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Darren Aronofsky’s “Black Swan”

by Ashley on December 21, 2010

Every so often a film comes along that reminds me why film, not fashion, is my first and greatest love.  Even less often comes along a film that beautifully and subtly combines the two. Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan seems to have captured the hearts of young women everywhere.

What is it about dancing films that attract women to them so? From fluff like Center Stage and Dirty Dancing, to darker films like The Red Shoes and now Black Swan, we’re totally drawn to them.

The Costume & Make-Up Designs

Featuring costumes by Rodarte, and make-up by Margie Durand and Judy Chin, Black Swan promises to be too visually compelling to ignore…  from the moment I saw these, Mardi Gras and Halloween costumes have been floating around in my head.

natalie portman, black swan, ballet films, black swan costumes

When this question and answer session from Black Swan Make-up Dept. Head Margie Durand and Make-up Designer Judy Chin crossed my mail box I couldn’t resist… while I typically don’t go for press releases, I found this interview to be too compelling not to share.  The theatrical side to film making holds a special place in my heart and I hope you find this as interesting as I did!

Q: Can you give a step by step explanation as to how the Black Swan look was created as well as the products that were used?
Margie: We applied a pale ivory foundation with a white cream highlight on the forehead and cheekbones. To create the swan eyes, we used M·A·C Chromaline in Black Black.  Using M·A·C Pigment in Silver combined with Mixing Medium, we applied feathery brushstrokes over the Black Swan’s eyes. The lips were lined with M·A·C Lip Pencil in Vino and topped with M·A·C lipstick in Dubonnet. We then lined the under eye with a thin line using M·A·C Chromaline in Red.

Q: Does the makeup have any relation to the makeup in the traditional version of the Swan Lake ballet?
Not really. The ensemble dancers wear what might be considered a traditional theatrical eye makeup, but our rendition is more dramatic.  It’s practically an opera makeup.  Besides that, the only other relation might be that we did portray the Black Swan as a sinister dark foil to the more angelic and innocent Swan Queen.

Q: The ballerinas’ performance makeup in the movie is especially dramatic and visually arresting.  What inspired the dark romantic makeup look?
Judy: The look was inspired by the story, and by the director, Darren Aronofsky I felt that he was looking for something dramatic and visually striking, so all of the intensity was focused in the eyes. Margie Durand realized that there were elements of our beautiful set design that should play a role in our makeup. Thus, the delicate silver branches that played across the swan’s faces came to be.  The ensemble swans and the Swan Queen are delicate and romantic with a soft pink lip color, whereas the Black Swan is dark, sharp, and, angular.

Q: A ballerina has an incredibly active job, and in Black Swan, the characters wear both body and face makeup. What products did you use in the film that you were certain would hold up to the lights, movement and perspiration?
Judy: We used Mehron pancake makeup with a spray sealant to ensure that it wouldn’t rub off on the costumes. We also used M·A·C Paint Pots, M·A·C Powerpoint Eye Pencils, and M·A·C Pigments.  In addition, we applied the Illustrator Palettes by Premier Products, which are alcohol based pigments that are virtually water proof and rub proof.  On the fingertips, we used tattoo inks by Skin Illustrator by Premier Products.

Q: What challenges did you face when designing and applying the makeup?
Margie: It was a challenge to makeup the Black Swan as the White Swan and then switch back to Black Swan during the long filming days.  Both makeups had to be retouched because of the strenuous dancing for the close-up shots.

Judy: It would have been a huge problem if any of the makeup rubbed off onto the costumes, so we had to do many tests before we came up with the right combination of products – especially for the hands. The only other challenge was conveying to our team the application techniques, as it really was an operatic style of makeup. The shaping of the eyes and painting the whole eye in cake makeup is unusual for modern makeup artists. Most people are a bit intimidated by pancake makeup and they dismiss it as “old fashioned,” but it can be really beautiful if done properly. In the end, the whole team worked really hard and did a stunning job.

