Archive for February, 2016

During Downton, I like to use authentic pieces wherever I can, restoring original garments, or incorporating antique trims into a new bespoke way – as modern equivalents just can’t compete. I have even found myself making sure I use vintage threads and buttons if fabrics are modern, so that the garment is still anchored to the past.

– Anna Mary Scott Robbins, costume designer, Downton Abbey

Laura Carmichael

This photo released by PBS and Carnival Film and Television Limited shows Laura Carmichael as Lady Edith in a scene from season four of the Masterpiece TV series, “Downton Abbey.”

I found this quote in the Summer 2015 edition of The Costume Designer, the official magazine of the Costume Designers Guild Local 892.

(Vintage threads? I was told by a seamstress never to use old thread, as it won’t hold up.)

Check back with OverDressed on Wednesday for a fun Q&A with Lynnie Morgan, devoted DA fan who has been inspired by the series to start sporting hats.

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Jacqueline West is the only American nominated this year and was at one time a resident of the Bay Area, designing her own line and running her own boutique in Berkeley, California. She has strutted down the Academy Awards red carpet before having been nominated for Quills (2000) and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008).

The Revenant staring Leonardo DiCaprio, is the true story of American fur trapper Hugh Glass, who, on an expedition in 1823, is attacked by a bear and left for dead by his team. But he doesn’t die and that’s the movie.


Ms. West told The Film Experience blog that she was familiar with this story and started her research reading Glass’ journals: In this one journal it said that when the trappers arrived off the boats after two years out trapping you couldn’t tell what the fabric was of their clothing, it was so covered in grease. I took that as a mantra!

The costumes for this film are unlike the other nominees this year in that they had to be well worn and heavy for the cold rugged outdoors and there’s not much variation. Lots of fur was used, of course, most of it from Canada. It’s not a showy film for costumes but there was still a lot of creativity and crafting involved.

Costumers are nominated for an Oscar by other costumers who are members of the Academy, just as directors nominate other directors and so on. Winners are chosen by ballot – each member of the Academy casts a vote for each category. There are currently around 6300 Academy members.

Having not seen all the films nominated, I can’t say who I think will or should win. I know what appeals to me based on my research and that would be The Danish Girl but that’s purely what I like and what I think was well done for the period. Sometimes what is outstanding on a technical level, is not visually exciting or attractive.

As we know costumes in films and plays are not fashion, they are one part of telling a story.

Best of luck to Jacqueline West and congratulations to all the nominees.




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English costume designer Jenny Beavan is nominated for her work in Mad Max: Fury Road.

Ms. Beavan is used to these awards, she been nominated (and winning) since her very first Oscar for A Room With a View in 1987, which she shared with designer John Bright.

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With a degree in set design from Central School of Art and Design in London, Ms. Beavan stumbled into costume design first in theater and later in television. It wasn’t long before she moved on to films, initially with Merchant Ivory productions.

Prolific and in demand for her sense of historical accuracy and detail, Ms. Beavan has designed costumes for The Bostonians (1984), Howard’s End (1992), Sense and Sensibility (1995), Gosford Park (2001), Sherlock Holmes (2009), The King’s Speech (2012) and the list goes on.

Mad Max: Fury Road is a futuristic post nuclear war story set in a desert wasteland. Shot in Namibia in southwest Africa, the challenges for Beavan et al were many including extreme weather and limited local expertise in movie making.

Ms. Beavan says, The only tragic thing for the Namibians was the distressing of costumes: we’d work from brand new army boots, because obviously the stuntmen had to wear something solid on their feet, and then you’d see them grating them and scratching them and burning them, and almost weeping, because to them, it was a brand new pair of boots, and we were just wrecking them.

Congratulations to Jenny Beavan for her Oscar nomination and her recent BAFTA win for Mad Max: Fury Road.

Tune in tomorrow for the next Oscar nominated costume designer profile, Jacqueline West.



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This is Paco Delgado’s second Oscar nomination, having also been nominated in 2013 for Les Miserables. This time around he’s up for The Danish Girl.

Mr. Delgado is from the Canary Islands and now lives in Madrid. He studied set and costume design but he initially worked mostly on sets, not intending to become a costume designer. However, small playhouses with tight budgets often needed his help and he’d put the costumes together as well. He enjoyed the challenge and people liked his work so he stuck with it.

The Danish Girl tells the true story of Einar/Lili (Eddie Redmayne), who is known as the first transgender woman. The year is 1926 and the place is Copenhagen and Paris. Einar and his wife Gerda were both artists, and so Mr. Delgado started his research by looking at the couple’s work and photographs of the pair. He also studied the popular fashion designers of the era, such as Chanel and Poiret.

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Very much aware of the subtleties of costuming a transgender person, Mr. Delgado said in an interview with Harper’s Bazaar:  Our point of departure was always to think that Lili was trapped in a body that didn’t belong to her. Therefore we had to create almost a prison-like idea, where she was in prison in the masculine body and that’s the reason we created this sort of very restricted [costume] in the beginning of the movie.

Since it was difficult to find actual 1920s clothing that wasn’t too delicate and/or too small for the actors, Mr. Delgado used material from antique dresses and built new ones to fit.

A job well done, I’d say. Good luck to Paco Delgado.

Come back tomorrow for some reading on Jenny Beavan, costume designer for Mad Max: Fury Road.

