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Posts Tagged ‘costume design’

Dora Milaje costume designed by Ruth E. Carter. Black Panther movie, 2018. Part of Mothership: Voyage into Afrofuturism exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California.

Afrofuturism was the closest we came to following a model that was out there already … I rooted myself in fashion and a lot of times, fashion in its simplicity, can have a forward feel to it.

Ruth E. Carter, American costume designer.

This quote is from a Q&A Ms. Carter did with Forbes magazine in 2018.

Having costumed over 40 films, including Malcom X and Amistad, Ms. Carter has been nominated three times for an Academy Award. In 2019 she was the first African American to win for her work on the Marvel blockbuster film, Black Panther.

Return to ODFL tomorrow for my coverage of the current Oakland Museum of California exhibition, Mothership: Voyage into Afrofuturism.

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Helen Uffner Vintage Clothing. Photo: Richard Aiello.

Helen Uffner is well-known around NYC and Hollywood for having the best old duds. She runs her own business renting period clothing and accessories for theater productions, films, television, magazine editorials, and book covers. 

I met Helen over hats in 2013 at the reception opening for the Milliner’s Guild exhibition. When I mentioned that I write about fashion and have a fondness for vintage, she generously invited my partner and me to her warehouse.

We stayed in touch and I remember that in 2018 Helen had to move her collection of fabulous vintage/antique clothing to a new space. That was no easy feat! Now she faces another eviction as her warehouse is getting knocked down for a residential high-rise. Still, she presses on.

Read more about Helen and how important she is to costumers from coast to coast:

https://nypost.com/2021/04/12/helen-uffners-private-vintage-collection-outfits-hollywood/

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Barbara Jefford as Lady Lydia Eliott. Note Lydia’s collar, reminiscent of the 17th century Ruff.

She spends all that money on clothes and she still manages to look cheap. No doubt her latest young man tells her bad taste is all the rage.

Lady Lydia Eliott, fictional character played by Barbara Jefford in the British television series The House of Eliott.

A little “mean girl” humor.

The House of Eliott is one of my all time favorite British series. Created by Eileen Atkins and Jean Marsh (Upstairs Downstairs), it features two sisters who face hardships as independent women fashion designers in 1920s London. I own the entire series on DVD and I watch it when I’m feeling low or just need an escape. Of course I pulled it out in Pandemic Year 2020 and that’s when I happened to catch this funny line.

I’m quite fond of Lady Lydia. She’s so biting, she’s hilarious, and Ms. Jefford is wonderful at balancing the cattiness of Lydia with her vulnerability. I think a good snooty character is great fun.

Click here for another post I wrote on The House of Eliott.

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Last week Nick Verreos, FIDM, Design co-chair, and Kevin Jones, FIDM Museum Curator, hosted a Zoom talk with Ellen Mirojnick, costume designer of the period drama television show, Bridgerton.

This Netflix production is based on the Regency romance novels by Julia Quinn. I haven’t read the books or seen the series, although I did watch enough on YouTube to get the idea. It was my general interest in the costuming that prompted me to tune into the discussion.

Ms. Mirojnick was quick to say that they never intended the costumes to be period accurate, but that Bridgerton “needed to be a bonnet-less world.” The ethos of the production was a “heightened reality.” I gather that there has been a lot of criticism, including quite a bit popping up on Zoom Chat during the talk.

In the first season there were 6000 costumes, all custom-made by the staff of 230. Every character, even background characters, wore bespoke costumes created in the UK. Ms. Mirojnick commented that Americans sadly just don’t have the hand crafting/sewing skills needed for a project like this.

She used the empire silhouette common in the Regency era for women, but she designed fuller gowns allowing for fluidity and ease of movement. She favored layering with lace and embroidered light fabrics. The colors are vivid pinks and purples accented with sparkly jewels. It’s all intentionally over-the-top, like thick gobs of frosting on a sheet cake. The Regency era was more subtle with only touches of embroidery and lace and small pieces of jewelry, if any.

Ms. Mirojnick said that getting the jewels was the biggest challenge. Every piece was hand crafted for each character. “The jewelry was meant to be the period at the end of the sentence of who the character was.” The corsets were handmade by corset master Mr. Pearl and the actresses weren’t too keen on having to wear them.

Although not period accurate, the costumes are still interesting and I enjoyed hearing some of the inside scoop on how they’re created.

Thank you FIDM!

