How the creators of ‘M3gan’ designed the costumes for the dolls

A doll’s clothes can be just as memorable as those worn by a human, especially if that doll has a taste for blood.

Talky Tina, the demon toy made famous by “The Twilight Zone,” had her plaid dress with a dainty lace-trimmed neckline. Annabelle, the sinister doll that first appeared in “The Conjuring,” is wearing her white dress with leg-of-mutton sleeves. And even those who haven’t seen “Child’s Play” (or its sequels) probably know Chucky and her blue jumpsuit.

The titular star of the horror movie “M3gan” is another killer doll recognized for a killer outfit. Especially since M3gan, whose name is pronounced Megan, for most of the film wears a striped silk twill scarf tied in a bow, a clothing choice that tends to elicit strong reactions.

M3gan, which stands for Model 3 Generative Android, is a life-size, artificially intelligent doll designed to provide companionship and emotional support, until a programming error turns her into a Terminator-style killing machine. There are parts of the film where the doll is played by a high-tech puppet, but in most scenes, 12-year-old actress Amie Donald plays M3gan wearing a mask.

M3gan, who has wide eyes with long dark lashes and dirty blonde hair that falls below her shoulders, wears the bow scarf in a shift dress with inverted pleats over a striped long-sleeved shirt, white tights and Mary shoes. Brilliant Black Janes. Gerard Johnstone, the director of “M3gan,” described the doll as wearing clothing reminiscent of 1960s mod fashion and “long, flowing hair” like “Mod Squad” actress Peggy Lipton.

“I wanted it to be elegant, classy and unexpected, almost like the toy equivalent of those car shows from the 1960s, where the car would appear on the turntable and everyone would gawk,” Johnstone said.

The film’s wardrobe and wardrobe department produced around 25 versions of the dress. “They put up with all the dancing, all the killing,” said Daniel Cruden, the film’s costume designer. Lizzy Gardiner, an Oscar-winning costume designer who created M3gan’s main outfit with Mr. Johnstone, said the bow scarf was also painstakingly reproduced.

“We needed so many perfect replicas that each one had to be cut and hand-stitched with the stripe on the silk in exactly the same place,” he wrote in an email. “It had to be fluid without being bouncy. Big but consistent with a small and young girl. Like a doll, but fashionable.”

While developing M3gan’s wardrobe, many other possible outfits ended up on the dressing room floor. “At first I wanted her to have a lot,” Johnstone said. But by giving it a signature look, “that costume can really be the center of attention,” she added. “People could dress up as her for Halloween.”

Where did you look for inspiration for M3gan’s clothing?

GERARD JOHNSTON I was on Pinterest every night looking at fashion, trying to figure it out. Originally it was just my wife and I, from a female perspective. I kept going back to the 60’s for the details and the fabrics. Everything was so good. And the Gucci kids’ dresses ended up being a great inspiration. I loved a yellow one with red ribbons that I saw online, but we couldn’t physically get it.

If Gucci was such a big inspiration, why doesn’t M3gan carry the label?

John Stone I was wondering if we could get them on board. But you have to get approval and it takes a long time, especially when you’re doing a horror movie, so we go our own way. We had not tested ourselves. The hope now is that it won’t be too hard to get some designers if we do another movie.

DANIEL CRUDEN If a movie toy is licensed and there is no clothing approval, it could be seen as a for-profit replica. Even if I had found a pair of vintage Gucci sunglasses, we would have put them on sale to make sure they were okay to wear.

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When viewers see M3gan commit his first murder, he wears a different outfit: a black cape with gold buttons and a fur collar, black stockings, and leather gloves. What inspired that look?

John Stone It was a kind of subversion of Little Red Hood. I also thought of her a bit like Damien from “The Omen.” The black gloves were a practical consideration because they made the hands feel more robotic. And she’s a doll, she has to have some accessories.

Speaking of accessories, in another scene, M3gan wears a pair of purple sunglasses. Why?

John Stone I really fought for her to have that moment. It seemed like it could be cool or ridiculous. I was worried that some people might think, “Is this going to lessen the scares?” But once everyone saw her truly stunning, they started to climb on board.

CRUDE We had a real search for the sunglasses because we knew they were going to be a statement.

John Stone I wanted Prada.

CRUDE We ended up with a brand called Minista, they came from a children’s boutique in Auckland, New Zealand.

What are some of the outfits that didn’t make it into the movie?

CRUDE There was a scene showing different M3gans on a turntable with looks I created for her. One was French-inspired, wearing a black beret, black turtleneck, and high-waisted silk flared trousers. We had a beach M3gan with a peasant blouse, beach hat and espadrilles. Equestrian M3gan had riding breeches and riding boots. Sporty M3gan looked like she was ready for tennis.

John Stone Daniel did a very Audrey Hepburn look with a scarf and sunglasses. But her gazes were on a fictional M3gan and she didn’t seem alive. If we could have done it with our main M3gan it would have worked. That was a shame.

Interviews with Mr. Johnstone and Mr. Cruden have been edited and abridged.

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