using [back then],” she explained. It’s a familiar period for the designer, who previously worked with the Coen Brothers on 2010’s “True Grit,” for which she received an Oscar nomination.
Zophres relied on museum artifacts, diaries, photographs and books in libraries from the mid- to the late 19th century to create costumes that include frock coats, wide-brimmed hats, woolen shirts, and Victorian skirts.
Unlike other movies, Zophres has worked on previously, like “Interstellar” and “La La Land,” the costumes in this period relied heavily on wool. “It’s very difficult on a Western because there is hardly any wool made in this country anymore,” she said. “It’s a big search and rescue.” Her sources ranged from B&J in the Garment District to a store in Georgia that sent her old woolen pieces and rag finders in Los Angeles. Even more, fabrics came from locations as far-flung as Italy and the UK.
One of her favorite on-set memories from the film involved Tom Waits, who plays the role of a prospector. “I was a fan of his music and he sang to me during the first fitting, and that was kind of great,” Zophres told us. “It was a real thrill.”
Zophres said the response she has received so far “is very positive and the audience has loved the costumes because they are character driven.”
Even though Zophres finds it difficult to name one costume as her favorite, she added, “I loved Tyne Daly’s hat and her bustle dress,” which is on display at the museum.