Some fans watched The Witcher Netflix series hoping that the costume designer would be fired. For fans of the video game, specifically, the costumes in the series fell short of their expectations. Many can't even look at the Nilfgaardian armor without getting angry.
However, The Witcher costume designer had a particular purpose in mind when creating his designs. While the video game has certainly earned plenty of acclaim, the Netflix series wanted to stay true to the original source material - a book series by Polish writer Andrzej Sapkowski. By rounding out the characters and embracing Sapkowski's original idea, the new series created an engaging show that's nothing like the games. However, that desire for something new also extended to the costumes.
While some ensembles wowed the audience and others fell flat, all have a story behind them. Take a look below at a few wardrobe secrets from behind the scenes of The Witcher, then go find more great costumes and design in other shows like The Witcher.
Cavill Needed A Steady Flow Of Replacement Clothes To Accommodate His Muscles
Although Henry Cavill was closely involved in the design of his costume and props, his physique presented challenges for costume designer Tim Aslam.
According to Aslam, Cavill's muscles were so big that they wore down the leather in his outfit at an impossible rate. To keep Geralt looking fresh and put together, the costume team had to continuously produce replacement outfits for Cavill. The final look in the Netflix series was the result of many, many costumes changed out to accommodate his muscles.
Practicality Was Of The Utmost Importance To The Costume Designer
While The Witcher production team wanted the outfits to look good onscreen, practicality was the more important concern. They wanted the costumes to look and feel authentic, as if the characters could actually fight monsters and perform magic while wearing them. While the idea sounds noble, it stemmed from the fact that they simply wanted everyone on set to be able to move in their costume. Writer Lauren Schmidt Hissrich explained:
We had to make sure we could have something that stayed true to the books but [was] also very practical. We have something that books and video games don’t have - actual actors who have to wear these things and perform in them on a daily basis.
Many of the costumes were made to be lived in. Rather than constricting materials that make it difficult to move, the designers sought to combine comfort and style to create outfits that felt both magical and realistic at the same time.
Geralt's Armor Proved To Be One Of the Trickiest Designs To Pull Off
Although the Netflix series received some criticism for its costume choices, Aslam explained that putting together Geralt's look was the most challenging element of the series. While discussing Geralt's armor, he said:
I think the hardest costume to design was Geralt’s costume. Expectations about Geralt’s appearance due to the games were quite high. Also, there was a certain image in the minds of those who read the books about how Geralt should look.
The challenge was to design a convincing armor for Geralt. The armor had to give Geralt a tough and dangerous look, but also allow Henry to move freely with his highly structured body and to perform the complex physical movements required by the series. I’ve been forced to keep this balance.
Although Geralt's outfit posed its problems, Aslam eventually came up with a workable design that stayed true to the character and the actor who played him.
The Nilfgaardian Armor Was The Second Most Challenging Design
While Geralt's armor was undoubtedly the most difficult to create, the Nilfgaardian armor presented its own challenges. When discussing the much-criticized look Aslam said:
After Geralt, I think the most challenging armor is the Nilfgaardian armor. It was supposed to be threatening and strange. This armor is actually described as a black armor with a sun motif on it. It would have been easy to turn it into any medieval or Renaissance armor. But I thought it would not be enough to express the dark and scary power of the Nilfgaardian army.
While Aslam wanted to evoke a certain feeling with the armor, he also explained that the fellow members of his production team wanted him to create something that had never been done before. He explained:
It needs to be something never seen before, which in terms of armor is not an easy call. Armor’s been around since three, four thousand years ago in various forms and just about everything has been seen before. But the thing is with the Nilfgaardian armor had to be something weird.
All these directives led to his final design, which unfortunately disappointed some fans of the show.
The Designs Tried To Evoke High Fashion To Differentiate It From The Game
With The Witcher Netflix series, one of the main goals revolved around staying true to the books rather than the popular video game. In order to distance themselves from the game, writer Lauren Schmidt Hissrich asked the costume designer to infuse the outfits with an air of high fashion.
"They were saying to me, 'Whatever you do, don’t make it look like the game,'" Tim Aslam explained, "and I looked at a few images and said, 'That isn’t gonna happen because, actually, it looks a bit tacky.'"
In order to create that differentiation, Aslam strove to include those fashionable elements without leaning too far towards impracticality. He settled on slim dresses for the women and slim trousers and fitted doublets for the men. The resulting ensembles were stylish, but still fitting for the time period The Witcher evokes.
The Nilfgaardian Armor Was Specially Designed To Be Different Than The Outfit In The Game
While many fans were disappointed with the final look of the Nilfgaardian army, Alsam again pointed out that the The Witcher series wasn't supposed to mimic the look and feel of the game. He said:
I know that there was a lot of controversy about the Nilfgaardian armor, for example, and the thing with the Nilfgaardian armor is that a lot of gamers were so used to what the Nilfgaardians looked like and what they were, whereas we’ve said time and time again that this had nothing to do with the game.
I think if you watch it as a whole, it works. If you watch it with the idea that these aren’t the Nilfgaardians we know from the games then obviously... they’re not, and they weren’t supposed to be.
Aslam went on to say that the series is more of an origin story, and as such, some elements were designed to be outlandish and strange in order to infuse the story with a sense of newness.