By Anna Wyckoff | September 3, 2018
Working on a project as evocative as BlackKklansman was both a passion and a privilege for Costume Designer Marci Rodgers. Her third collaboration with director Spike Lee, Rodgers has gained an insight into the director’s themes and creativity that made the experience all the more meaningful. “It was an honor for me to successfully costume the movie and have it be period accurate, stylish, and fun—given the topic,” she says. “In the end, it is meant to help start conversations.”
To recreate the 70s, Rodgers’ research ranged from archived episodes of Soul Train to back issues of Jet, and from the halls of her alma mater, Howard University, to the Library of Congress. But, it was in conversation with the real Ron Stallworth (played by John David Washington in the film) that produced some of the greatest insights. “I knew he needed presence. He needed to capture a room. So, I asked him what he wore and what made him feel cool if you will. He told me he would wear certain accessories, certain chains, things he would add that made him feel grounded when he was in and out of the police precinct.”
She gave the other principal characters a similar treatment. In going over her research with Lee, certain images just leaped out for Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier). “There was one picture that I saw of Kathleen Cleaver and he really reacted to that,” she explains. “So she’s a mix of Kathleen Cleaver and Angela Davis.” As a bit of added flair, Rodgers even gave the character a “Free Angela” patch.
For her palette, Rodgers worked closely with the rest of the crew to make sure her contributions always fit with the look of the production as a whole. “I think for me it’s about going back to color theory and understanding what colors go together,” she explains. The result is a film in which the costumes fit in the frame as much as on the actors. “I’m trying to create a beautiful painting that goes along with production design and lighting.”