How Costume Designer Stacey Battat Helps Bring Sofia Coppola’s Girl World to Life

A match made in Hollywood.

A bride and groom in formal wedding attire stand beside a tiered wedding cake, surrounded by white f...

Ever since she made her directorial debut with 1999’s The Virgin Suicides, Sofia Coppola has become known for her unrivaled and unabashed hyper-feminine aesthetic. The filmmaker never hesitates to indulge in the female fantasy, even when her characters are destined for doom. Coppola’s films are rife with fashion inspiration almost every time, and her influence can be seen in everything from music videos to fashion designer’s runway collections and creative projects (Sandy Liang, Rodarte), but cultivating such a lasting signature style must be no easy feat. Coppola entrusts talented creative collaborators to help bring her visions to life. One of them is costume designer Stacey Battat, with whom she has worked with for the past 14 years.

Battat met Coppola more than 20 years ago when the former was working at Marc Jacobs’ original flagship store on Mercer Street in New York. Battat eventually left her post to become a fashion stylist and reconnected with Coppola, collaborating on editorials and red-carpet events. Her transition to costume design came when the director asked her to work on 2010’s Somewhere, which starred Elle Fanning as the daughter of a bad-boy Hollywood actor, played by Stephen Dorff. “Sofia had just done Marie Antoinette, and it was such an ordeal, so she just wanted to do a small thing,” Battat tells TZR. “She asked if I wanted to do the costumes for Somewhere, and I was like, sign me up.”

After Somewhere, Battat went on to design the costumes for more Coppola films including The Bling Ring, The Beguiled, A Very Murray Christmas, On the Rocks, and, most recently, Priscilla. While she’s worked with other directors, Battat has covered the most creative ground with her longtime friend. From curating the Juicy Couture tracksuits and UGG boots moment for Emma Watson’s celebrity-obsessed Bling Ring character to the Southern gothic gowns that Kirsten Dunst and Nicole Kidman wore in The Beguiled, she’s been able to design for a variety of interesting settings and time periods.

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It also helps when you’re working with a director who has a personal interest in clothes — to say the least. Coppola interned at Chanel as a teen and is a brand ambassador for the French fashion house to this day. In 1994, she launched a clothing line, Milk Fed, which featured baby tees with cheeky slogans. Coppola is also a longtime muse and friend of Marc Jacobs, and has collaborated with him on campaigns and collections for his namesake line, as well as for Louis Vuitton during his 16-year tenure. It’s only natural that her own style has been ingrained in her films.

The line between work and friendship can easily blur in a professional context, especially when it involves a mutual love of fashion. Battat admits it can be tricky when they get excited about something and want to share it immediately with one another. “It’s funny because I try really hard to treat her the way that I would any other director where you’d wait to talk about ideas. But with us, there’s access and also ease,” she says. “Sometimes I’ll send a photo and be like, I love this dress, or she'll send one to me; it’s very fluid. But I try really hard just to be like, OK now we’re at work.”

Still, the duo’s creative chemistry makes working together feel seamless. “I think we’re both interested in how things project in the story, and we're interested in subtleties, too. So, I think that's a way in which we speak the same language,” explains Battat. “We have very similar references. When she says she wants something to be elegant or classy or whatever the word she uses, it means something similar to me. I’ve worked with other directors who I find communicating with a little bit difficult because they’ll want something that means something else to me than it does to them. There can be growing pains whereas with me and Sofia, it’s just really easy.”

An example of Battat and Coppola speaking “the same language” happened during the making of Priscilla, when Coppola told Battat that she wanted it to be “sad in Germany and [for] the sun to come out when [Priscilla] gets to Memphis.” Battat said she understood what Coppola meant very clearly. “I looked at photos of Priscilla and what she was wearing and magazine clippings and made a color palette that had grays and pastels in the 1950s but became brighter and more colorful in Memphis,” says Battat. “That was Sofia’s idea and thought, but I knew how to execute that.” Through 120 costume changes (the majority of which were custom-made, Battat helped Priscilla, played by Cailee Spaeny, evolve from crushing teen in cardigans and penny loafers to Elvis’ bride-to-be in a Chanel wedding gown. Even further, Battat’s costumes tell the story of a young woman who finally comes into her own after being controlled by her incredibly famous partner.


Battat’s overall approach to costuming period films consists of researching textiles at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and looking at magazine clippings and society pages at the New York Public Library. Coppola will also send over a mood board so Battat can get an idea of the tone. For some of Priscilla’s most recognizable scenes, Battat examined real-life photos and footage, such as Elvis and Priscilla’s wedding photo and the family portrait of Elvis decked out in a blue suit while Priscilla wears a lavender shirt and purple pants. She did the same for 2009’s The Bling Ring, which depicted the real-life events of a group of teens who robbed famous celebrities in the ​​mid-to-late aughts. Battat watched the E! News reality show Pretty Wild so she could reference the infamous six-inch Louboutins that Alexis Neiers was alleged to have worn to court (calling Nancy Jo Sales!).

Costume design is undoubtedly a major factor of storytelling, but Battat believes that clothes play a particularly big part in Coppola’s stories, especially regarding the director’s penchant for examining girlhood through different lenses. “It’s about discovering who you are and trying out different identities,” she says. “Sometimes [fashion] is seen as frivolous, but the idea that girls or really, anyone, tries to present themselves to the world and sees what that feels like, especially in moments of life where you're discovering yourself or you're a little bit trepidatious about entering into a new world or environment — I think it's a natural progression to want to make that kind of discovery.”