The story of Alexander the Great encompasses many
incredibly diverse ancient civilizations, captured over several
decades, and Academy Award-winning costume designer Jenny Beavan
was charged with creating more than 20,000 items of historically
accurate dress for the ambitious production. Beavan consulted with
historian Robin Lane Fox and Lloyd Llewellyn-Jones, Doctor of Ancient
History at Exeter University, who specializes in ancient costume.
"There are an enormous number of vase paintings left from Greek
civilization," notes Beavan, "and a certain amount of
written material, so we knew how they wove their fabrics."
Exquisite materials from the world over were fashioned to match
the carefully researched styles of ancient Macedonia, Greece, Persia,
Bactria, Sogdiana, Scythia and India.
Beavan’s wedding costumes reflect the cultural
mix of Alexander’s world, particularly Roxane’s magnificent and
exotic bridal attire. "In my research, I found that Afghan
techniques haven’t changed much in two thousand years," says
Beavan. "They sewed gold into clothes, which we did both for
Roxane and Alexander’s wedding costumes. I wanted Roxane to look
sexy, and I often think that the less you see the more there is."
Beavan and her crew were also responsible for the
voluminous amounts of armor required to outfit Alexander’s army.
"We researched the different wardrobe categories of the Macedonian
army, with excellent input from our military consultant,
Captain Dale Dye," says Beavan. "We constructed our initial
armor in leather and brass, which were then replicated in lighter
and more supple plastic." Beavan paid particularly close attention
to the various suits of armor worn by Alexander and his generals,
some of which weighed as much as 30 pounds. One of the most emblematic
wardrobe pieces is Alexander’s double-plumed lion’s head helmet,
and upwards of 10 duplicates were on hand at all times during filming.
In the Battle of Gaugamela, the white cotton tunics
and armor of the Macedonian and Greek soldiers are quite a contrast
to the more ornate and colorful attire of their Persian enemies.
"The Persians actually constructed clothing rather than just
draping fabric like the Greeks," notes Beavan. "The Persians
shaped cloth, made trousers, used belts and hooks and wore heavily
decorated shoes. They gloried in their clothing, whereas the Greeks
gloried in seeing the lines of their bodies." This kind of
adornment reaches its height in the costumes that Beavan created
for such Persian nobles as King Darius III and Prince Pharnakes,
ablaze with exotic colors and accessories.
Beavan also had her work cut out for her when outfitting
the soldiers in the exotic attire required for the Indian army in
the forest battle. "The costumes for the Indians are made from
very bright colored silks, straight pieces of fabrics tied like
dhotis. They wore highly decorated scarves, a huge amount of jewelry,
and sometimes turbans. There was almost always a topknot of long
hair. We know less about them because most of the sculpture of ancient
India was done in sandstone that has perished over the years, whereas
the Greek vases have remained."
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