By Christopher Redmond

Mailed on June 01, 2021

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Dear Sheara Abrahams
Assistant Costume Designer

Dear Sheara,

I mean, come on—how could I come out of Cruella with anything but the costumes top-of-mind? The wardrobe isn’t just the star of the show, it’s the engine of the plot and the film’s entire raison d’etre. Making you, Sheara, the film’s real-life Cruella de Vil. (Or, should we say Estella?). Poor Jenny Beavan better watch her back.

Your boss, of course, is a two-time Oscar winner (and 10-time nominee), most recently taking home the trophy for Mad Max: Fury Road. Anyone who watched the 2016 ceremony might remember Beavan strutting up to the stage in a studded leather jacket, like the cool kid in class who still managed to pull straight-As. Her utter defiance of Oscar glam conventions made her born to do this film. That sensibility makes her the true spirit animal of the re-imagined Cruella character, rather than The Baroness (played by Emma Thompson). But for the sake of symmetry, I’m going to bestow all the real credit to you, her assistant.

Once we push past the Original Wound set-up of the story, the film quickly and unapologetically goes into some The Devil Wears Prada cosplay. Director Crag Gillespie doesn’t stay in office politics mode for long, though, shifting into Ocean’s 8 gear (more worthy of the Ocean’s 11 comparison, truly) with creative heists and costume changes that have charisma and cloaks to burn. It all leads up to a supervillain origins story that might not carry the superficial import of Joker, but is certainly more inspired than Birds of Prey or Maleficent.

In other words, this movie is F-U-N.

The series of upstaging pranks never ceases to amuse, with clever turns that feel like they were born of a costume designer’s wet dream (like the dump truck reveal). What were you doing, exactly, that inspired you to look at a heap of trash and decide it would make the ultimate entrance at a party? Of course it’s the moment the truck drives away that’s the real pièce de résistance. But this is just one of half-a-dozen moments where the wardrobe reveals not just ingenuity on your part, but character development and plot movement. It would be too easy for The Baroness to start fuming with each artistic attack, but instead her resentment fuses with respect that makes the rivalry more intense—more so because it doesn’t water down the life-or-death consequences. If men can fight to the death over jewelry (Infinity Stones are just cosmic bling), women sure as hell can do the same.

While the dalmatians angle may seem a little forced, it’s at least threaded into the plot throughout. Much like a theme at The Met Gala, the underlying I.P. is only meant as an excuse to spend millions on artistic renderings that would otherwise be unattainable for a story of this nature. In the end, that’s the real punk move that Cruella – and you – manage to pull off.



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