Interview: Michelle J. Li, Costume Designer for Shiva Baby

Posted on March 28, 2021 at 8:00 am

Copyright Neon Heart 2020
“Shiva Baby” mostly takes place at a reception following a Jewish funeral, which means costume designer Michelle J. Li had to find a way to make a lot of characters dressed in black look distinctive. An except from our interview for the Alliance of Women Film Journalists:

NM: It must be a challenge to do a movie where pretty much everybody is wearing black but you still have to make these characters distinctive and visually interesting.

MJL: Of course, at a shiva, the main color is going to be black. Emma and I spoke about it a lot. We as the consumer, think of black as one color. There are many, many different shades of black. There are warmer blacks, there are cooler blacks, and depending even upon the type of fabric, black absorbs light or reflects light.

When you put black in front of the lens, it becomes such a dark void, and you can lose a lot of definition from the silhouette of the character. I was really conscious about making sure that the texture and the pattern of whatever costume piece I was using really was the defining point that could help bring more interest into making it black, but interesting.

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