Extracted from Harry Potter: The Character Vault
When Jany Temime began to design the outfits that Daily Prophet reporter Rita Skeeter would wear during the events of the Triwizard Tournaments tasks, she noticed that ‘gossip journalists always seem to coordinate with the occasion. If they’re at Ascot, they wear a hat; if they’re at a car race, they wear a leather jacket.’ Rita Skeeter’s attire was designed so that she always matched the story she was reporting, and actress Miranda Richardson agreed with the idea, believing that ‘It’s as much of a duty to her to look right for the occasion as it is to tell the truth – as she sees it – for her readership.’
Temime was initially inspired by the Hollywood gossip columnists from the 1940s, who dressed as extravagantly as the stars they interviewed, but a consultation with Richardson encouraged her to explore the ‘business’ side of Skeeter’s reporting. Richardson felt that Skeeter thought constantly about increasing not only her sales but her notoriety. ‘Rita Skeeter wants power,’ Temime explains. ‘She has a cruel thirst for it, and Miranda wanted to bring out a touch of madness in her look that displayed this, so we switched to suits.’
Skeeter’s clear ‘poison pen’ approach to journalism is reflected in the outfit she wears during her first meeting with the school champions; Temime refers to the colour as ‘acidic green. If it was a liquid, it would be poisonous, you’d better not drink it!’ The collar and cuffs of what Temime calls one of her favorite outfits are adorned in a bold pink faux fur. The champions’ first challenge finds Rita decked out in a high-booted, leather ensemble that recalls the scaly skin of the dragons used in the task. For the second task, on the lake, Temime designed a blue and green poncho-like outfit with stylised appliqued aquatic plants, something that she saw as being a staple of Skeeter’s wardrobe, as ‘She might go to an event where there was water involved. She’s always prepared.’ Skeeter’s suit for the final task, at the maze, is a reddish orange and ‘quite angular and spiky’. In flashbacks, she is seen in a formal pinstriped wizardy gray suit.
Rita Skeeter had to have a ‘fairly hard makeup’, Amanda Knight explains. ‘It wasn’t to be a soft, alluring look, but Miranda was really game for whatever we planned for her, and came in with some ideas of her own.’ Richardson endured the character’s long nails, but drew the line at Skeeter’s gold teeth, mentioned in the novel. Miranda Richardson and Mike Newell opted instead for dentures embedded with a diamond.
It took three tries to get the right hair colour for the character. ‘We tried brown, we tried red, we tried really dark,’ says Eithne Fennel. ‘Then we just realised it had to be blonde.’ Fennel agreed that Skeeter’s hairstyles, just as her outfits, would be dictated by the event. ‘In general, we wanted her basic look to be like her hair had just come out of rollers. But with the dragons, we put a headband on her with horns in it. By the lakeside, her hair flowed a little more. So each time you saw her, she had a different hairdo.’ Richardson was pleased with the overall look of the character. ‘Rita has a wonderful old-fashioned glamour,’ she says, ‘and she certainly won’t go missing in a room!’