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SYFY WIRE Happy Death Day 2U

How the costumes stay fresh in time loop horror sequel Happy Death Day 2U

By Emma Fraser
Happy Death Day 2U

The thought of an extra birthday sounds rather appealing, but instead of more presents, the Happy Death Day time loop is less surprise party and more surprise stabbing. Tree Gelbman (Jessica Rothe) is back for more in Happy Death Day 2U, as the baby mask-wearing killer returns with a more ambitious kill list. To save everyone, Tree is going to have to die — again and again, and again.

Reliving the same day gives Tree a chance to change up her wardrobe because she will remember a repeat outfit, even if no one else will. Tree has already died 11 times prior to the sequel, so she might as well have some fun with what she is wearing. Plus she doesn’t have to worry about doing a stack of laundry, as when the day resets, everything else does as well.

Some sartorial aspects do stay exactly the same, including the borrowed Dumpstaphunk T-shirt she wakes up in, day after day. Keep your eyes peeled, though; when costume designer Whitney Anne Adams recently spoke to SYFY FANGRRLS, she noted this particular shirt will undergo a few minor tweaks — not only that, but there will be some other clothing Easter eggs to look out for.

Happy Death Day 2U
Long before Adams was a costume designer she was a horror fan, getting an early start reading horror slasher novels in middle school — a teacher even rang her parents as they were concerned about her reading material — and her first film making the leap from assistant to costume designer was the 2016 black-and-white horror The Eyes of My Mother. She also worked with director Nicolas Pesce for a second time on the recently released psycho-sexual horror-thriller Piercing.

Happy Death Day 2U incorporates a variety of elements including science-fiction, comedy, romance, and horror, all of which appeal to Adams. As well as being a costume designer full-time, Adams is also Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse star Brian Tyree Henry’s stylist — she custom-designed this amazing tuxedo for him to wear to the Emmys.   

One design challenge when joining a project after the costumes have already been established — Meagan McLaughlin was the designer behind the looks on the previous film, Happy Death Day — is to take the original aesthetic while also “making it fresh and making it my own, but still continuing the world,” Adams explained. In preparation, Adams watched the first movie “five or six times,” taking screenshots of each costume to make sure she knew every single detail.

Happy Death Day 2U
Out of 17 costumes Tree wears in Happy Death Day 2U, only two appeared in the first movie; she still wakes up in the aforementioned Dumpstaphunk Funk T-shirt and another callback outfit pops up in a brief montage sequence. The reason there are 15 new costumes is because Tree “is sick of wearing the same thing, she wants to express herself and it also gives her more confidence,” noted Adams. “Because the thing about wearing clothes you like, that flatter you and are not sick of, [is that] you feel more yourself [which will help] to really tackle more things in the day."

When one of the things on your to-do list is to figure out why the killer time loop has expanded, picking a great outfit could be that extra something required to crack this death riddle. Adams added that "Tree really needs to put her best face forward because it will really help her concentrate on solving this mystery and saving her friends.” Wearing a bikini to skydive doesn’t sound like the most sensible option, but for Tree, a cute two-piece from J. Crew is her way of resetting the day on her terms.

For this many costumes, Adams shopped in a number of places, including stores in New Orleans — where the film was shot — and online, looking to brands where a typical college student like Tree would shop including American Eagle, Abercrombie & Fitch, and H&M, with a majority of her costumes coming from Madewell, Free People, and Anthropologie.

Happy Death Day 2U
Adams wanted to step up Tree’s looks for the sequel including this fantastic red and white striped summer dress from Anthropologie — which fit Rothe perfectly — and a yellow Madewell frock. These are some of Adams' favorite garments from the movie; she talked fondly of the “marathon multiple fittings” with Rothe in which they would "go wild and try on a million different costumes. To try and whittle it down to the 17 was really hard because she looks good in everything.”

Off-the-rack clothing is helpful for obtaining multiples, which are needed not only for stunts but also because most Happy Death Day 2U characters wear the same thing for the whole movie. Adams encountered a few challenges because certain supporting characters had their roles expanded in the sequel. It isn't easy to find clothes that were originally bought over a year and a half ago. The nature of fast fashion is it doesn't stay in stores for a long time. She referred to these moments as “treasure hunts,” which included tracking down more of the quilted black hoodie the killer wears.