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British costume designer Sandy Powell has been nominated twice this year for Cinderella and Carol, both starring Cate Blanchett.

Studying at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, Ms. Powell quickly became in such demand for her stage costumes she left before completing her degree. Soon she was working in film and became a repeat visitor to the Academy Awards. Nominated 12 times she has won for Shakespeare in Love (1998), The Aviator (2004), and The Young Victoria (2009).

For Cinderella, Ms. Powell says she worked closely with Ms. Blanchett who plays the wicked stepmother. The two collaborated and traded images, both women inspired by the glamour of the 1940s.

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Carol is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Patricia Highsmith titled The Price of Salt. The story takes place in New York City in 1952, which Ms. Powell says was a year still influenced by the 1940s. “… 1952 is not the Fifties people think of because it still looks like the Forties. It is a transitional period, so the silhouette was going from the wide-shouldered look of the Forties to the more streamlined look of the Fifties, so it was really really exciting to do.”

Ms. Blanchett’s character, Carol,  is a wealthy woman who enjoys fashion so luxuries abound in fur coats, leather gloves, and pearls. Interesting choices were made, such as putting Carol in “sack” dresses a less girly alternative to Dior’s New Look, and the use of rich muted colors.

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A little side story – my friend, Helen Uffner runs her own costume shop in Queens, NY. She provides costume pieces to many Hollywood designers as well as for Saturday Night Live and stage productions. She has worked with Sandy Powell a number of times providing costumes for films, including Carol. Helen says:

It so happened that this vintage, heavy 40s beaver coat was originally mine, one of my earliest vintage buys that hung in my closet for decades. It was so heavy and took up so much room I brought it to work.

We actually took a photo of Sandy trying it on and exclaiming this was exactly what she had in mind and exactly the style and shoulders and size and color she envisioned for her actress and it made her day! So it went from my closet to Sarah Paulson’ s shoulders!

You can catch Helen’s vintage fur coat in the car scene when Sarah Paulson (Carol’s friend Abby) in a NYC car scene.


Great story Helen, thank you!

Congratulations to Sandy Powell for her double nomination.

Check back tomorrow and read about Paco Delgado costumer designer for The Danish Girl.

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A young Edith Head before she developed her iconic look. This was probably a photo taken by Paramount Pictures for whom she worked from 1924 to 1967.

Just after Dior brought out the New Look, every film I had done in the past few months looked like something from the bread lines … I vowed I would never get caught by a fashion trend again … When skirts became full, I widened mine gradually. If lengths were at the ankle, mine were mid-calf. The result has been that if you look at my films it is very difficult to date them.

– Edith Head (1897-1981), legendary film costume designer and eight-time Academy Award winner for Best Costume Design. Her last win was in 1973 for The Sting.

In the run-up to the Academy Awards ceremony this Sunday, February 28th OverDressed will have a new post every day this week, giving readers a little tidbit on each nominated costume designer this year.

Check back tomorrow and read about Sandy Powell, costume designer for Carol and Cinderella.

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Hey readers, please make sure to tune in next week for the usual Monday Fashionable Quote of the Week and then starting Tuesday, check back for a special daily installment on the four Oscar nominees for Best Costume: Sandy Powell (Carol & Cinderella), Paco Delgado (The Danish Girl), Jenny Beavan (Mad Max: Fury Road), Jacqueline West (The Revenant).

Don’t miss it!



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ginger-rogers-costume… Ginger wore one of the most expensive costumes in Hollywood history. It has come to be known as the Mink Dress, but actually it was a mink over-skirt which was lined with sequins, worn over a matching sequined bodysuit. There was also a mink bolero and muff. It cost about $35,000 to make in those days and couldn’t be made today without a limitless wardrobe budget.

– Edith Head (1879-1981) Hollywood costume designer.

Ms. Head is speaking about the costume she designed for Ginger Rogers in the 1944 film, Lady in the Dark.

Today’s quote is from the book Edith Head’s Hollywood by Edith Head and Paddy Calistro (Angel City Press, 2008). A reprint of Ms. Head’s autobiography, this edition celebrated the 25th anniversary of the original posthumous publication in 1983 by Knopf.

In her autobiography, Ms. Head discusses all her films in detail and provides additional tidbits and insights to old Hollywood. Co-author Ms. Calistro is a fashion journalist and considered among the leading authorities on Edith Head. As a publisher of City Angel Press she reprinted Ms. Head’s book with an expanded photo section.



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It’s been some time since we’ve popped into Mom’s Closet. This visit is all about the carpet bag clutch:


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Tatum O'Neal won Best Support Actress in 1974 for her portrayal in Paper Moon.

Tatum O’Neal won Best Supporting Actress in 1974 for her performance in Paper Moon.

I’m a big believer that style is important, and I have been in love with fashion my entire life. What you wear is who you are, I’m afraid, and I’ve believed that from the time I wore a tuxedo to the Oscars at age 10.

– Tatum O’Neal, American actress.

Ms. O’Neal is the youngest actress ever to receive an Academy Award and at ten-years-old she was also very into fashion. She says she was inspired by Bianca Jagger, her dad’s (Ryan O’Neal) girlfriend at the time. Ms. Jagger sported suits with boots and a cane, which young O’Neal thought was super cool and so, she did something similar for the Academy Awards.

What a charming story.


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