How ‘Hocus Pocus 2’ Used Folklore, Spiders and Snakes to Update Witchy Looks From the Original

It’s been 30 years since the first “Hocus Pocus,” which ended with the Sanderson sisters Winnie (Bette Midler), Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and Mary (Kathy Najimy) disintegrating. The Sanderson sisters are back in “Hocus Pocus 2,” now streaming on Disney+.

After a brief backstory intro, Salem teen Becca (Whitney Peak) is fooled into lighting the black flame candle by Gilbert (Sam Richardson), the owner of the magic shop, formerly the Sanderson sisters’ home. And thus, the sisters are resurrected.

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Costume designer Sal Perez resurrected the trio’s outfits and then went even farther to breathe new life into the beloved property.

At the end of the first film, the sisters’ clothes also disintegrated along with their bodies. Perez says, “With that mindset, I thought, ‘What would they come back in?’”

The sequel’s director, Anne Fletcher, guided Perez. “She said, ‘I want everything to have a meaning, don’t just arbitrarily put something on it,’” Perez says.

As a veteran in the world of costume design and president of the Costume Designers Guild, Perez reached out to Mary Vogt, who served as costume designer on the original.

The first thing he wanted to know was what the symbols meant. But he learned that despite making use of runes and old symbols, she had changed them because “she didn’t want them to be negative or evil. They held no significance,” he says.

Perez took a different approach. He gave the outfits a backstory. “I thought they should have lore to them, so we did this whole concept around the three sisters, powerful goddesses, the three moons: waxing, waning and full, so the images on Winnie’s costumes are all related to that.”

Perez explains the original Winnie costume was dyed green. The pattern seen on the dress was stenciled on, and bleach was sprayed on it.

For his take, he made a dress out of silk dupioni. Perez says, “It’s lavish embroidery with gold bullion thread, real crystal and semi-precious stones. We added silk velvet and chiffons.” He adds, “Then it was about looking for the same fabrics for the capes because the beauty of the cape is how it billowed in the wind. We had to find very lightweight silk to mimic that same look. It was all done in layers of different colors.”

Furthermore, he also put the symbols on the Mother Witch (Hannah Waddingham).

He says, “She had them on her sleeves, and the brooch that she has on her neck becomes Winnie’s brooch on her coat. The original coat had two silver snakes. I made mine in brass. I wanted to harken to the original, which had a malachite stone in it, so I found some vintage stones in Providence, Rhode Island when we were shooting, and we had them added to the dress. It was a circle symbol with tree branches harkening to the forest, a moon and a pentagram star with the malachite stone.”

For the youngest Sanderson sister, Sarah, Perez explains the original costume worn by Parker was made out of upholstery fabric that was machine-embroidered.

He explains, “In the 1650s, you would never have had embroidered fabric, you would have embroidered the pieces. I went to Eric Winchell in New York, and he beautifully hand-embroidered her corset.” Perez adds, “I found some ancient tapestries that we took the pattern from, and I made it more witchy. As opposed to vines, it was thorns. I added spiders and beetles into it.”

Fletcher didn’t like the mesh sleeves on the original because it looked too ’90s. He says, “We did spiderwebs instead. I had been working with a knitter, Krista Ann, who for years made a lot of Mindy Kaling’s stuff, so she had crocheted the spider webs and then made them into sleeves.”

Sarah’s skirt was made up of many layers of chiffon and organza dyed different colors. Perez describes the outfit as, “purple over gold over a dusty rose. The front panel was this funny lace with a diamond pattern in it.”

Through online shopping, he was able to find exactly what he was looking for. “I was shopping on Solstiss Lace and found this burgundy, metallic gold thread lace with the exact diamond, and it was the most bizarre coincidence. I was able to find just enough to make her eight skirts.”

Middle sister Mary had a costume that Perez also refreshed. But again, when looking at the original, he says, “Mary’s costume was made out of plaid with this lace pattern which again made no sense for the 1650s. But tartans have been around for hundreds of years. So, I made her skirt outfit from tartan and I found loose open weave silk that I used for the black and white part.”

He adds, “The rings that were on her corset were curtain rings. I took them to a jeweler and in this Wiccan language, sigils, air, water and earth are carved into them.”

Hannah Waddingham as The Witch in HOCUS POCUS 2, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Matt Kennedy. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Hannah Waddingham as the Mother Witch

Appearing in the flashback, Waddingham plays the Mother Witch, the sorceress who ties the young Sanderson sisters to the black flame candle. With this character, Perez introduced a brand new character into the fold but kept in line with lore.

Fletcher’s direction to Perez was that the Mother Witch was gorgeous and stunningly beautiful, not scary and creepy. “She had to look like a goddess,” Perez says. To give the character texture, he created a hand-pleated silk habotai dress with shredded layers that were then dip-dyed.

Says Perez, “She was supposed to be a bird and has the same markings as the red wing raven. So, I shredded chiffon so it looked like feathers.” Perez adds, “Nobody was more excited than Hannah was.”

And while there are Easter eggs throughout that harken to the original, Perez teases to look out for the eye symbol. He says, “There’s an eye symbol on almost everything. Becca has it on her shoes and Cassie (Lilia Buckingham) has it on her blouse. It’s throughout the film.”

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