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The challenge of creating the perfect ‘Carrie’ prom dress

Sissy Spacek in the original “Carrie,” from 1976.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios

Sissy Spacek in the original “Carrie,” from 1976.

Chloë Grace Moretz in the remake, out Friday.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures and Screen Gems

Chloë Grace Moretz in the remake, out Friday.

Prom dresses in movies are generally a character unto themselves. They arrive at a pivotal scene in a film and either serve as friend or foe to a high school girl facing the most important moment of her young life.

Looks have varied, from Molly Ringwald’s “Pretty in Pink” monstrosity to Emma Watson’s much prettier in pink frock in “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.” But perhaps the most memorable on-screen prom dress was worn by Sissy Spacek in the 1976 adaptation of Stephen King’s “Carrie.” The pale blush satin dress was simple and sweet; its most enduring characteristic was, of course, the pig’s blood that coated it after a cruel high school prank — one that sends the telekinetic prom queen into a rage.

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For the “Carrie” remake that opens in theaters Friday, costume designer Luis Sequeira had the unenviable task of creating the 2013 version of a “Carrie” prom dress. One that fit the character’s personality, and, naturally, one that looked sufficiently horrifying coated in synthetic barnyard blood.

“Carrie was never of this time,” Sequeira said. “So there was a conscious decision to look at old patterns for her prom dress. This is where the character would likely be looking for inspiration.”

Because Carrie’s mother (a deranged, disheveled Julianne Moore) is a seamstress, Sequeira said Carrie (Chloë Grace Moretz) would be looking at old patterns for her dress. For research, he scanned old pattern books and went to vintage stores to find inspiration. The end result was a 1930-influenced bias-cut dress.

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But because of the pivotal scene and the mayhem that ensues, one prom dress was not enough. Sequeira and his team made more than 30 dresses for filming.

“We had a clean dress, a just-bloodied dress, we had a wet and bloody dress, we had pre-explosion dress, a dress for when Carrie leaves the prom, a post-explosion dress, and a dress for her arrival home,” he said. “We made five of each.”

Sequeira and his team even concocted a mix, which, when applied to the dress and dried, looked like wet blood. It was so convincing that when Moretz saw it she thought she was about to wear a wet dress (the effect was achieved through fabric glue and red pigment).

The costume department did more than make the prom dress. It was also responsible for making Carrie’s entire wardrobe to ensure that she looked like an outcast in her high school. But Sequeira’s main concern was the dress.

“I knew the prom dress was going to be criticized, scrutinized, and evaluated,” he said. “For me, that was the big design challenge of this movie. This really is one of the most iconic prom dresses out there, and I didn’t want to mess it up.”

Christopher Muther can be reached at christopher.muther@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther.
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