Costume Design of Captain America: Civil War

By Joe Kucharski - May 12, 2016

Captain America: Civil War is the largest film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe to date, bringing together two epic teams of heroes to battle an intense physical and ideological war. And to costume two powerful and iconic legions, the Russos turned to acclaimed costume designer Judiaanna Makovsky. Makovsky has multiple Oscar nominations and Costume Designers Guild Award wins for such films as Pleasantville, Seabiscuit, and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. She is no stranger to the comic book genre and MCU, having designed the costumes for X-Men: The Last Stand, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and currently in production on Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2. We recently had a chance to ask her about just a few of the incredible costumes from this phenomenal film!

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky - Iron Man concept art

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky

Tyranny of Style: Can you start off by talking to us about how you played up both the friendship and the fight between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark through the subtle language of menswear in their street clothes?

Judianna Makovsky: “The Russo brothers and I had various discussions about taking a subtle step to define both Steve and Tony within the more serious tones of Civil War. Steve Rogers is more comfortable in the modern world than he was in Winter Soldier. In that film we chose not to have any garments that reflected the 1940s, particularly any brown leather jackets or khakis until the end of the film. He would look a bit uncomfortable in his new clothing, but update him with an American Classic look.

 Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky

In Civil War, Steve is now adjusted to this world so we felt we could reintroduce the brown leather, so I designed a leather jacket for him that would be modern, but classic at the same time. By using a washed leather, it immediately became more modern. I always kept in mind that he should exhibit a classic all-American look with slim cut jeans and trousers and simple t-shirts.

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky

When I had my first meeting with the Russos and Robert Downey Jr., we decided that Tony would have a much more understated style. He no longer needed to have over the top clothing, but any suit or jacket he wore would have to be just so elegant and well-tailored that you would immediately know it was extremely expensive and bespoke with out screaming a fashion label. I designed all his suits and shirts with that in mind and had them made in LA. His casual clothing was a combination of different fashion pieces. RDJ has an incredible sense of style and he knows Tony Stark's progression from film to film, so he was wonderful to collaborate with.”

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky

T/S: Every time we see these characters on the big screen, we see subtle changes to their iconic look from the comics and previous films. Can you talk to us about some of the changes you made to Captain America’s uniform as part of his evolution from Winter Soldier and Age of Ultron?

JM: “Captain America's new uniform has become a subtle progression from his Winter Soldier stealth suit. His iconic look in Age of Ultron was based on a combination of both his WWII suit and his stealth suit from Winter Soldier, but the tone of Avengers films are more colorful than the Captain America films. So when it came time to make a suit for Civil War, we changed some of the details and colors.

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky

Surprisingly, the blue is the same color and texture as the stealth suit and the Age of Ultron suit. It just looks different with different details. The red is darker. The Russo brothers and Marvel loved the stealth suit so much that I tried to make a stealth like suit with the iconic Captain America suit details. Other subtle changes are in the gloves, leg pockets, and boots, and it's a little more sleek than Ultron.”

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky - Black Panther concept art

T/S: One of the characters receiving the most buzz is Black Panther, as he makes his first appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. His costume is full of wonderfully intricate details and every angle reveals more unexpected patterns and form. Can you talk to us about some of your inspiration and process for designing this costume?

JM: “The concept for the Black Panther costume came from Marvel's visual development. Ryan Mynerding, their head of visual development, and I worked very closely to try to get this costume realized. It has many patterns intertwined, particularly etched into the helmet, hands and feet.

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky - Black Panther concept art

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky - Black Panther concept art

The suit itself had to be very malleable and flexible, but still look like it has vibranium woven into it. The actor needed to have very feline movement so to find a fabric that would convey that was a challenge. It is made up of a stretch with three different interwoven textures as well as molded pieces. The hardest part was getting the suit to not be bulky and reflect the body of a gymnast instead of a big muscular superhero.”

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky 

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky 

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky 

T/S: Of course, equally buzzed about is the appearance of Spider-Man in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. He has undergone one of the biggest changes we have seen of his many screen iterations. Can you talk to us about the overall inspiration for the character’s more streamlined look, and retro detailing?

JM: “The Spider-Man concept was also Marvel generated. I knew before we started prepping Civil War that there was a chance that we would get Spider-Man in the film, but the deal with Sony was not finalized until prep was almost finished so there was not a lot of time to make the suit, and we did not have an actor cast so we had to make the suit without his measurements. I've never had a bigger challenge. It had been talked about that we wanted to go back to a less fussy costume and bring back the essence of the original Spider-Man from the comics.

 Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky 

I think a lot of printed textures are getting over-done on some superhero costumes, so we wanted a simpler texture, more like a high tech cordura- something Tony Stark would have created that would be very sleek. I also wanted a fabric that was a little thicker for battle, less leotard-like as used on past suits, and that presented its own problems such as more wrinkles. With a short research and development period, that was our biggest challenge. There is a bit of CG help there, but there is definitely a physical suit and not a total CG character on the screen. As far as the details, we wanted the suit to have a retro feel, but it is still a Tony Stark generated suit, so the banding, boots and arms brought him a more modern, sleek hi-tech feeling. As for the color, we wanted Classic Spidey, but slightly more muted, but not dark. He is young and vibrant and new in the story, so we echoed that in the color.”

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky 

T/S: Falcon and Ant-Man are two characters with fantastic exposed, practical technical details to their costumes. Can you talk to us a little bit about the process and challenges of design for these characters?

JM: “Both Ant-Man and Falcon received high-tech upgrades in Civil War, although the prototype we made for Falcon was actually used in Ant-Man. In the Ant-Man film, the suit is a retro suit. The new suit is supposed to reflect a more modern Stark technology, so I investigated new techniques in the manufacture. This suit was not all stretch. Some of it is made of laser cut and laser etched vinyl and leather to give it a harder and a shinier feel.

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky - Ant-Man concept art

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky - Ant-Man concept art

 Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky 

I have to point out that once the sketches get into the hands of the makers and craftsmen, the magic really begins. They are geniuses and transform all the ideas. No matter how interesting a concept is, it is really just that- a drawing, and if it is not made in an intelligent way it will not be successful. The makers and craftsmen on my team bring so much to the table. They are amazing and I cannot praise them enough. I have a full shop of cutters and craftsmen and most of the clothes that are in the film are made in house. My cutters on Civil War were Dale Wibben, Marilyn Madsen, Ruth Hossie, Robyn Gebhart plus scores of brilliant craftspeople. I really the love the new Falcon costume. It is one of my favorites. I think it is successful in keeping what the Russo’s love: a superhero costume, but based in reality and tactical clothing. The jetpack was made in collaboration with Legacy Effects and I think it is really elegant.”

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky - Falcon concept art

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky - Falcon concept art

Captain America: Civil War - Costume Designer Judianna Makovsky - Falcon concept art

A huge thanks to Judianna for her generosity in sharing her wonderful process with us. And thanks as always to Marvel Studios for continually raising the bar on comic book films, and to all the costume makers in-house at Marvel, as well as Ironhead Studio and Legacy Effects for helping to bring these designs to life!