‘Hocus Pocus 2’ Costume Designer on Dressing the Sanderson Sisters for a New Era [FINAL GIRL FASHION]

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By now most of you reading this have probably already watched Hocus Pocus 2, the long-awaited sequel to the beloved Disney movie, which saw Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Sarah Jessica Parker make Halloween history as the children-eating and cape-loving Sanderson sisters. But did you notice that Winifred, Sarah, and Mary Sanderson are dressed a little differently than they were when Max and Dani Dennison first brought them back in 1993?

In Hocus Pocus 2, the Sandersons aren’t wearing the same old dresses and cloaks that have been recreated by countless costume companies over the past three decades. This time around, they are dressed in fresh, but familiar iterations of their signature looks, with former costume designer Mary E. Vogt (who has worked on everything from Batman Returns to Crazy Rich Asians) succeeded by Salvador Pérez Jr. (The Mindy Project, Pitch Perfect, and Goosebumps 2: Slappy’s Revenge).

Dread Central got a chance to chat with Pérez Jr. about his work on Hocus Pocus 2, including the challenges of redesigning some of the most iconic costumes of all time, his accidental homage to the one and only Thora Birch, and the essential elements to dressing like a Sanderson sister. Read the full interview below and stream Hocus Pocus 2 now on Disney+.

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Dread Central: The original film holds a pretty big place in many people’s hearts. What’s your relationship to Hocus Pocus outside of working on this new film?

Salvador Pérez Jr.: I’m a huge fan of the original film. I’ve probably seen it 40 times over the years, and Mary Vogt the original costume designer is a friend of mine. So I know the film very well, and was able to ask Mary for insight into her design process.

DC: The Sanderson sisters’ costumes are truly iconic, having inspired many Halloween costumes and assorted homages for the past few decades. What was it like trying to recreate the magic of these looks almost 30 years later?

SPJ: The costumes are so iconic, and the fans know the details so well, as they have been recreating them for years. So it was a daunting task to reimagine them for the sequel. We kept the original silhouettes and colors, but we wanted to update the details and give the costumes a backstory.

The symbols on Winifred’s coat have a Wiccan meaning. We researched Wiccan languages and symbolism, and came up with new symbols that were inspired by the three moons, the three powerful goddesses, and a coven, as if these symbols have been around for centuries. They were first seen on the Mother Witch, and Winnie took them from her.

Mary’s original costume had filigree rings on the bodice. I had a jeweler create new rings in hammered brass with the words, Water, Fire, Air, and Earth in the alphabet of the Magi, a Wiccan language. I updated her skirt fabric with traditional tartan, as tartans have been around forever.

Sarah’s costume was hand embroidered with thorny branches and spiders, her sleeves were crocheted with cashmere yarn to look like spider webs. For flying Sarah, got a modern update with a Swiffer Wet Jet, which complemented her outfit perfectly.

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DC: In addition to dressing Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy, you had to come up with new looks for the Sanderson sisters’ younger counterparts as well. What elements do you think are essential to each of these characters, no matter where they are in time and history?

SPJ: The note from director Anne Fletcher was that the most identifiable thing of each character was their hair. So she wanted them to have bonnets that matched the silhouette of their hair. Winnie got the double buns and Mary got a swirl. I used their signature colors: Winnie in green, Mary in burgundy, and Sarah in purple.

DC: What are the unique challenges of creating garments that have to look as good on the ground as they do floating through the air?

SPJ: I knew there was going to be a lot of flying and dancing, so movement was first on my mind. I chose fabrics that moved beautifully and I tried to match the fabric of the original capes that billowed so beautifully in the wind. The first time I saw them flying, it was magical.

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DC: There is a scene with assorted Salem residents dressing up as the Sandersons, including drag icons Kornbread Jeté, Ginger Minj, and Kahmora Hall. How did you collaborate with those three on their looks to ensure that they were identifiable both as themselves and as the Sandersons?

SPJ: We designed many versions of the Sanderson Sisters’ costumes that we never used. So when I was designing the drag version of the costumes, I used all the elements that I was told were too over-the-top, which was perfect for these costumes. We only had a few days to custom-make [them].

When the divas came to their first fitting, they all loved their versions of the costumes. Each of them had specific body padding they like to use, so we used them so their shapes were recognizable. 

DC: We meet a few new magical figures in the sequel, including Hannah Waddington’s Mother Witch. How did you want to distinguish her from the other witches visually?

SPJ: I loved being able to design an iconic Disney villain. We wanted the Mother Witch to stand out from our trio, so we went with a bold red dress. She is first seen as a bird, the red-winged raven, which is indigenous to Salem. The bird has red and orange feathers on its wings, so we incorporated that into the design of her cape.

Ironically, the colors mimic Dani’s costume from the original film, so we just played with that knowing that the fans would pick up on that detail. The symbols on her dress are also on Winifred’s costume.

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DC: What was the inspiration behind Gilbert’s warlock look, especially given his backstory of being obsessed with the Sandersons specifically?

SPJ: In the flashback, we see Gilbert as a child dressed as a warlock. We aged the costume to look as if it was his favorite costume and had outgrown it because he had been wearing it for years. So now that he was a successful business owner, obsessed with the Sanderson Sisters, and fancied himself as a magical being, he would have had a deluxe version of his favorite childhood costume remade. We specialty-dyed the fabric in-house and covered the costume in sparkly stars and eyeballs.

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DC: In terms of the younger actors in the film, I noticed that you pulled from the Sanderson sisters’ color palettes in dressing estranged friends Cassie, Izzy, and Becca. What was the intention behind this—was it to link them to the Sanderson sisters in roles/personalities, or more as a clever nod to the original trio’s signature style?

SPJ: This was a note from Anne Fletcher. She asked me to subtly use the witches’ colors on them without making it too obvious. We wanted the audience to not see it instantly, but realize it as they watched the film.

I also designed a pendant that the girls all wear that has Wiccan symbolism and had stones related to the witches (peridot, amethyst, and garnet), symbolizing the influence of the witches in their psyche. I also used the eye symbol wherever I could, from Izzy’s blouse to Becca’s necklace. Even Cassie’s shoes had an eye motif.

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DC: I noticed a lot of other homages to the first film, including a tie-dye shirt that, I assume, harkens back to the one Omri Katz wore as Max. Were there any homages you couldn’t work in but wanted to?

SPJ: I wanted to plant a lot of “Easter eggs” in the film, because we know how detail-oriented the fans are and they would see them. When I found the tie-dye shirt for Cassie, I decided to pair it with a beige cardigan to be a combo of Max and Allison.

Some [homages] were obvious—like the devil and his wife, an homage to Garry and Penny Marshall—and some were in the background. The original movie had specific costumes, like the Mom as Madonna and the trio of the Supremes. So I made new versions of them. I designed the costume for Lucas the announcer at the Sanderson Sisters’ costume contest, inspired by the skeleton costume announcer from the first movie.

I wanted to dress two kids as the bullies, but there wasn’t a scene where it worked. However, I did put Mike in some cool Jordans, in case a bully wanted to take his shoes

DC: Finally, which Hocus Pocus 2 look are you most excited to see people recreate this Halloween?

SPJ: This movie was made for the fans because they have loved and supported it for 29 years. In doing my research, there are so many images of cosplayers in these costumes and I loved how people put their own style into the costumes. So I’m looking forward to seeing the fans’ interpretations of these new costumes and their details.

For the fans dressing as Sarah Sanderson, the easiest accessory will be her flying the Swiffer WetJet because they probably already have one at home or find it in stores easily. Plus it can be used all year long.

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