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Small details you missed in the Birds of Prey costumes - Exclusive

If you somehow missed it, Margot Robbie's Harley Quinn has a whole new look in Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn). Yes, both Harley's current red-and-black comic book bustier and her skin-tight Suicide Squad get-up appear in the movie as Easter eggs, but for most of the film, the Joker's newly-single ex sports brand-new garments. They're not exactly traditional, but there's no denying that they look fantabulous.

Birds of Prey costume designer Erin Benach tells Looper in an exclusive interview that giving Harley and the rest of the Birds fresh, new outfits were all part of the plan. For Harley, who just went through a big breakup, "it was a story turn," Benach says. "The idea was she was dressing for herself, and doing things for herself, and finding her true inner Harley."

For the other characters, Benach notes, Birds of Prey is the beginning of their adventures: "It's an origin story. A lot of it is how they became the characters that you know from the source material." Huntress (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) and Black Canary (Jurnee Smollett-Bell) don't dress in their comic book outfits because they're not those characters quite yet — not until the end of the movie.

Still, even though the Birds of Prey may not look like you expect them to, there are a few nods to the comics hidden in the film's costumes. Now that Birds of Prey is out on video-on-demand, free to hunt for them yourselves — or, y'know, just keep reading and let Benach explain everything for you. Either way, they're pretty cool.

The Birds of Prey's iconic outfits inspired their movie costumes — if you look closely enough

In Birds of Prey, popular DC Comics heroes like Black Canary and the Huntress aren't wearing their traditional costumes, yet they're almost immediately recognizable as those characters anyway. The trick, Benach says, was looking at the comic books for design elements that would translate well into Birds of Prey's unique aesthetic, then playing those up to evoke the outfits that fans are more familiar with.

Take Black Canary, for example. "It was about taking those ideas and then translating them in an urban, wearable, relatable way," Benach explains. "I went into great detail in my study of the source material."

She wasn't alone. Jurnee Smollett-Bell, who plays Dinah Lance in Birds of Prey, communicated with Benach frequently about Canary's costume. "She would show me a lot of the source material, and then I would show her some other source material, and then she would show me something else, and then I would show her a fashion idea," Benach says. "We went back and forth a lot, she and I, about looks, and inspirations, and all that kind of stuff."

The end result was something that honors Black Canary's classic costume without straight-up recreating it. In the comics, Black Canary is known for her leather jackets, fishnet stockings, and wearing a lot of blue and gold. You can see Birds of Prey's version of the character sporting many of the same looks.

"The dress that she's wearing when she's singing in the club when we first see her, that is an enlarged fishnet, and underneath it we put gold." Benach says. When she's off-stage, Dinah wears a stylish leather jacket, too. "I wanted to take that whole leather jacket thing, I wanted her to look like her own boss. Something about having that really strong-shouldered full-suit look felt really complete to me."

Same goes for Mary Elizabeth Winstead's Huntress, also known as Helena Bertinelli. "With Huntress, it starts with a silhouette," shares Benach. "I very much looked into source material for her color palette, black, black and silver, and purple. I knew her cape and her hooded nature was such a part of who she was. I wanted to incorporate that somehow."

You can see the results on screen. When she first enters the movie, Huntress' outfit might be toned down, but aside from the missing mask, it has a similar shape to her comic book outfit. In a following flashback sequence, Helena's tracksuit has hints of a very familiar shade of purple.

Harley Quinn's Birds of Prey necklace means more than you think

Benach and her team made all of Harley's accessories in the movie from scratch, and when asked which one is her favorite, she doesn't have to think about it at all: "Harley's main necklace, the big one that she wears that you see throughout." The necklace is basically one giant charm bracelet, and the various trinkets attached aren't random. 

"Everything had a reason, and a point, and a story behind it," Benach explains. "There was the child-like bottle cap. It's something that Harley would do. She would sit there and drink Coca Cola — out of a Twizzler straw probably — and then take the bottle cap and put on her necklace. There's feminist iconography in there in a female symbol, in a bust of a woman, and then she's got her Bruce tag for her pet hyena."

The necklace is a treasure trove of Easter eggs and character beats, but it has a more personal meaning for Benach, too. "I actually started a jewelry line after this movie," she shares. "It was so fun, and we were getting such a response from people seeing it, that we started to design more jewelry, kind of in the ethos of Birds of Prey."

As she tells the story, Benach and her partner came up with a few pieces, then went to Warner Bros. to get approval: "Warner Bros. said yes, and then I pitched it to Nordstrom and Nordstrom said yes, and then Nordstrom's just like, 'Do a whole line, just do a whole fashion line.'" The resulting brand, which is called Billie Valentine, even has a couple of officially-licensed Birds of Prey pieces.

"It was a pretty cool experience that, as a costume designer, doesn't oftentimes happen," Benach says, which seems true of her entire Birds of Prey experience. "I've been designing costumes for 18 years and I have never had a combination of a script, character, world-building and studio support all in conjunction with each other in one project. It was pretty cool."