Happy Death Day 2U
Ryan's (Phi Vu) costume was a bigger conundrum, as he didn’t have any stunts or action scenes in Happy Death Day, so there was only one copy of his vest and T-shirt. Adams found the vest, but it was impossible to source the same T-shirt. However, the show must go on: “I bought a similar shaped shirt and I hand-painted all the black paint marks onto it. You need all these doubles; you have to figure out a way to do it, even if it doesn’t exist." Carter’s (Israel Broussard) plaid shirt had a different issue; there were plenty of multiples, but given the way they cut off-the-rack shirts, the plaid is not the same configuration on each garment.

For quick shots, this is fine, but on lingering close-ups, it is too noticeable, “There is only one shirt he could wear, [and] that was our Hero shirt because it was the exact right plaid.” Carter doesn’t have to worry about his shirt getting dirty, but the costume team does not have the benefit of time resetting. “We had to do laundry every day because wearing one thing every day for a month and a half is not the most fun,” Adams added with a laugh.

Happy Death Day 2U
One of the most memorable images from the first Happy Death Day is the hoodie-wearing baby mask killer. The mask is back, and Adams explained that she worked with prop designer Alicia Haverland to ensure they were “taping the baby mask to the hoodie, as we don’t want to unmask our killer.” There is a new Bayfield Baby addition, however, as Adams had the very fun task of designing a mascot for the big Spirit Day basketball game sequence. “We did this low riding baby onesie so it looks like he is wearing a full diaper,” Adams said. “[I] wanted to translate this horrible scary baby mask into this bone version, but also make it very unsettling.” From the images alone, Adams has definitely achieved this goal.

Most colleges will have a range of apparel, and Bayfield is no different. Not only did Adams have to design a number of T-shirts, scarfs, hats, and sweatshirts — working with the graphics department — but she also had to create the basketball uniforms for both Bayfield and the opposing team, the Thurman Tritons. This was something of a personal dream for Adams as she played basketball for 14 years and her college mascot was also a Triton. She paid homage to her father with a shirt bearing their family name with “both my and my dad’s number from high school.” 

Happy Death Day 2U
The rest of the jerseys feature the names of each creative department head. Keep an eye out for the names of director and writer Christopher Landon — who gets number one, of course — and Jason Blum. This scene was also one of the biggest challenges as Adams noted there were around 700 background actors who needed to be fitted, “We had an assembly line, we had seven costumers, [and] we dressed everybody as efficiently as possible.”

One character going all out for Spirit Day is Tree’s extra-as-hell sorority sister, Danielle (Rachel Matthews), “That was one of the most fun things to do because Danielle is the person who turns everything up to 11, she is so intense, all the time,” said Adams. This is definitely not an off-the-rack look, “The hair bow I designed and printed that fabric based off the Bayfield Baby logo. We made her Bayfield shirt; of course, she cut it really low because she's got to show her cleavage. She has a baby pin on her little jean skirt.”

Happy Death Day 2U
If Danielle is getting into the school spirit, Tree is letting her shirt sum up her current predicament via the letters FML — press materials use a slightly less offensive 3-letter acronym. Adams explains this was something Landon had written in the script, she made it come to life after some deliberation over colors and font, “I did this whole big spreadsheet of probably 20 different font options and colors.”

Happy Death Day 2U
Happy Death Day 2U gave Adams the chance to flex a variety of her design talents including sourcing new costumes off-the-rack, hunting down the copies of the garments from the first movie, as well as creating Bayfield apparel and delivering a number of custom builds.

Tree has a new mystery to solve in the sequel, as she is no longer the only target of the baby mask killer. In the first movie, she proved she has the tenacity to save herself, now she has to do it all over again, and again, and again to save her ever-growing circle of friends. Reliving the same day is probably rather tiresome, but at least Tree won't have to worry about blood stains or a dress slashed to pieces when both time — and her closet — resets.    

Happy Death Day 2U is in theaters now.