Fashion & Beauty

The Art of Making Movie Costumes

March 6, 2018


THE 90TH ACADEMY AWARDS show is history, and we all know who took away the coveted statuettes. But if you still have Oscar fever, all five nominees for costume design are featured in the exhibit Art of Motion Picture Costume Design” at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising (FIDM). You’ll have to go to Los Angeles to see it, but you have until April 7 to appreciate the creativity of Jacqueline Durran for “Beauty and the Beast” and “Darkest Hour,” award winner Mark Bridges for “Phantom Thread,” Luis Sequeira for “The Shape of Water” and Consolata Boyle for “Victoria & Abdul.” More than 125 costume designs from more than 25 films released in 2017 are on view.

Each one of these designers had to get into the head of the film’s character(s) and explain to audiences how each character’s clothing reflects who he or she is — frequently during a particular time period. (Think the late 1950s colorful, matched outfits of Miriam in The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, the ’70s prints and shirtwaists of Katharine Graham in The Post.)

British designer Jaqueline Durran got the nod for two very different films. Befitting a Disney fairy tale, Belle in “Beauty and the Beast” wears a  floaty, tiny-waisted, sunshine-colored ballgown in a dance with the prince/beast. Wrestling with the evacuation of Dunkirk, Gary Oldman’s Churchill dons somber, dark-colored 1940s suits, but they’re often punctuated with a natty bow-tie.

Fashion itself plays a key role in Phantom Thread for which Oscar winner Bridges created about 50 costumes, including a runway collection filled with rich colors, heavy fabric, velvet, satin and lots of lace. All were built from scratch in couture fashion using plain muslin for mockups and then final versions with the actual fabric.

In the 1963 Cold War world of “The Shape of Water,” Sally Hawkins’ character wears green lab coats for her custodial job, mixed in with her off-duty Peter Pan collars and pleated skirts. A fan of old movies, she owns a pair of toe-tapping bright red shoes and in a fantasy sequence dons a vintage ballgown (similar to one worn by Ginger Rogers in “Top Hat”).

Consolata Boyle makes Victoria’s otherwise dull black clothing shine with jewelry and decoration, as anyone who has seen Masterpiece’s Victoria knows she was extremely fond of. As Abdul becomes accepted as an equal by the queen, his royal guard clothing morphs into the traditional attire of his native country.

The exhibition free and is open through Saturday, April 7, 2018. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 5pm.

Can’t make it to LA? See some of the photos from the exhibit just above.

—Janet Kelly

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