How to Make a Grand High Witch Costume, the Anne Hathaway Version

August 07, 2021

From the Warner Bros. film The Witches (2020)

So how do Grand High Witches dress up? 

Depends on which actress. Anne Hathaway portrayed the terrifying villainess for Robert Zemeckis' big-screen take on Roald Dahl's "The Witches" in 2020. The original 1990 movie saw Anjelica Huston in the role, too, brought to bewitching life by master puppeteer Jim Henson in his last work as producer. 

Playing Grand High Witch for the night requires one to be the epitome of fashion, and the two AH's delivered. While Huston slinked around in ultra-glamorous, eighties-going-on-nineties bowed skirts and hats, fellow Oscar winner for supporting actress Hathaway opted for voguish 1960s wear in keeping with the period of setting. 

What does the Grand High Witch wear? 

According to the source material, which came out in 1983, the fashion of the Grand High Witch is the definition of function. Witches have to hide their claws with gloves; their toeless hooves with pointed shoes instead of comfier wide shoes (to keep up the pretenses); and their bald heads, wigs. Don't rrree-moof those if you want to look like the human-passing Grand High Witch. 

Unlike other members of the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, the Grand High Witch does not usually wear a hat. She was, as the book says, "very pretty" with a "rather stylish long black dress that reached right to the ground." Of course, there were the gloves, "black...that came up to her elbows." 

Instead of the predictable black frock, 2020's "The Witches" costume designer Joanna Johnston played with color and took notes from trendsetters of the 60s, from Nena von Schlebrügge to Jackie Kennedy and Carmen Dell’Orefice. She also paid tribute to her boss Anthony Powell, who excelled in black-and-white costumes, like the one the Grand High Witch wears in her first scene with Mr. Stringer (Stanley Tucci). 

At the RSPCC convention, Hathaway wears an asymmetrical purple dress with matching opera gloves, plus a statement golden necklace in the shape of a snake that coils down to her waist, a nod to her flashing a "look of serpents in those eyes of hers...around the audience." Hathaway also wore elongated heels custom-made for the role. 

How did they do the makeup for The Witches?

The Grand High Witch's face is so shriveled and ghastly that it looks "as though it had been pickled in vinegar...all cankered and worm-eaten," Dahl imagines. Also, a witch has enormous nose-holes as well as lips that show all the front teeth, with gums "like raw meat." To translate this look for the screen, Hathaway had to be with the makeup team for five hours. The rest was all CGI witchcraft. 

In human form, the Grand High Witch's makeup doesn't need that much special effects or prosthetics. With some fake mouth slits, you will be giving 2020 Grand High Witch realness in no time. 

Did Anne Hathaway go bald for The Witches?

In short, no. To get her veiny, naked scalp onscreen, Hathaway put on 17 bald caps. You can check these out for yourself. 

As for the "vigs," hair designer Peter Swords King used almost 140 wigs for the witches in the movie. You will need several wigs for the Grand High Witch alone, but all should be coiffed affairs reminiscent of the 60s. Although the movie is set in the late 60s, Marilyn Monroe's famous pageboy curls were one of the hair team's inspirations, as she was still one of the decade's fashion icons. Hathaway also sported The Flip, the hairstyle of the 60s, so take note. 

By the end of the flick, Hathaway's wig was backcombed to hell as she wanted it to appear like horns when profiled. You may copy this look with a bouffant wig.

If you have naturally blond hair like the Grand High Witch's wig, recreate that bouffant, flip, or Marilyn Monroe hairdo with lots of hairspray, which was probably every girl's best friend in the 60s.

So away with your mousy self, and go on as the Grand High Witch for the night. You will be having no trouble in getting vot you wont.

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