In Conversation With Stacey Battat

Sofia Coppola’s films are evocative and feminine. Known for powerful cinematography rather than dialogue, clothing plays a critical role. When it comes to bringing her distinctive narratives to life, Coppola works with a trusted group of creatives. Among them is Stacey Battat who designed the costumes for Somewhere,The Bling Ring,A Very Murray Christmas,The Beguiled,On the Rocks, and now,Priscilla. Ahead of Priscilla’s release date, Remix spoke to Battat about her career, working with Bill Murray and why relegating Elvis to the background was important for Priscilla.

Image by A24

You have worked on six of Sofia Coppola’s films and I read that you have been friends for two decades after meeting in New York?
Yes, that’s right. We met when we were both in our 20s and we’re not in our20s any more...we’re in our 30s, noI’m kidding. The first movie I did with her was in 2009 so we’ve been working together a long time and I do think it really helps. A lot of people have asked me about, you know, if anything has changed during our time together and I don’t know that anything’s changed butI do think that there is a lot of trust. We know each other well, I know what she likes. We had such a condensed shoot schedule [for Priscilla] and such a short one, it made that possible. She trusts me and I know that what I’m going to choose is going to be something that feels right to her

I get it! I’d love to hear more about your career, you worked atMarc Jacobs before becoming a stylist and eventually moving into costume design. Is that correct?
Something along those lines. So I worked for Marc Jacobs when I was in college, and I just worked in the shop, I didn't work in a department or anything.I was studying fashion design and whenI was working at Marc Jacobs, I met Alex White, she was the editor for W Magazine, the Fashion Editor or FashionDirector I can’t remember but she was at W Magazine. I was young, I didn’t understand that there were all these other careers one could have in a fashion capacity. I didn’t know you could be a stylist, I was so intrigued by that. I assisted Alex White for a little bit and then from there, I did my first movie andI loved that. It just felt like there was something about costume design that was cerebral, it wasn’t frivolous. You’re developing a character you're learning about history each time, it doesn't matter what the movie is you’re learning about something. There are all sorts of different things and I love that about it. 

Via. @SofiaCoppola

Working with the likes of Bill Murray and Kirsten Dunst must be pretty special, do you have a favourite or a particularly fond memory?
I have a really good one to tell you! I don’t think I've ever told any other journalist this story but when we were shooting On The Rocks, Bill is a little bit cagey, he’s not like “Oh I’m coming to my fitting on Monday, I’ll be there” He didn’t want to fly to New York before he had to be there to shoot but he needed to have a fitting and he also needed a tuxedo for Cannes or somewhere he was going in Venice. I was like, “I’ll go to him, I’ll also bring him a tuxedo and that’s how we’ll do the fitting. I go to him with two suitcases and a tailor, we get to his house and we do the fitting. I can’t remember the exact times but let’s say our flight was that same day at 8 pm. The tuxedo needed a little bit of alteration and then it was like really time to go to the airport. She finished the tuxedo, let’s say at 7 pm, we got in the car and he [Bill Murray] drives us to the airport in this little tiny MG convertible. We’re in the car, the luggage is stacked everywhere, the airport is still20 minutes away and I’m pre-checking myself in. As we are on our way to the airport Bill starts being like “Oh! Andover here is the firehouse” or something,I don’t even remember because I was so nervous about missing this flight but he started just giving us a tour of Charleston, literally a tour and he’s like“This is where this is, this is where that is” time is ticking and the entire timeI’m just like “oh my god, we’re never going to make our flight and we don’t have a hotel, this is the last flight out ”I’m writing to production being like“I don't think we’re gonna make this,I don’t know what to do”. We arrive at the airport 15 minutes before the flight departs and I’m like “There’s no way we are getting on this”. He pulls the MG up to the curb and goes “You girls go ahead, I’ll follow with the luggage”. We go inside and we’re still thinking there’s no way but he comes inside, he charms the woman at the counter, they hold the plane and let us get on with all our luggage and everything!

“He’s so larger than life if he’s in the story and there is no Priscilla without Elvis, but then at the same time this is HER story.”

Via. @SofiaCoppola

Oh, I love him! That’s amazing. I know that for The Beguiled and Priscilla, most of the looks were handmade, is this often the case or not so relevant for films set in the present day?
I love him too. I think he’s such a great guy. He’s actually in the movie I am working on now. Less so when it’s a more modern film, more so if it’s a period film because I think, the thing is period clothes are not in good condition, you know, they’re old. Even in the ’70s that’s 50 years old, the fabrics don’t hold up and they don’t look fresh or new. A big thing with Priscilla is she was getting new clothes all the time, she wasn’t wearing tatty hand-me-downs and I think it adds to the authenticity of it. In 1820 the dress was not 100 years old, you know what I mean? In 1960 the dress wasn’t 50 years old and clothes do lose their shape.

And how about footwear? There are some beautiful film photos in Sofia’s book ARCHIVE as well as many photos from your fittings, were these all vintage and sourced for the film?
We sourced a lot of the shoes. A mutual friend of mine and Sofia’s, Fabrizio Viti made some for us, he makes these daisy chain shoes and he made us some of those. Cailee [Spaeny] has a petite stature and Jacob [Elordi] is very tall so I wanted to take a little bit of liberty with the heel height.

Image by A24

To her, Elvis was Priscilla’s ‘boyfriend’. You showed his clothing and fashion habits through her eyes offering a softer version of Elvis, Humanising The King. I know his reading glasses were an important aspect of this.Can you give me an example of another?
In real life he wore bright colours; he wore red and purple and blue. I didn’t put him in those colours in that part of our story, I just thought it was really important to have her be the visual focal point. He’s so larger than life if he’s in the story and there is no Priscilla without Elvis but then at the same time this is her story so to relegate him to the background was difficult but I think important.