How Scarlett Johansson’s ‘Black Widow’ Costumes Were Custom-Designed for Comfort

·4-min read

Costume designer Jany Temime says working on Marvel’s “Black Widow” was a dream job. She doesn’t know the exact number of costumes she created, but it was “a lot.”

The costume designer who counts “Judy,” “Skyfall” and three of the Harry Potter films including “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part I and II” among her credits, turned to the Russian and Norwegian armies and the circus for “Black Widow” for design inspirations as new characters such as Yelena (Florence Pugh) and the Red Guardian (David Harbour) are introduced.

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Temime also inherited Scarlett Johansson in the title role, whose costume that had already been established. This time around, she made a few tweaks to allow for comfort, sculpting it to suit a woman’s body.

Here, she breaks down designing those looks.

On Inheriting the Black Widow Outfit and the Marvel Comic Universe

Scarlett Johansson’s suit got a little more stretch for extra comfort. - Credit: Jay Maidment
Scarlett Johansson’s suit got a little more stretch for extra comfort. - Credit: Jay Maidment

Jay Maidment

With the Black Widow costume, I changed a few things and adapted it to Scarlett and her body. When you get the design, you have a computer reality and you have the reality of a woman’s body, and you have to put those two things together.

To make it comfortable, we had the base of the costume made from rubbery fabric. I also added in a design graphic to stop it from looking flat, and that was printed out.

Between the seams, we allowed two to three millimeters of elastic fabric to give some room and stretch because I didn’t want her to feel like she was in something tight. I was so happy to hear Scarlett say that it was the most comfortable outfit.

The way we cut it too was glamorous, we cut the waist a little higher because you have to model the suit to the body to flatter it.

I also designed the young widow outfits which they gave me carte blanche with, and again, they were enthusiastic about it. It was such a collaboration and so dreamy. I also understood what [director] Cate Shortland wanted and her vision, especially for that opening sequence.

Introducing Yelena and the White Suits

Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), left, Alexei (David Harbour) and Yelena (Florence Pugh) in “Black Widow” - Credit: Jay Maidment
Black Widow/Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson), left, Alexei (David Harbour) and Yelena (Florence Pugh) in “Black Widow” - Credit: Jay Maidment

Jay Maidment

Since Yelena came from Russia, I looked at it from a different point of view. I looked at photos of the Russian and Norwegian army and I came across some of the soldiers in the snow wearing white, and that’s where the white uniform idea came from – also they pick up their “father” in the show so I thought that would look gorgeous.

I wanted her outfit to be more functional and more army-like. I used double fabric with cotton and nylon stitched together gave it volume which had this sportswear look to it. Her look was less of a superhero than just a normal one.

We also had to introduce the green vest. She says in the film she bought this vest with all those pockets, and the idea was that she had come out of that brainwashed spy world, and buys that. So, I made something easy to wear, sturdy, practical and based on post-‘50s sportswear fashion.

When you look at the women in their different suits, I hope you can feel and see the difference between Russia and the USA.

Scarlett’s white suit was made from similar fabrics used on scuba diving suits – that’s what gave it a rubbery look.

And again, I printed other aspects of the costume to make it interesting and to create that lift so it didn’t look flat and boring, and just to cut that monotony of plain rubber-coated fabric.

Scarlet Johansson’s “Black Widow” suit was printed to give it more dimensionality. - Credit: Courtesy of Marvel Studios
Scarlet Johansson’s “Black Widow” suit was printed to give it more dimensionality. - Credit: Courtesy of Marvel Studios

Courtesy of Marvel Studios

The Red Guardian

David Harbour’s helmet was inspired by the look of a human cannonball at a circus. - Credit: Courtesy of Youtube
David Harbour’s helmet was inspired by the look of a human cannonball at a circus. - Credit: Courtesy of Youtube

Courtesy of Youtube

I wanted to design something that reflected what the Soviet Union thought America was. So, there was this superhero design with this primary color of red, that helmet that looks terrible with that piece under the chin, and it was so old fashioned, almost like an old-fashioned comic.

That helmet was inspired by those guys who are shot out of cannons at the circus.

David was amazing. I created it for him and on him. He is the sort of actor who could feel the part from the inside out. He didn’t mind being slightly ridiculous as long as you get the effect, especially in that sequence where he is trying on the costume for the first time and it’s so tight.

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