Stephen King’s IT holds court over an almost sacred part of pop culture. Stephen Kings 1986 novel is one of the bestselling horror novels of all time, and without a doubt King’s most famous work. Pennywise the clown has been terrorising children and adults alike since the 1990 television movie starring Tim Curry hit the small screens, and this adaption of King’s novel has been in development for around 8 years – long even by Hollywood’s standards. Directed by Andy Muschietti, IT has rapidly become one of the best-selling horror films of all time, grossing £447 million so far at the box office – and that’s only in it’s first month of general release.
It’s easy to see why. IT is a superb film – even for those of us (like myself) who hate horror films. It’s a rare find – a horror film with a heart, and characters who you actually care about. This isn’t just gore porn; it’s a film about loss, growing up, friendship and facing your fears – even if those fears happen to be an intergalactic evil who takes the form of a Victorian clown. The young cast of actors rival even the child actors of Stranger Things, and I really believe we’ve found a star to watch in Sophia Lillis, who plays Beverly. Another mention has to go to Bill Skarsgård who plays Pennywise the clown because oh my god, if you aren’t scared of clowns you definitely will be after this movie. It’s an incredible performance by Skarsgård, even more so when he played the same part as the legendary Tim Curry – some very big shoes to fill, and he did amazingly well creating his own version of the world’s creepiest clown.
Just a small warning – spoilers ahead for the 2017 version of IT! (Not sure about other versions/the book because to be honest; as I haven’t seen them!)
And onto what we’re here for: the costumes! Janie Bryant was the costume designer for IT. Bryant is an excellent designer with 21 years in the business, and she designed costumes for Mad Men, arguably one of the most gorgeous period television shows of the 21st Century. IT is no exception; the costume design is wonderful and really helps to enhance the world Muschietti has created. Set in 1988, the film is steeped in nostalgia; not too dissimilar to the smash hit Netflix series Stranger Things, albeit with a slightly darker tone.
The ‘Losers Club’, comprised of Bill, Richie, Eddie, Stanley, and Mike are really the emotional heart of the film. Each of them has their own very distinct character, and this is presented in their personal style. Bill Denbrough, our lead boy as such, is haunted by the disappearance of his little brother Georgie, who we see murdered by Pennywise in the first few moments of the film. He’s the leader of the Losers Club – a shy but loveable boy who’s struggling with a stutter. He wears really recognisably ‘American’ style clothing – baseball shirts, shorts, baseball socks and Converse All-Star baseball boots. These items of clothing are all a kind of recognisable 1980’s Americana – items associated with American sports like baseball. It’s an all-American image, a wholesome, childish one that really fits the character. However, as the movie progresses, he’s seen more in shirts, and even jeans – moving away from the childish as he learns more about IT. Richie, the amateur comedian of the group, is much more boisterous, preferring shirts and t-shirts with loud patterns, accompanied by his trademark 1980’s nerd glasses, with lenses so thick they distort his eyes. Eddie, the sheltered hypochondriac favours polo shirts and shorts; he’s very neat and tidy at all times, and constantly accompanied by his bum-bag (or fanny pack for Americans) full of placebo pills. Stanley, the son of a Rabbi, is also always neat and tidy; but he’s usually wearing a button down shirt and neat shorts, all tucked in with a belt. He’s the closest to being a grown up – and this is made reference to with his studies for his Bar Mitzvah, the Jewish rite of passage into manhood.
Mike, Ben and Beverly are outsiders, who become members of the Losers Club throughout the film, and their experiences with Pennywise. Mike is a little older than the other boys, Mike wears shirts and chinos in more muted colours, and has an older, manlier silhouette, reflective of his age difference and subsequent responsibilities. His grandfather is his guardian, and he’s trying to push Mike into the family business of becoming a butcher. His costumes are reflective of this forced manhood – he can’t be a boy like the others. He’s had to grow up a lot quicker, and as a result, has lost a lot of his childhood innocence. Ben, however, is ‘the new kid’ – an automatic outsider for any teen movie. He’s adorable and caring – and also has somewhat questionable fashion sense. Among others, he sports a studded denim waistcoat, a tie-dye t-shirt with an eagle on it – but it’s hugely endearing. Ben’s smart – really smart, kind, and in love with Beverly. I mean, everyone is rooting for him. I’m just so glad he didn’t die.
