The Matrix: iconic latex scenes and costumes
We take a look at Monica Bellucci's latex outfits, the scene at Hel Night Club, and cite an excerpt from an interview with costumes cutter Roger Tait.
The Matrix is a film that needs no introduction to anyone. Its successive parts over the years have made an unforgettable mark in the world of cinematography. Costumes played an important role in the production, helping to set it in the SF world and helping very significantly to create characters. In fact, to this day – despite the passage of years – we can see references or attempts to reconstruct those styles. Iconic costumes are, for example, the main characters Neo and Trinity – simple, black and shiny. It is not latex, of course. Trinity’s costume is a black catsuit most likely made of PVC (also called vinyl). Such a choice was certainly dictated by the practical aspect and the need to use it for very many scenes. Latex, on the other hand, is seen in two other very distinctive scenes. The first takes place in the second film in the series, Matrix Reactivation (2003), where Monica Bellucci wears a latex dress. The second scene takes place in the next Matrix film Revolutions (2003) and is set in a specific Hel Night Club.
These scenes went down in the history of latex movie fashion very strongly. On screen we see Monica Bellucci in the role of Persephone. She meets the main characters Neo, Trinity and Morpheus, who come to her husband Merovingian. She decides to help them against her husband’s wishes. Thus, we see several scenes involving Persephone. Her costume is almost iconic. It consists of a very simple dress with a zipper on the back and an added decorative top, which is an integral part of the whole dress. What is impressive is the choice of material – transparent latex. It should be remembered that the film premiered in 2003, so a latex dress that clings to the body on the big screen was impressive to the viewer. This choice of styling was something new and definitely created its own style in the world of costuming.
Check out some photos and some of the scenes described.
The second major latex scene is also featuring Monica Bellucci, her movie husband and the main characters. In terms of latex, however, it is done with much more flair. This is because it is set in the Hel Night Club. This is a place where a party straight out of the world of fetish parties is just going on. We see people playing on the dance floor are dressed in latex suits, masks, gloves, tops, pants, leggings and more. Most of them are black, but at least red and banner are also visible. Despite the fact that 20 years have already passed since the film was made, this image is still very relevant. Further down in the latex dress we see Persephone again sitting at Merovingian’s side. It’s a gown all the way down to the ground in a deep red color with gold/yellow trim. Unfortunately, we don’t see it in all its glory, as the character is sitting the whole time.
Here are also a handful of photos and the whole scene.
Interview with Roger Tait
Roger Tait was one of the costumes cutters working for costume designer Kym Barrett. He gave an interview posted on the official Matrix website. Regarding Bellucci’s transparent dress, among other things, he made this comment:
„I think the most challenging thing was Monica Belluci’s nude dress, Persephone’s nude dress. Because we didn’t see her until two days before the shoot, we really had to have one ready to go, so we had someone go from London to Paris to measure her up, and send us over the measurements. It was quite an intense experience wondering what she was really like – you’ve got measurements on a flat piece of paper, but what does she really look like, what is her stance like, and how is it all going to work? (…) We made three of those latex dresses just in case we had any blowouts. Monica’s dresses were made with the latex without the net behind them, so they were much more fragile. It is very easy to put a nail through it or, if there is a nick in the latex as you’re putting it on, it’ll just grow, and you’ll end up with a great cut across the dress, and there’s no rhyme or reason either, it can end up anywhere. Fortunately we haven’t had too many problems with it, and there aren’t any dresses in the movie that have been fixed, so we covered our bases there.”
He also talked a lot about preparations for the nightclub scene. It turns out that not only latex was used, and most likely datex as well. He reveals a bit about the techniques used in the work, and how the scene was so realistically set in the world of fetish parties.
I’ve seen some interesting fabrics around the workshop; what kinds of fabrics have you been working with?
