Costume design for the character of Brunnhilde, leader of the Valkyries
I set this project brief to design a costume for film as I like to tell stories through my concepts. I am heavily inspired by fantasy, sci-fi, and Renaissance periods which have been recurring themes throughout my study. The fusion of juxtaposing these dominant themes has become an integral part of my research and design process.
This project, a costume design brief, convincingly portrays the character of Brunnhilde in the final act of a hypothetical high-budget superhero film titled, “Rise to Valkyrie”.
The character’s story is based on the Valkyries of Norse mythology, therefore the costume is historically and culturally informed and visually represents cultural and historic origins. The garment design has been rendered to fit an artistic vision, visually merging the ideas of Rococo architecture and art, and robot (or “mecha”) anime.
Storytelling has always been prominent throughout my work, therefore costume design was a natural path to place the skills I have learned throughout my degree.
The concept for costume design reflects the epic environment of a final act, set amongst the mountains of Norway, when centuries have passed in the narrative and civilisation has become technologically advanced. The design was intended to allow an actress to better envision the role she is stepping into. I endeavoured to design Brunnhilde’s costume to show her character development as she has progressed to leader of the Valkyries, revealed by her visually striking sculptural armour.
Despite the fantasy themes I am motivated to create costume designs that are historically informed and represent their cultural sources, in this case, the Valkyries of Norse mythology. Valkyries have been traditionally depicted surrounded by crows, adorning swan skins and winged helmets. I visually represented the origins of Brunnhilde’s character by incorporating recognisable avian aspects.
Her armour’s bird-like spinal cord is a visual metaphor. Backbones have long been a symbolic representation of steadfastness and determination, lending to the Valkyries incorruptible, everlasting nature. The spine is often the most recognizable feature of a skeleton, it’s structure remaining years after death, linking to the Valkyrie’s long lifespans and connection to the afterlife, as they carry deceased warriors to Valhalla.
The way I portray my visual research quite literally is a part of my unique design handwriting, as I like to work with visual metaphors, notably through the design elements of colour and silhouette. My colour decisions were inspired by Rococo paintings and architecture, marble, and intricate porcelain ceramics; to represent the Valkyrie’s hearken to tradition. I intended to preserve organic elements of Brunnhilde’s character in juxtaposition with the futuristic environment, by giving the design a feminine form-fitting bodysuit beneath her armour.
As a child, I had a distinct obsession with a sci-fi franchise called “Zoids”, which featured mechanical animals. I was particularly taken by the process in which the mecha characters evolved into different armour designs. The fluid movement of the mecha animals made them appear almost biological. With Zoids as an inspiration, I attempted to give the impression of fluid movability by designing plated armour.
My process involved constructing the armour with EVA foam, hydro dipping it with spray paint before sanding and finishing with varnish to simulate the sheen of metal with the colouration of marble. Some of the sculptural elements, the breast cups and the shoulder protrusions, were laminated in carbon fibre, which achieved a metal-like finish. For future projects, incorporating hinges and joints would enhance the flexibility of finished costumes, particularly for rigid elements. In high budget film production, visual effects such as performance capture technology would be involved to capture human motion and translate it to a digital medium where the costume would be rendered.