The Costumes of Villeneuve’s Dune: History, Texture, & Storytelling

Let’s go on a trip to interstellar space and check out what fashion is like on Arakkis and beyond. A look at the threads that keep the new Dune film together.
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1 – Hello, darlings. Welcome to #Threadtalk! This edition we're taking an interstellar trip to Arrakis to review the costumes of #Dune (2021).

Like before, featuring minimal to no spoilers. A focus on fashion and its relation to fashion history, plus bit of… spice. 🪐

Rebecca Ferguson as Lady Jessica in blue sheer material and an embroidered blue gown beside Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atriedies in DUNE (2021). © Warner Brothers Pictures

2 – Now, I came to this film as a DUNE novice, so you can imagine my surprise when, at the very beginning, folks were talking about levels of fancy dress!

Turns out, over 10K years in the future, rich folks still gotta keep up appearances. So let's start with House Atreides.

Oscar Isaac as Leto in DUNE (2021) wearing a black military suit with gold chains and pins, guards behind him. © Warner Brothers

3 – At this point in the far future, AI is out. So clothing is back to being made by hand. And that's absolutely reflected in the choices by designers Jacqueline West & Bob Morgan.

For Leto, we see lots of black, 1940s inspired military I'm sorry what this man is omg I need air

Oscar Isaac dressed in all black monochrome fatigues in DUNE (2021) © Warner Brothers

4 – Excuse me.

Leto does a lot of black/gray combos. Both in his trooper-style gear (you'll have to excuse my bad military lingo here) & regular outfits.

It's not terribly innovative, IMHO, but it works. He's got an image & it makes sense to a present day audience.

5 – For Paul, it's all about texture & shifting. He incorporates his father's slick & tidy looks when needs be, but from his introduction we see him in natural materials like flax.

This screenshot from the trailer gives you that texture I'm talking about. Soft, almost tender.

Timothée Chalamet in DUNE (2021) waking from a bad dream in his gilded bed, wearing a white flax tunic. © Warner Brothers

6 – Paul is a chameleon, living between worlds. The designers used a wealth of influences, from 19th century fencing to Middle Eastern design, depending on the need. Always w/textures.

But you're drawn to his face, his hair, his expression. The hero.

7 – Now, LADY JESSICA.

I am so here, Rebecca Ferguson.

This yellow dress may be the most expensive costume ever made. I about fell out of my chair.

Hand made. Medieval influenced. Silk. Beads. Sorcery. It’s like a Maxfield Parrish painting had a baby with my wildest dreams.

Lady Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) in DUNE (2021) walking across the airfield. It's golden yellow, includes a sheer veil over her face, and an elaborate beaded head cap. © Warner Brothers

8 – I see the influence of India, the Middle East, and even Egypt here.

The sheer veil over the beaded face mask in the wind gives her an eerie, almost skeletal look. Menacing. Even with the bright saffron color.

Don't mess with Paul's mom, y'all.

9 – Sheers are the name of the game for Lady Jessica, but she, too, is a chameleon. My favorite dress of hers was actually a red piece with some late Victorian vibes… which reminds me of a Worth gown I know and love.

Talk about a power play.

10 – How about Harkonnens? They went pretty simple with Bad Guy Black for just about everything, taking a definite Japanese/block design pseudo-kimono influence for this outfit from the Baron in his Throne Room.

The fabric looks sheer, smooth. Comfy against all the matte black.

Stellan Skarsgård as Baron Harkonnen in Dune 2021 © Warner Brothers

11 – For the rest of House Harkonnen, more matte black than a 90s Madonna video. Zero brows. Whips. Some interesting scaly/leather textures.

The armor is more complex than that of the bulkier stuff House Atreides wears. I like how each suit varies, though! Very cool touch.

Dave Bautista in DUNE (2021) - all wearing various takes on black armor. © Warner Brothers

12 – The still suits were really interesting, not for the least of which they could fold up pretty small.

But uh — equal opportunity codpieces? Not a line I thought I would write. I found that a little unusual for a choice.

Yet, here were are.

Zendaya and Timothée Chalamet in Dune (2021) in matching green "still suits" -- flexible desert-safe outfits meant to collect their sweat and keep them alive in unfavorable weather. © Warner Brothers

13 – The Fremen costumes deeply influenced by the Middle East, & there's no surprises here.

Sadly, Zendaya's Chani is on screen for just a short time (and even less without a still suit).

She is stunning, though, & again, we get lots of texture. Light moving through cloth.

Zendaya as Chani in Dune (2021) - She's wearing a headscarf of burlap or thick flax, and a still suit - © Warner Brothers.

14 – And finally, the Bene Gesserit!

Y'all know my obsession with mourning clothing, and they went deep on this one.

I see influences of Spanish, Italian, and Victorian mourning wear, as well as medieval traditions, for sure. Plus, some more obscure!

Charlotte Rampling as Reverend Mother Moiham in DUNE (2021) in her beaded veil and tall hat © Warner Brothers

15 – The beadwork hearkens back to Jessica's, of course, but the hats I want to talk about first. Sure, nuns had odd hats. But!

They reminded me of Frisian folk costumes, but also the shape of some of the lace hats of Brittany (albeit in different colors).

16 – The Bene Gesserit costumes use sheers and crepe to absorb light, just like traditional mourning gowns of the West.

The contrast between these two is pretty cool — the right image is from the Boston MFA, and dates from 1918.

17 – And no surprise with the jet beads, either. As we've learned recently, jet is part of the long language of mourning and darkness.

This Pingat dolman from 1885 looks like it could be part of one of the costume pieces, doesn't it? Looks like it walked right off set.

A dolman with an almost military design with the beading. From the Met Museum.

18 – Even the kind of beadwork hearkens to that golden age of mourning. This capelet from the late 1880s should probably be hanging in the Reverend Mother's closet…

Also, 100% would wear. It's a combination of black silk and jet beads.

19 – In other words, I am very here for space witch wardrobes. But that should not be a surprise.

© Warner Brothers

20 – I'm still figuring out what I think about #Dune , but I definitely thought the costumes were spectacular. I'd be shocked if Jacqueline West & Bob Morgan are not up for an Oscar next year!

For those who want to learn more:

https://screenrant.com/dune-2021-costumes-hidden-details/

https://variety.com/2021/artisans/design/dune-costume-design-stillsuits-denis-villeneuve-1235066832/

21 –
https://www.gamesradar.com/dune-may-feature-the-most-expensive-movie-costume-ever-made/

https://www.dunemovie.com/

22 – Thanks for hanging out! 🍿

💕Pertinent links are in my bio. 💕

"How you Dune?"

23 – Oh, and a few pertinent links:

On mourning: https://twitter.com/NataniaBarron/status/1447713225852833795

On linen: https://twitter.com/NataniaBarron/status/1396967304831934465

On beading:

Originally tweeted by Natania Barron (@NataniaBarron) on November 8, 2021.

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