The ‘Mamma Mia!’ Costume Designer Explains How to Dress Like Young Donna
August 1, 2018
I’m not a film critic, but I’m here to tell you without a speck of irony that Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is a perfect movie. Both a sequel and a prequel to Mamma Mia!, the 2008 film adaptation of the hit Broadway show, it’s a romp through beautiful, sparklingly sunny Greece filled with singing, dancing, and as many Abba songs as can be shoehorned into the plot, which has a lot of holes if you look closely. You shouldn’t.
In the original, Sophie (Amanda Seyfried) invites three of her mother’s former boyfriends to her wedding in an effort to figure out which one of them is her father, all without telling her mom, Donna (Meryl Streep). Comedy and dance numbers ensue. This time around, as Sophie is following her mother’s dream of opening a hotel, we cut back to 1979, when an adventurous young Donna (Lily James) graduates from Oxford and meets those three guys on her way to the Greek island where she eventually raises Sophie. It’s frothy and fun and generally out of control, but also a powerful narrative about friendship and self-reliance.
One side effect of seeing Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again is becoming obsessed with capturing young Donna’s joie de vivre by replicating her beachy curls and ’70s wardrobe. Young Donna wears a rotating combination of denim overalls, floppy hats, diaphanous tunics, high-waisted jorts, killer bell-bottoms, and colorful, flowing maxi skirts.
I called up Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again costume designer Michele Clapton — also known for her work on Game of Thrones — to discuss dressing young Donna and how someone could, if they wanted to, get the look.
To get started, how did you approach costuming young Donna in the ’70s portion of the movie?
The ’70s is the reason I did the movie. I love the ’70s so much. For Lily, I was thinking of Stevie Nicks. I loved Jane Birkin. Nigella Lawson in the ’70s was so cool when she was at Oxford. I found these old pictures of her — she was a real inspiration for the Oxbridge scenes. And I looked at lots of photos of people on holiday in Greece to see how they dressed. Because it’s a musical, I tried to zap up the color and make it wearable.
For [Donna and her friends’] performance outfits, I wanted it to look really homemade, like they made them themselves. They put the frills on their jeans; it was a homemade attempt at being Abba.
Where did you source young Donna’s outfits?
Her “Waterloo” dress I found in LA. I can’t remember what shop it was, but the moment I saw it, I loved it so much. That was a vintage piece. Then we had to replicate it, which drove us insane. We had to digitally print it. That was incredibly difficult because it was so tonal and ’70s colors have so many colors within them. The print was never quite as good.