Fallout costume
Ella Purnell, Michael Emerson, and Dale Dickey in Fallout (Credit: Prime Video)

Fallout costume designer, Amy Westcott, makes the apocalypse fun. The costume designer brings a gleeful vibrancy to the series, based on the video game franchise. She depicts two timelines, creating a cinematic blend of retro and future that’s always cohesive.

Westcott, who gave costume designer Vera Chow a start, and her team simply make every character pop off the screen.

The costume designer behind Black Swan and The Wrestler always knew the terrible future was bright for Fallout. “It was very important from the start that the post-apocalyptic world doesn’t seem depressing,” she said. “I hope it sets the show apart, because there’s an optimism that was in the vault, and there’s an optimism in the wasteland that people learn to live with the cards that they were dealt. After the apocalypse, life goes on and you find happiness and style in other ways.”

Recently, the Fallout costume designer spoke with Immersive Media about her vision for Fallout, referencing John Wayne and Steve McQueen, and her research into cults.

Did cults inspire the vault communities at all for you? 

Oh, absolutely. I did research on actual cults and what happens to people and why they follow things without thinking about it, and that did have a lot to do with the vault suit and this uniform; it was already there in the game. But the fact that it turns into a scariness about that mentality was something we researched a lot. I saw a lot of disturbing pictures of David Koresh and things like that. 

How many prototypes were there?

There were so many prototypes, and it was a fine line between paying enough respect to the existing suit, but making it interesting and new. Also, making it 3D and something that somebody could wear, and bringing it into a realistic place, we decided very early on that they needed to be a little loose, not skintight.

Fallout costume
Ella Purnell and Kyle MaClachlan in Fallout (Credit: Prime Video)

What were some fabrics for the suit? 

There were a lot of different fabrics that came into play. There were so many prototypes we were testing. It had to be a four-way stretch, not a woven. I used a fabric many years ago on a film called After Earth, and it was this amazing fabric made in Italy, and I found in my basement a swatch of it and contacted the company and got tons of it. But that was after we tried things that we could get locally in the states that just didn’t have the body for it, the weight and the feeling, it had to do so much. We were asking so much of it.

Then we tried a lot of different things for the pieces that the various inserts, the various pieces that were in the suit. We ended up using faux leather. I mean, we tried printing, 3D printing. We tried a lot of different ways to make those pieces look enough like the game, and really ended up using these leather pieces to up the ante a little bit.

We tried to make a newer version, I would say, and then it was about working in the yellow. We used a gold that was distressed, so it didn’t look so bright, and [the video game company] Bethesda was very clear about their blue, so we had to work with that exact blue. It was a lot about getting it to a place of reality, where it was a believable piece of clothing.

Fallout costume
Walton Goggins in Fallout (Credit: Prime Video)

Was it especially fun with Kyle MaClachlan? He just has such an upstanding posture that’s perfect for that character and suit.

It was funny, I called him before we closed on his deal, which you’re not supposed to do. Because I know him [from Capone], I texted him and said, “Hey, what’s going on? Listen, I need your sizes and blah, blah, blah.” And he was like, “Well, you’ll be happy to know I’ve been staying in shape.”

It was one of those situations where we were like, oh, he’s going to look great. It was fun because it was all different kinds of bodies that we had to put into the suit and be cognizant of how the actor felt in the suit and how it read. We didn’t want anybody to feel self-conscious or weird, that was really important.

Did any western stars influence Cooper Howard’s style?

Actually, it was a lot of seeing what was happening with John Wayne on his off-time. If we found a picture of John Wayne on his off time — which is hard to find, by the way — it was always a point of reference.

Fallout costume
Walton Goggins in Fallout (Credit: Prime Video)

It’s hard to imagine John Wayne off the clock. 

Yes, it’s hard, but you can dig around and you can find it. We were trying for that sort of Steve McQueen meets John Wayne quality, because it was sort of an old school cowboy, but he had to be super cool. Walton brings that cool to the table in a big way, so that wasn’t something that we needed to try so hard on getting him cool. But it certainly was the look of this Hollywood star that you don’t really see much anymore.

Those slim suits, they look terrific. Were those all handcrafted? Did you source any of those? 

We made some, and we found some. Barbara Howard’s costumes, we made all of them because they had a futuristic quality that you can’t find. Also, with Walton, we had to make his suits because you can’t find anything in such great shape. The things that are still there from the ’50s are — it’s been a long time. They’ve been kicking around here for a while, which was great for the wasteland, and we just took them down further.

Fallout costume
Walton Goggins in Fallout (Credit: Prime Video)

When we Cooper in in his full bounty hunter, ghoul mode in the post-apocalypse, were you still thinking of Wayne?

It was more The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, that kind of thing when it came to the ghoul. I’m not sure if you noticed, but he is wearing his Cooper Howard costume, his cowboy shirt and cowboy pants. Even the same boots aged many, many, many years. We added the duster to look like he stole it from a person that he shot and killed, so he’s acquired things to add on top of his Cooper Howard persona.

I think when the bombs happened, he was in his costume, so to speak. He was doing his dog and pony show, so that’s what he was left with in a sense. That’s what he knows, that’s what he was stuck with for God knows how long. It just became a part of him and his remnant from that world.

Aaron Moten in Fallout (Credit: Prime Video)

We’ve covered cults now, movie stars, which are kind of similar, but let’s talk about another fun subject, religion, the brotherhood. What were some of your references for there?

It was definitely a conglomeration of different religions. Again, it’s a sort of cult mentality there, too. You get pulled in at a young age and then just get kept there in a sense. But what was interesting for me in doing the brotherhood was that we took this religious basis and this sort of culty basis, but added the Harley Davidson element.

It was more taking what you would see in a religious cult or religious person, a monk or something like that, and then what would they look like as a Harley Davidson. There had to be a cool, tough as nails quality to them, especially the higher-ups. They’ve been withstood a lot. They are still in existence in the wasteland, because of their level of take-no-prisoner badassery. 

Fallout is world-building on another level, but you’ve done that throughout your career to some extreme levels. With The Menu, you depicted the culinary world; with Black Swan, the world of dance; and with The Wrestler, the world of wrestling. You really delve into these specific realms as an artist. What’s most fulfilling about capturing that specificity?

Thanks for noticing. I think that going into worlds is just the most fascinating thing, and I imagine that actors feel that way when they take a new role and they get into a new person’s skin. I get into a new world of skin.

It’s a very different place than where you are, and I think that’s the most exciting part of my job, just creating a realistic world. You have to keep it realistic or else you lose a big element of it, but just being able to remove yourself from where you are in this present day and dive into something completely new and different, it’s awesome and freeing.

Fallout is now available to stream on Prime.

Jack Giroux

In high school, Jack would skip classes to interview filmmakers. With 15 years in film journalism, he's contributed to outlets such as Thrillist, Music Connection Magazine, and High Times Magazine. He's witnessed explosions, attended satanic rituals, and scaled volcanoes in his career, but Jack's true passion is interviewing artists.