‘Hidden Figures’ Cast Suffered in ‘Constricting’ Underwear and Tights

The form-flattering women’s silhouettes of the 1960s — achieved through undergarments and hosiery that tuck, conceal and enhance the body — create an elegant appearance, but they’re best left in the past.

“I just hate doing period movies because you have to wear the period underwear, and it’s very constricting,” moaned the biopic’s Oscar-nominated star Octavia Spencer on Wednesday at Alfre Woodard’s annual Sistah’s Soiree at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in Beverly Hills, Calif.

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Octavia Spencer in “Hidden Figures.”
CREDIT: Courtesy of Fox.

Spencer earned a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award nomination for her role as a NASA scientist amid racial and gender equality tensions in the 1960s-set “Hidden Figures.”

“In ‘The Help’ we had to wear it; in ‘The Shape of Water’ I had to wear it,” she said. “I had to wear it in ‘Hidden Figures.’ After I do my next couple that are period movies, I’m going to be done with it — it’s a lot.”

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Taraji P. Henson (left) and Janelle Monae star in “Hidden Figures.”
CREDIT: Courtesy of Fox.

Starring alongside Taraji P. Henson and Janelle Monáe, the actress donned the throwback wares teamed with kitten heels and slingback pumps to bring to the big screen the real-life story of Katherine G. Johnson, Dorothy Vaughan and Mary Jackson.

Though the outfits, by her account, were “constricting,” it enriched the performance, costume designer Renee Ehrlich Kalfus shared with FN earlier this month at the Art of Motion Picture Design costume exhibition at FIDM Museum in Los Angeles.

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From FIDM Museum’s 25th annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition in Los Angeles, open to the public through April 22.
CREDIT: Courtesy of FIDM/Alex J. Berliner/ABImages

“[The actresses] were the least happy wearing girdles and stockings all the time, but it contributed to holding them up — it was regal,” Kalfus explained. “They’re wearing corsets that hold up stockings, and the challenge was that I didn’t use nylon stockings, which were of the time, because two hours into filming you’d have baggy ankles. Taking away from the period we used (contemporary) stockings that stay up and cling and give a beautiful leg.”

“There was a protocol and they were corseted — it was a time of stockings and bulleted bras,” she continued. “This set a structure and attitude that was developed.”

“Hidden Figures” is also nominated in Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay categories at the 89th Oscars, airing today at 7 p.m. on ABC.

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