Realistic costume design is always a challenge, but it proved especially tricky on “The State”—writer/director Peter Kosminsky’s four-part National Geographic series about life inside ISIS—because there’s so little reliable material about the Islamic State. “A lot of what’s out there is propaganda, so it becomes a challenge to get beyond that,” says costume designer Joanna Eatwell. “For example, everything you see is all men. You don’t see any women on the streets, and you’re not allowed to photograph women, so that made it quite difficult for us.” To overcome that hurdle, intense research was undertaken, including tracking down actual male and female ISIS garb, which was then recreated by Eatwell’s team.
Equally important was fashioning clothes that reflected something important about the characters who were wearing them—even when, in the case of female protagonists, they were often cloaked, head to toe, in identical black outfits. “We tried to create the costumes so that even though they are all dressed the same, you instantly know who’s who as they all wear it differently,” she says. “Every niqab is different, for example—so there’s lots and lots of detail in there, which people won’t necessarily pick up on immediately, but it is information which tells them who is who as they start to recognize the silhouette.”