Beverly was, to me, one of the most interesting characters costume wise (obviously bar the insane Victorian clown). Beverly is a child on the verge of becoming a woman, as we’re reminded by her awful dad, and her costuming reflects this in every way. She’s clearly an outsider; an artsy child who expresses herself through her clothing. Bev frequently wears an empire line dress with knee length leggings underneath it, paired with boots and a lot of rings, necklaces and accessories. She’s a little quirky, but still feminine – her dresses are blues and whites, with ditsy floral patterns, paired with clunky black and brown boots. Her overall look is feminine, but with a hint of something edgier – which to me, is a rejection of being her ‘daddy’s little girl’. Bev’s cutting of her hair also marks a moment of transition for the character – she’s shunning this aspect of her femininity that feels tainted due to her father’s abuse. I also like the addition of the shorts under the dress – while they can rarely be seen, they feel almost like a form of protection to me; worn underneath the floaty, feminine dresses, Beverly is protecting herself against the worst monster in her life – her own father, and these shorts seem like a sensible addition for her character. The only time we see Beverly let down her guard is with the Losers Club, when they’re swimming in the quarry. Bev strips down to her underwear – much to the boy’s delight and terror – and jumps into the quarry alongside them. Her state of undress is here, used for comedic effect, as the boys aren’t quite sure how to handle a girl in her underwear. However, this is also a statement of how comfortable she feels around them, in comparison to how unsafe she feels at home, where she has to lock the door to her bathroom to stop her father coming in. As the movie progresses, we see Beverly in shorts more often, and her clothing takes on a more utilitarian, grown up vibe, with items such as demin shorts and brown dungarees making an appearance. Bev is a great character, and I’m really looking forward to seeing where the writers take her character in the second instalment of IT. (Also – dream casting here, but wouldn’t Amy Adams make an amazing grown up Beverly?)
We’ve gotten this far without talking about the most important character in IT – Pennywise the Clown. At 25, Skarsgård is young to play the part, but his youth and height completely change the characterisation of the clown made famous by Tim Curry in the 1990’s TV mini-series. Skarsgård is over 6 ft tall, meaning he physically towers over the child actors, making his presence all the more threatening. He’s also young – making his squeaky voice, childlike face and long limbs that little bit more terrifying. I loved the way the designers of IT played with proportions to make Pennywise extra-scary; while at first glance he might seem vaguely human, on closer inspection the proportions of his body are all off. His head is too large, and his legs are a little too long, and his costume’s peplum waist and voluminous sleeves create a silhouette more reminiscent of a porcelain doll than a human. His costume is also chock-full of historical references – most noticeably his Elizabethan ruff. Ruffs were popularised during the reign of Elizabeth the First, usually made from linen and stiffened with starch. Pennywise, however, has a ruff that’s quite different to this – made from a light, floaty material in many layers. Byrant has noted that this pleating is called Fortuny pleating, and is a technique that would not have been used in Elizabethan times. However, this really works in Pennywise’s costume; Pennywise looks more like a gruesome illustration of a clown, rather than a real clown – which of course, he isn’t. His costume consists of a lot of clown requisites, such as big hair, a red nose, a painted smile, frills and pom-poms, but somehow manages to put these together in a way that’s more fairytale than reality. I also love his makeup; the smile that extends above his eyes is, of course, far out of the realm of real clown makeup, but really adds to his creepiness, taking him firmly into the world of fantasy. Pennywise’s colour palette has also been simplified into three colours – off-white, orange and red, and this works fantastically well. It helps to root Pennywise more firmly in the past, and the costume is meant to be representative of how long Pennywise has been around. Plus, simplifying the colours makes for a simpler, more striking contrast against the backdrop of Derry, which works really well in the darker scenes of the movie. Off white also shows blood up very well. Which if you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know is important.
All in all, I loved IT. And I really hate horror films. But it wasn’t just a pointless jump-scare fest – IT has so many different themes and storylines, plus some fantastic, sympathetic characters. It also has Pennywise, who is genuinely scary and super interesting, giving the movie more than enough steam to charge ahead into development of the sequel, which is a certainty at this point.
Super excited to see who they cast as the Loser Club grownups – who can you imagine in the roles?
Hope you enjoyed, and I’ll be back very soon!
You’ll Float Too!