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Ellen Mirojnick on creating the costumes for three fierce queens in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

By Emma Fraser
Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

In 2014, Maleficent proved that when it comes to style, the villain has the best closet. Five years later, Angelina Jolie and Elle Fanning are reprising their fairy-tale-with-a-twist roles in Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, and this time Michelle Pfeiffer is joining the fantasy-fueled party.

After the turbulent events of the first movie, Aurora watches over the Moors in her role as regent, while Maleficent has been enjoying the freedom her wings have given her. The peaceful landscape is broken when Prince Phillip (Harris Dickinson) asks for Aurora's hand in marriage. Phillip's mother, Queen Ingrith (Michelle Pfeiffer), has an ulterior motive, jeopardizing the whole kingdom and beyond. She is also serving up fierce sartorial decadence, which threatens to unseat Maleficent's reign in this department.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

SYFY FANGRRLS spoke to Mistress of Evil costume designer Ellen Mirojnick about Maleficent's new rival, the technical challenges of winged characters, and the Aurora gown that includes an homage to the original Disney animation. Mirojnick takes over the costume design reins from Anna B. Sheppard, and her resumé is stacked with iconic movies across multiple genres, including The Greatest Showman, Starship Troopers, and Fatal Attraction. Mistress of Evil is a dark fantasy, but its roots spread wide in terms of inspiration.

The historical influence is evident in Queen Ingrith's audacious gowns and jewels; her selection of crowns wouldn't look out of place at the Tower of London. Mirojnick explained that her research incorporates a variety of sources. "It starts with fine art and paintings for the most part. It could be very abstract. I'll look at fashion, I'll look at things that are relatable within the material." Other influences include nature, tribal civilizations, the Renaissance era, medieval garments, and costumes used in children's illustrations. Likening the process to something out of a fantasy, Mirojnick sums it up as "whatever visual reference I can conjure, it's going on a magic carpet ride."

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

While Mirojnick didn't have any direct conversations with the costume designer from Maleficent, Sheppard's creations were on hand for her to study. Even though a lot of the characters have passed over from the first movie, the five-year time jump immediately sets a different tone. Not only has Aurora grown over this period, but Maleficent has her wings back. This occurred at the climax of the first outing, but now her costuming must incorporate this factor. The wings are a special effect, so this is one challenge for the costume design team as it impacts her silhouette and the fabric choice.

There is also the matter of remembering the wings are present. "In designing all of the characters that have wings, you might forget at first that you have to deal with," Mirojnick said. However, pieces were designed to go on the back of the actor's body to aid both the costume and visual effects team. Certain garments, like a dramatic cape, needed to be incorporated into the wings, rather than hiding them.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

In a movie featuring not one but three royal figureheads, it is vital to avoid any visual crossover, but these three women couldn't be more different in style and taste. Maleficent's garments feature a golden palette — Mirojnick noted that in some cases these hues have read as green to some.

Blue is Aurora's signature color, which is highlighted in a beautiful hand-embroidered gown that is representative of the luscious landscape of the Moors and the fairy existence. "It is very unstructured, uncourt-like, and it is all organic," Mirojnick said. "I think it is heavenly. I can't liken it to something else because it is so special. A queen-like expression of the land in which she rules." It also makes for an ethereal silhouette that is in stark contrast to that of her future mother-in-law.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

The closest comparison to the castle Queen Ingrith rules from is one renowned for decadence, and Mirojnick explains that "the grounds and the manicured lawns are as if they were Versailles." While Ingrith's dark desire isn't meant to be immediately apparent to the visitors, her love of jewels matches her desire for power. "She is a very opulent queen. She has grown her kingdom in such a large and prosperous way. She is luxurious at all costs." The platinum costume coloration is a bold choice that creates an icy image without screaming villain to the unsuspecting Aurora. The awe-inspiring gowns range from the softer creams and whites of their first encounter to the "tightly woven" custom-built pearl-encrusted garments. The latter use these precious materials "to create — not just accessories — armor-like pieces that do not appear to be armor."

If pearls are Ingrith's choice of battle wear, Maleficent has an entirely different but equally stunning approach to warfare. The first movie revealed another side to a Disney villain, but Mistress of Evil is venturing back even further, revealing a connection to the mysterious Dark Fae. This impacts how Maleficent sees herself and the costume she wears. "She's taken to the land of the Dark Fae," said Mirojnick. "And she's taught that it's where she comes from and there are others just like her — they've been banished to a place that is far away."

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil
"When they are going to battle there is a ritual of painting," Mirojnick told us about the Dark Fae. Creating a garment that looks as if it has been painted or is feathered was the intention for this centerpiece look that brings new meaning to a fierce queen. Mirojnick explained that the bottom half of the costume "evolved from the dinner dress," which is very sustainable in approach. This particular garment is serving up New York Fashion Week looks, and there is a reason why. "We asked the uber-talented Ralph & Russo to come and adapt a fabrication or a paint that could be used on a mesh to create this [brushed feathered] effect," she revealed.

There is ongoing conflict throughout Mistress of Evil, but Mirojnick explained that the behind-the-scenes experience was incredibly fulfilling. Referring to Jolie, Fanning, and Pfeiffer as "a triad of joy," she went on to say, "They are very inspiring once you put the beginnings of a costume on, because they participate in a way that is very focused and very collaborative. It's just a very sublime experience to have three entirely different women, three entirely different characters."

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Maleficent's battle attire draws on high fashion; Queen Ingrith is rivaling Cersei Lannister in her gasp-worthy garments with a medieval twist, but there is one striking gown that draws on the image audiences often associate with the character Aurora. The dress she wears for the big dinner scene at Queen Ingrith's palace is a direct reference to the iconic animation. "We adapted the Sleeping Beauty shape collar for her gown," Mirojnick said. The costume designer also got to put her stamp on this iconic character, as she "had the great joy of creating a new Sleeping Beauty dress for her that she wears at the end of the film with her prince."

The Disney animated film celebrating its 60th anniversary gave Mirojnick the perfect opportunity to pay homage to a classic while also keeping with the aesthetic and tone of Mistress of Evil. "That was really thrilling, not only to continue on with the second chapter of the Maleficent story, but also bring the tale of Sleeping Beauty into the 21st century."