- “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is filled with jaw-dropping quirky looks, especially for protagonists Evelyn and Jobu.
- But costume designer Shirley Kurata told Insider that dreaming up the costumes is no small feat.
- According to Kurata, one of the most difficult pieces to find for the film was an Elvis costume.
- Warning: Spoilers ahead.
At the center of the intricately layered multiverse in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” is a bagel — an everything bagel, to be exact. The film’s tortured antagonist, Jobu Tupaki (Stephanie Hsu) created the “bagel” (which looks more like a giant black hole than a vehicle for cream cheese, to be clear) after being discouraged by the infinite nothingness she discovered in the multiverse.
As Jobu explains to Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), she then took everything from the multiverse and put it in the “bagel”, leading to the voracious black hole that Jobu is tempted to disappear into. Further cementing Jobu’s point is his costume in the scene; she is dressed in a futuristic white dress, with large hair that resembles the bagel she is preoccupied with.
The costumes in “Everything Everywhere All at Once” are more than just clothes. Since most of the characters frequent different universes (through a process known as “verse-hopping”), the clothes they wear are key to conveying the different iterations of each character, as well as placing the viewer in the many multiverses traversed throughout the film.
In one scene, for example, Evelyn is transported to a world in which she performs on stage as a famous Chinese opera singer, complete with intricately painted makeup and lavish dress. In another, Evelyn is a famous movie star attending a contemporary film premiere in an elegant long dress.
Jobu’s appearance is much more chaotic. As Kurata explained, Jobu’s awareness of the multiverse (and the nihilistic outlook that comes with it) means that she is able to create her outfits in her mind, paying little attention to when or where. she currently stands. Instead, Jobu has complete freedom to manipulate his reality, with clothes that reflect his unbalanced attitude towards existence.
Designing such intricate and meaningful costumes couldn’t have been an easy task (Kurata said she’s created dozens of looks for Hsu and Yeoh alone), but Kurata’s impeccable design brings the characters — and the multiverse — to life. – with breathtaking detail.
The costume designer spoke to Insider about his collaboration with film directors Daniel Kwan and Daniel Scheinert (known collectively as Daniels), the one costume that was surprisingly hard to find and whose appearance ultimately didn’t survived the final film.
I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about it already, but the costumes in this movie are really special. If you had to estimate, how many different looks would you say you created for Michelle and Stephanie?
I should look at my break in continuity, because it’s been two years now. But I would say between the two, at least 40.
It’s crazy. What was your timeline for creating these truly unique and stunning looks?
I had about a month and a half of preparation before starting to shoot. Which wasn’t that long, but luckily some of the more important scenes — like the bagel universe and the movie star universe — we shot as the last week of principal photography. So luckily, while we were shooting in the IRS building, I was able to prep all of those scenes as well.
Was there a particular costume or look that you really struggled to come up with?
There was a scene with Jobu, who performs Hara-kiri [ritual suicide by disembowelment with a sword, once practiced in Japan by samurai] on herself only for candy to come out of her instead of blood. We had a hard time doing this with practical effects, because the candy was lumpy and it was hard to get it out smoothly.
I think we could have managed to get it to work, but it would have taken many takes, which with the lockdown, we ended up removing it. The Daniels ended up doing the scene in a fully animated sequence.
Were any of the outfits specifically mentioned in the script, or did the Daniels really give you free rein to design basically whatever you wanted?
No, some of them were in the script, like Elvis’ costume. And the same with the luchador look.
Then there were some that weren’t in the script. They said they wanted something unique and interesting for Jobu, so we just chatted together, like, what interesting looks can she do? And one of them was a K-pop star.
Another is when Jobu falls down the stairs. We kind of collectively came up with this idea of, we called it “Jumbled Jobu”. Like all her clothes just got tossed in the dryer or something, and now she’s wearing it. So this one, I draped it freehand, using different pieces from his other costumes and just existing pieces in the world, and draped it over a mannequin.
This look is so spectacular, and the K-pop one is the one with that Jeremy Scott teddy jacket, right?
Yeah. I just have things in my kit, and I happen to have this Jeremy Scott jacket. I told them, “I have this jacket, which I think might be pretty cool,” and they loved that from the side you could see the teddy bear heads. They were like, ‘Oh yeah, that would be great. Let’s form an outfit based around that.
There was the only scene where Evelyn dies and then the credits roll. They just said they wanted something, because it’s scene-heavy, like maybe something a little more gothic. So I suggested something like the gothic anime style, because there’s like the elegant gothic lolitas you see like in Harajuku and stuff. I wanted a look like this.
Are there any other costumes that you were really excited about that didn’t make it into the final cut of the film?
I don’t think we cut too many looks, but there’s a scene where [Jobu] fights with Michelle, and I had this jacket as Commes des Garçons, and it had four sleeves. I put gloved hands in two of the sleeves, so when she fought, the arms would swing out.
You see it, but it’s so fast. I think you have to like it, see it again. And I was like, “Oh, I wish we’d seen that.”
Both had a lot more scripted costumes originally. In a scene that didn’t make it into the final cut, they were at a baseball game. There was also a Wall Street banker look, and there was an Austrian mountainside musical look.
How did you visually put all these costumes together in advance?
I didn’t really draw much. Maybe for the alpha jumpers, because I knew those looks were going to be specific, and they kind of wanted it to be more of a dystopian vibe. A bit more “Mad Max” so I ended up getting some military parts and then reworking them into things for Alpha Waymond and the Verse Riders.
Did you struggle to find specific clothes for the costumes?
The Elvis costume was quite difficult, simply because they exist, but some of them look like terrible Halloween costumes. Building one from scratch would have cost so much money and I knew I probably needed at least double that.
I found one that was in a much larger size. And so I just bought this higher quality one and shrunk it down, so we were able to make it work.
It was a bit tricky. Because I thought, “There are so many Elvis impersonators out there, I’m sure there are nicer ones in the world.”
What’s your least favorite look you’ve worked on? If you have one.
I don’t know if I have one. Even the costumes in the regular tax universe, they seemed so fit to their character which is why I love them. It’s not something I would wear, or even the actors. Like when Ke [Huy Quan, who plays Evelyn’s husband Waymond] Put on his polo shirt, khaki pants and fanny pack, he thinks, “Oh my God, I would never wear this, but it’s so perfect for Waymond.”
Even Jenny Slate’s outfit, I didn’t like that outfit, but it was so perfect for her character.
I asked a friend, I said, “If a woman walks into the store and she’s a little boring, and some kind of Karen, what would you imagine she’s wearing?” And he said, “One of those like cut-out shirts, cold shoulders.” And I was like, “Yeah, worn with their workout leggings and really bad wedge heels.”
What was your favorite look you worked on?
Probably Jobu’s bagel universe costume. This surreal futuristic look, this world.
It was great to be able to come up with something unique and from my imagination. Some of these other looks were simpler – like the opera universe I wanted to use as a true classical Chinese opera costume. But with some Jobu, it was great to just pull things from my imagination and create.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
“Everything Everywhere All at Once” is currently playing in theaters. You can watch the trailer below.