‘Dune’ costume artists on how they got the award-nominated design right

Dune costume designers break down how they got to the final form of the Fremen suits in Denis Villeneuve's sci-fi adaptation.

A lot of things make Denis Villeneuve’s Dune stand out from the rest of the speculative fiction genre in cinema, but perhaps chief among them is a world design that’s as suspenseful as it is aesthetically pleasing.

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It goes without saying, then, that the legendary filmmaker – who has a number of acclaimed sci-fi films to his credit – owes a huge amount of that success to some of the most talented creatives in our medium, many of whom rarely get proper acknowledgment in today’s media beyond the occasional nomination or win during the award season.

Regretfully, this very article might prove to be a case in point, but in the matter of Dune‘s costume designers, the achievement is too artistically distinct to simply disregard. For their work on Villeneuve’s flick, artists Robert Morgan and Jacqueline West have been nominated in the Best Costume Design category in seven different award ceremonies; the CFCA, the SDFCS, the Seattle Film Critics Society, the Critics’ Choice Awards, the Satellite Awards, the SLFCA, and the Hollywood Critics Association Awards.

Vanity Fair recently ran a profile on the best costume designers for films in 2021, where Morgan and West got the opportunity to break down the process of getting the design of the House Atreides and the Fremen right.

“He wanted it to seem real and grounded and not like a video game or typical sci-fi movie—no space suits,” West says of Denis Villeneuve.

The designer notes that the solution was to combine Herbert’s futuristic descriptions with medieval designs: “We had to look at the past to see a future because it’s really a world starting over.”

One of the most important elements of their work involved the stillsuit, the cool-looking Fremen uniform that collects urine and sweat and feeds it back to the wearer, so they can survive the harsh climate of Arrakis. As West explains it:

“We melded together different kinds of netting, cotton, microfibers, wicking fabrics, and silk. You could imagine that all of the tubing would go through the different layers and cool the body.”

Morgan further adds that they even added real water chambers so as to make it look realistic.

“There are water catchers on the sleeves and on the thighs,” he says, “and chambers that look as though they could be believably pushing water around.”

It’s insane to think about how much work goes into making sure that everything looks as good as it does in a film like Dune, isn’t it?

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Jonathan Wright
Jonathan is a religious consumer of movies, TV shows, video games, and speculative fiction. And when he isn't doing that, he likes to write about them. He can get particularly worked up when talking about 'The Lord of the Rings' or 'A Song of Ice and Fire' or any work of high fantasy, come to think of it.