Costume Designer Sharen Davis on Dressing Will Smith

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Costume designer Sharen Davis is having a big year, having worked with both Denzel Washington, who directed “A Journal for Jordan,” now in theaters, and with Will Smith, who stars in “King Richard,” on HBO Max.

“A Journal for Jordan,” based on the heartbreaking true story of a soldier deployed to Iraq who keeps a diary for his infant son, is the latest of her frequent collaborations with Washington. Davis says she worked hard to dress down “fashion icon” star Michael B. Jordan. Since the character was in the military, she decided he would have a suitcase with few items. “We want to see how he manages all these visits with five shirts and three pairs of pants,” Davis says.

The biggest costume arc in the film is for Chanté Adams, who plays Dana Canedy, their child’s mother and the New York Times editor who wrote the bestselling book about the journals and the couple’s relationship. This timeline, which runs from 1998 to 2018, required more than 50 changes.

Davis explains how Dana’s journalist looks were “a little drab in the beginning” but still colorful, with browns, oranges and pinks. When she falls in love, her clothes become softer, more feminine and more revealing, reflecting how free and happy Dana has become.


Costume designer Sharen Davis added softer colors into Dana Canedy’s (Chanté Adams) as she falls in love.
Sony Pictures Entertainment

Davis also dressed Will Smith for “King Richard,” based on the story of Richard Williams, the father of tennis superstars Venus and Serena.

Smith’s most iconic looks in the film are his tiny red shorts and long socks, a re-creation of tennis-circuit looks from the 1990s. “Those socks I found in downtown Los Angeles,” Davis says. “The shorts were custom-made to his body, and that first pair was longer. Every time we tried a longer pair of pants, it just took away from his character.” What she and Smith realized was that Williams was always coaching tennis, even while working as a security guard. “Will said, ‘Can these be shorter and tighter?’” Davis says. “And that’s how it started — as a joke.”

Reflecting on her collaborators, Davis says that Washington always trusts her with his films. “His projects are encouraging to people — there’s a journey of transformation and victory.” With Smith, she says, “everything I’ve ever done with him [including Gabriele Muccino’s ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ and ‘Seven Pounds’], I love. He is one of the kindest and generous human beings.”

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