There was a bit of a discussion earlier on in the piece about the characters I was working on in the Hel Night Club scene – Kym wanted their costumes to be out of latex. We collaborated with a latex garment maker, Nicole Serjeant, who came in and made some costumes for us that I cut, using gluing techniques. We have also sewn some of the latex, a different type of latex, which actually has a net in the back of it, so you can stitch it and it doesn’t rip. We had that latex made especially for this production.
Who else did you collaborate with?
The Rubber Emporium (Sydney) and Kaysers (now Reactor Rubberwear, Sydney). The buyers worked a lot with them, and bought quite a lot of stock from them for particular scenes. Nicole is now in Melbourne with her latex business, we sort of caught her at the tail end of Sydney, she is an amazing latex maker. She is very accurate, and exactly what we needed for that very clean line you need in the world of The Matrix.
Why did you choose to put the latex costumes together in different ways – gluing and stitching?
Monica Bellucci’s dresses were glued together, this was early on in the piece, when we weren’t aware that stitching latex was available to us. The reason Monica’s dresses are so clean lined is because they’ve been glued together, you don’t see any topstitching, which I think is very important with latex. If you want a clean line with latex it’s much better to glue it together, otherwise you end up with more of a ‘jeanery’ look like on this bodice.
Which character wore this costume?
This is the Coat Girl (Kate Beahan) in the Hel Night Club.
Do you remember the process this costume went through?
We started out with an idea and a thumbnail sketch. We’ve been toiling the latex garments in a particular fabric that has a similar stretch, so I’d sit down and make a pattern, then make a toile, and we’d have a look at it on someone. We’d tweak that, and then I’d make another one, and we’d tweak that – this costume we have probably worked on for about a month now, from its initial conception to the end results.
What is the fabric you’ve been making the latex toiles in?
We do them in a fabric called Powernet, which is a stretchy underwear fabric that has a lot of elasticity, and has a similar sort of give and retention to the latex we’ve been using. So the transferal from medium to medium worked out well.
I see you’ve got tulle in between the layers of ruffles.
We wanted to put that there to give the ruffles a bit more depth. If the tulle wasn’t there, or if it was self-colored tulle, it wouldn’t read so well on camera; we wanted the ruffles to stand out more on film. It was part of the brief that Kym wanted to have a bit of a bustle effect, so we graded the ruffles out to get larger. That meant the costume ended up having a silhouette with a bit of a shelf at the back, and a very, very sexy line into the bottom. This silhouette became a theme throughout the movie.
Did you work on the latex Bubble Girl costume in the Hel Night Club scene?
Yes, I was involved in that one. We wanted to have a restraining type of costume made in white, I see it as being a bit of a fetish bride. We chose a girl (Cassandra Williams) who had a very shapely body because we wanted her to look blown up, like she’d been blown up like with an air pump. I made a white rubber sheath, again with the net behind the latex, so we actually stitched that one together, and we put a hoop around the calves to give it the restraining effect Kym wanted, so the girl wouldn’t be able to get away. I’m imagining this is a fetish idea – that you can’t get away – a lot of the fetish ideas are very internal. We had the bubble head made, and again it’s very confining and very internal, so she was quite restricted.
Could she see out of her “bubble” head?
I had the mask on once and you can see. It’s got little pin holes where the eyes are and where the mouth is, so you can breathe, but you’re looking through long tubes inside. There are two long tubes for the eyes, and one for the mouth, and the ball sits over those, so there’s a long distance to look and breathe through; your vision is reduced drastically. And her hands were totally covered up with latex mittens.
The Hel Night Club scene was fetish and bondage based, did you and/or Kym have contact with people in the fetish scene in Sydney to get ideas?
Yes, we’ve been to most of the fetish shops and looked around, and got lots of fetish magazines and information on the net. We had a fetish casting for all the extras that were involved in that scene, so there were people from that world. A lot of them had their own gear they like to wear, and we supplied them with accessories or whole costumes, depending on what look we wanted each one of them to have.