Making Costumes that Bring Back the Fashionable Fifties in Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City

An exclusive Q&A with costume designer Milena Canonero

Wes Anderson’s Asteroid City chronicles the strange events that occur in a desert town in 1955 when an eclectic group—played by Scarlett JohanssonTom HanksJason SchwartzmanBryan CranstonJeffrey WrightSteve CarellHope DavisMaya Hawke, and many more—converges for the Junior Stargazer/Space Cadet convention.

To make each character stand out, Anderson hired costume designer Milena Canonero. For Asteroid City, Canonero allowed each character to shine under the desert sun. The Film Stage writes that in what “might be the best-dressed place per capita in the world, Milena Canonero’s costumes a ready-to-wear fast fashion line that would sell out overnight if it ever hit shelves.”

So we spoke with Canonero about designing the stunning outfits for Asteroid City.

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The official trailer for Asteroid City

How do you start work on a new feature with Wes Anderson?

By reading the script.

Where did the palette for the costumes come from?

One develops and evolves—the sets, the locations, photos, movies, paintings, and Wes’s direction.

Steve Carell, Aristou Meehan, and Liev Schreiber in Asteroid City

How did you come up with some of the 1950s-style costumes, like the jacket covered with cowboy illustrations worn by Conrad Earp (Edward Norton)?

I do all sorts of research—and I do love research. Many of the designs come from the artistic desire to bring to the director something new and fresh and in harmony with his vision. The pattern I designed for Conrad Earp’s jacket is an original design based on many different elements I put together. You only see it in black-and-white in the movie, although it is quite charming in color.

How did you source the fabrics for the costumes?

Naturally, one refers to the materials of the period and buys them if they are still available. I sometimes also buy them from collectors. Otherwise, I have to find or create similar fabrics. In this movie, I designed various original patterns to be hand-painted by textile artists.

How much did you coordinate your palette with cinematographer Robert Yeoman and production designer Adam Stockhausen?

We were always talking with each other. But I mainly coordinated with Adam because the sets and costumes were very much linked. Bob always does great photography to enhance the look.

What do you hope people take away from Asteroid City?

As in all of Wes' works, there is a feeling of melancholy and depth not always evident. And also hope and love.