Q: How can the everyday woman translate the dramatic Black Swan makeup into an evening look?
Judy: There are a lot of aspects to this makeup that are standard elements for a classic beauty makeup. The highlights and contours along the cheekbones, nose, jaw line, and the pout of the mouth can all be adapted to a contemporary makeup. I also think one could incorporate the dramatic eyeliner – the angles and the intensity – into a very seductive, catlike smoky eye.

Margie: Think 1920’s vamp makeup: create the smoky Black Swan eyes with slender, silver eye liner applied under black wingtip liner and add thin wisps of silver liner over the eyelid, too. Rim the waterline with black liner and top it off with full, feathery false eyelashes. Apply a very matte foundation with contoured cheekbones and a hint of shimmery blush on apple of cheeks. Lips can be matte or glossy in dark eggplant, wine and even black colours!

The International Poster Designs

How can you not love a film that treats every aspect of the process as art?  The Black Swan international film posters that came out are really works of art on their own.  With multiple versions, I’m horribly disappointed we won’t be seeing these in our local theatres (not to mention, very disappointed that we don’t live in a culture that supports this kind of artwork being shown at movie theatres!).

black swan, black swan movie poster, black swan international poster, natalie portman black swan

black swan, black swan movie poster, black swan international poster, natalie portman black swan

I’m keeping my eyes open for print releases of these– I’d collect them on and put them on display in my house.  They’re so stunning, each telling a different side of the story.

Edit: The Black Swan international posters are available in 11×17 and 24×40 at— I only had the funds to get 2 of them, so if you guys sell them out, I may cut you.

When a film is so tightly designed as this one has been, it’s really hard to imagine it’ll totally suck… and even if it did, I think it’s created such a strongly defined image for itself that anyone would love it simply for the striking visuals.

Have you seen Black Swan yet?  Did you love it, hate it? Are you anxious to see it?


Trés Awesome December 29, 2010 at 11:14 am

Not being a huge fan of horror movies, I did not LOVE this movie. However there were so many interesting things about it, the makeup and ballet costumes being at the top of my list. I loved seeing Natalie Portman put on her big swan eyes with the white makeup. I think it’s really interesting that this type of makeup is fantasy as opposed to what really Ballerinas would wear. Thanks for the fascinating post!!!!

Freya December 26, 2010 at 4:37 pm

Loved it! I was actually expecting it to be more crazy as per Aronofsky’s style, but I’m so glad it wasn’t. There were a couple of cheap tricks (the talking paintings made me laugh in the theatre) but overall it was so well done and Natalie Portman was so sublime in the lead. Those posters are so gorgeous!

Ashe Mischief December 27, 2010 at 6:59 pm

Oooh, I’m so glad to hear that! Aronofsky has this way of making me never want to watch his films again… this one could really go either way (and that scares & titilates me).

And talking paintings?! WHAT? God. See? THE ANTICIPATION IS KILLING ME.

Fajr | Stylish Thought December 25, 2010 at 9:50 am

I loved, loved loved this film. My mouth was gapping open the entire time because I was stunned at the acting, the dancing and the cinematography.

Ashe Mischief December 27, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Gah! Not what I needed to hear–SO antsy to see it now!

Kristin December 23, 2010 at 9:05 pm

I can’t WAIT to see this flick and your fabulous interview has me even more excited about it! Congrats on links a la mode btw!

Ashe Mischief December 27, 2010 at 6:53 pm

Thanks, bijoux!

Rachel December 23, 2010 at 1:20 pm

Thanks so much for the preview! And what an amazing interview! x

Ashley Lorelle December 22, 2010 at 10:32 am

It’s amazing the power fashion and make up has to lure people into a film. The moment I saw a costume for Black Swan, I wanted to see it–without even learning what it was about. Now I know what it is about and it is one of my must see movies of the season.

Ashe Mischief December 27, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Yes! I thought I’d have a FIT if we didn’t get it here… it’s just so captivating to look at…. and the fashion & film are really a huge part of that in this.

Laura Connell December 22, 2010 at 9:45 am

I love films, too, and although I usually go for foreign fare, Aronofsky’s Requiem for a Dream is one of my all-time favourites. I was excited to hear that Rodarte designed the costumes, but I’m having a moment where I can’t bear to watch one more underweight woman on screen and hearing all the fuss about the actresses losing 20 pounds each in dangerous ways is keeping me away.

