Friday, April 16, 2021
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A VERY AFRO-VICTORIAN CHRISTMAS

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CULTURALLY DIVERSE HOLIDAY MAGIC

https://wwd.com/eye/people/costume-designer-michael-wilkinson-shares-afro-victorian-vision-of-jingle-jangle-a-christmas-journey-1234656627/

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey has emerged as an instant holiday classic. It tells the magical tale of a toymaker whose love for invention is revitalized by his visiting granddaughter. This new musical has captured the hearts of viewers with its whimsical aura. One quality that embodies the film’s wonder is its imaginative costume design. 

What is Afro-Victorian?

Costume designer Michael Wilkinson christened his harmonious fusion of 19th-century English fashion with West African patterns “Afro-Victorian.” He sought to imbue the typically drab attire of that era with color and vibrancy. Wilkinson’s creative choice that is analogous to the predominantly Black cast occupying a setting most commonly associated with White Europeans. 

Even the film’s hairstyles adhere to the Afro-Victorian aesthetic. They are inspired by those of Black people photographed during the Victorian era. The real-life voluminous buns that were in fashion at the time were made even more intricate in the movie with the addition of exquisite braids and dreadlocks woven into them.

https://variety.com/2020/artisans/news/jingle-jangle-black-hairstyles-1234830465/

Costuming Characters

https://wwd.com/eye/people/costume-designer-michael-wilkinson-shares-afro-victorian-vision-of-jingle-jangle-a-christmas-journey-1234656627/

https://wwd.com/eye/people/costume-designer-michael-wilkinson-shares-afro-victorian-vision-of-jingle-jangle-a-christmas-journey-1234656627/

While the entire cast is outfitted in Afro-Victorian garments and parades natural hairstyles, the main characters’ wardrobes are embellished with subtle details. The protagonist, Jeronicus, is an aging toymaker who has fallen into despair after suffering great losses. His coarse, graying wig is a visual indication of his overwhelming sorrow that prevents him from maintaining a polished appearance. 

His granddaughter, Journey, is a child prodigy. Her affinity for assembling toys is present in the gear-shaped ribbons that adorn her faux-hawk. 

Meanwhile, the narrator of the story is a grandmother played by Phylicia Rashad. Her natural elegance is enhanced by the elaborately fashioned dreadlock wig that complements her skin tone. Overall, hair and makeup artist Sharon Martin made certain that sophistication radiated from all of the film’s female characters.

Practicality, But Make It Fashionable

Costuming the cast of a musical requires the construction of clothing that is practical for performing choreography and stunts. The restrictiveness of Victorian garb posed a challenge to Wilkinson. He overcame the restrictive nature of Victorian clothing by altering the fluidity of the costumes—especially the skirts and petticoats. 

The film features dance numbers and a few action sequences. Wilkinson’s successful attempt at building a wardrobe that is both flexible and faithful to his Afro-Victorian motif is testament to his skills as a designer.

Historically Accurate Fantasy

People of color’s existence in period films, including fantasy stories, is often derided as being “unrealistic” and “historically inaccurate.” However, not only have historians confirmed the presence of non-White people throughout European history, but films like Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey also prove that racial diversity is possible in environments inspired by European locales.