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'Project Runway''s Christian Siriano: It's Not Easy Designing Costumes for 7-Inch-Tall Fairies

Best known for being named the youngest winner of America's popular design competition show Project Runway, 28-year-old fashion designer Christian Siriano--who was deemed "a prodigy" by Tim Gunn--can add lead designer for a Disney animated movie to his notable portfolio. Siriano was in charge of creating the costumes for the fairies, specifically Zarina, in The Pirate Fairy, now available on Blu-ray and DVD. Recently, we caught up with Siriano via phone to talk about the inspiration behind Zarina's costume design and the challenges of designing for an animated character that stands at just seven inches tall.

Zarina, voiced by Christina Hendricks, bands together with the pirates of Skull Rock after being relinquished from her role as dust keeper in Pixie Hollow. Siriano knew she was going to be different than the other fairies. "I had to learn about her and her personality… what I thought she would really wear in her situation." Some of the questions the designer asked were "Where did she make her clothes from? What traditional pirate elements did she have?"

Ultimately, Siriano's vision was that Zarina would be cool and edgy while her retaining her beauty and femininity. To achieve Zarina's look, Siriano drew inspiration from traditional pirate clothing and the film Peter Pan, including Hook and his pirate crews' costumes. "I took a lot of pirate elements like the classic pirate blouse and made it off the shoulder with a cross sleeve" made from the sail of a ship. Her overcoat resembles that of Captain Hook, but Siriano gave her a few feminine details: Zarina's sword is a hairpin and her belt is an old ring she found in a jewel box. 

As his first venture into animation, Siriano acknowledged that working on an animated character that stands at just seven inches tall was a challenge, but he followed the same process he uses when designing for people.  "When I was sketching and coming up with ideas. I was coming up with ideas based on [the fact] that I would be making it [her costume] in real life."  All of the fabrics were meticulously chosen to create a look that was authentic to Zarina's character, which in turn informed Siriano's sketches. 

A quick Google search confirmed expectations that there would be a rise in pirate fashion and Zarina-inspired outfits this year. Said Siriano, "Zarina can become a real-life comic character. She is really different from the other fairies. Her look is so different. The other fairies wear these leaf dresses [but] I love that Zarina is almost in real clothes."  

Inspired by his love for Disney classics like Beauty and the Beast, Aladdin and Sleeping Beauty, Siriano hopes to one day design costumes for the next Disney princess.


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