Ashe Mischief December 27, 2010 at 6:52 pm

Oh, Laura… I used to watch SO many foreign films before the boy ruined my mind…. we’ll have to chat about them sometime!

Though I can understand your feelings about the weight issue, it’s been really inundating you lately…. which reminds me, I just found out our library has Unbearable Lightness!

fuyume December 21, 2010 at 5:06 pm

I cant wait to see this though with 3 kids to look after i’m not sure when i’ll get time. I would love one of the posters up in my bedroom though as they are soo artistic and remind me of 80s style film posters.

Ashe Mischief December 27, 2010 at 6:51 pm

Time for a babysitter?!

Grit and Glamour December 21, 2010 at 4:36 pm

Ashe, thank you for sharing this…I loved reading more about the makeup and costumes.

I saw the film last weekend and I loved it. Mind you, it was not what I expected, but it was so very compelling on every level. I only wish the final Black Swan scene were a little longer, because it was absolutely breathtaking. Profound, even. Natalie Portman was incredible.

♥ V
twitter: @gritandglamour

Ashe Mischief December 27, 2010 at 6:50 pm

Admittedly, there was more to the interview, about their backgrounds, other films worked on, etc, but for brevity and topic I kind of cut it down….

Ahh! I want to see it so bad… I have a feeling it’s not going to be what I expect, so I’m not sure WHAT to expect…

Sheena December 21, 2010 at 3:55 pm

The posters are just gorgeous and I’d love to have one of them, especially the first one on the bottom.

I just saw Black Swan yesterday and I thought it was pretty good overall. Most of all, I thought the entire story was just so tragic and Natalie Portman really did her character justice in her portrayal of a gifted, but troubled dancer.

Ashe Mischief December 27, 2010 at 6:49 pm

I’ve been scouring the internet in hopes of buying one, or at least finding a high enough resolution image that I can enlarge it myself! It’ll make me mad if I can’t get them…

Ahh! I can’t wait to see it D:

jessica December 21, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Um, wow and holy crap. That movie trailer made my arm hairs stand up! I haven’t seen it and its not going to be out here for awhile I’m sure (sadly Ireland is always behind) But I cant wait it looks amazing!

Ashe Mischief December 27, 2010 at 6:48 pm

It’s so weird how some films come out earlier in the UK and some so late… I’ve never understood that!

Beth M December 21, 2010 at 11:42 am

I can’t WAIT to see this. I’ve always been fascinated by the ballet world (Center Stage is a guilty pleasure of mine, shhhhhh!) and I love any film that is visually pleasing. I love those deco posters!! I hadn’t seen them… they just make me love the whole concept of this movie even more!

Hopefully the movie doesn’t disappoint!

Ashe Mischief December 27, 2010 at 6:48 pm

I ‘m hoping so too! G and I are going to see it this week… I hope it’s a really good one!

The artwork just really makes it feel like they put so much thought in to the overall feel of the film… they tell their own story in this way the trailer can’t….

Katie December 21, 2010 at 11:40 am

When I first saw the preview for the film, apparently I went (rather loudly), “Oohh! Those look like Rodarte pieces!” At which point everyone with me went, “Huh?” Oh well…

We’re going to see it on Friday, and le boyfriend and I are quite looking forward to it. Now I’ll be able to give him the lowdown on the makeup, too (which he won’t necessarily want to hear, but I’ll tell him anyway).

Ashe Mischief December 27, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Hahaha, I know what that’s like! though admittedly, didn’t know the costumes were Rodarte until I read it :/

DWJ December 21, 2010 at 11:08 am

I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. It did creep me out to an entirely new level though. I do think the costumes and the makeup were fantastic. I was amazed at how beautifully Natalie Portman danced but she practiced long enough to make it believable. I’m still a bit spooked by it, my girl says she keeps dreaming about leaving feathers behind everywhere!

Ashe Mischief December 27, 2010 at 6:47 pm

I’m SO expecting to be creeped out, but I’m not sure how it’ll happen yet?!

Aww, that’s so cute and sad and sweet about the dreams!

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