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Lady Sybil Crawley (Jessica Brown Findlay) shockingly sports Harem Pants, in season one of  Downton Abbey, 1913.  I think of  Paul Poiret, who was cutting edge in fashion design at the time. Costumes by Susannah Buxton.

Many people won’t realise that it can take six or seven specialist skills to create a costume, often including millinery, corsetry and tailoring. We might have five or six fittings if it’s a complicated costume and each piece can take at least a week to complete, depending on the intricacy of the design.  

Susannah Buxton – British costume designer. This quote is from an interview with Selvegde magazine. (The Brits spell realize with an s.)

Ms. Buxton has been working in costume design for 30 years having won many awards including a BAFTA and an Emmy. She’s known for her work in television PBS shows such as Downton Abbey and Poldark.

She is also one of the co-founders of Costume Symposium –  three days of lecturers and workshops for costumers and students. Masters in their craft teach workshops on making corsets, embroidery, millinery, gloves and more.  Ms. Buxton says as her generation retires these necessary tools of the trade are dying out and resources for teaching such are limited. She wants to help pass along these skills and techniques to the next generation.

The annual event is new since 2018 and has so far been held during the fall in different locations around the UK. Because of the pandemic, this year has been cancelled but there are plans for spring 2021. Click here for more information. 

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A costume for Princess Margaret played by Vanessa Kirby in The Crown.  Hand-embroidered and beaded floral appliques with the unexpected pockets. 

The exhibition examines costumes from public and private moments depicted in the show … People are clearly captivated by the coronation robes and regalia, and they have enjoyed the wedding dresses – replicas of both Princess Elizabeth’s and Princess Margaret’s. But our visitor’s survey indicates that Princess Margaret’s hand-painted and beaded gown with the pockets is a strong favorite. 

Kim Collison – exhibitions manager at Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library in Delaware.

Ms. Collison is speaking to Victoria magazine of Costuming The Crown, the current exhibit on at Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library. On view are 40 costumes from the popular Netflix series, which fictionalizes the life of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest reigning monarch.

 

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IMG_20190828_120037I get a lot of fashion press on the shows I design, and journalists always ask what the brands are, so I always point out that it is not about the brands, it is about the pieces I combine to make an outfit and a character. We need to take control of the narrative. This is one of the reasons I feel we need to embrace social media, so we are part of the story, not a side note. 

Salvador Perez, award winning costume designer and president of the Costume Designers Guild, Local 892-I.A.T.S.E.

Mr. Perez has costumed many a television series including The Mindy Project, Veronica Mars, and Moonlight.

I agree that costume designers should be acknowledged for their work. But I see that it’s confusing to laypeople when costuming isn’t always about building costumes. Often these days, particularly with contemporary costuming, costumers are actually assembling outfits off the rack. When they use recognizable brands, that’s what’s going to get the attention, not necessarily how the outfits were put together or who did it. People don’t really understand what goes into costuming and that the choices designers make, from color to silhouette to accessories, all reflect the character. It’s detailed. It’s complicated.

 

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The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

 

Speaking of costumes, the Emmy Awards are coming up on September 14th. In the period costume category nominees include Donna Zakowska for We’re Going to the Catskills episode of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel on Prime Video and Melissa Toth for Life is a Cabaret in the Fosse/Verdon series on FX Networks.

 

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Fosse/Verdon

 

Any favorites?

 

 

 

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IMG_20180721_171347There are days when I feel like I can’t come up with a single good idea, but I find ways to get inspired – I have to get past my fear of failure! I go to a costume house and start touching the fabrics, the feathers, the beads. Sometimes, none of it makes any sense to me. TV pace is just so fast, I just keep moving through it and then all of a sudden it’s done, and I say “Wait. We did that?” 

Lou Eyrich – American costume designer in Hollywood. This quote is from a Q&A with The Costume Designer, the official magazine of the Costume Designers Guild, Local 892.

Ms. Eyrich is known for her costumes in television. She’s worked on American Horror Story, Glee, and Asylum.

I admire Eyrich’s ability to keep the creativity going under such time constraints and pressure. What do you do when you need inspiration?

Long walks work for me when I hit a writing block. If I want to start a sewing project, I often begin with fabric. I find a fabric that I like and look for the silhouette that best suits the fabric (and me of course).

For longer term general inspiration – museums, books, old movies, travel!

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debra-photoThe costume designer dresses somebody from the inside out. We care about what kind of underwear they’re wearing. It’s really important when you’re dressing somebody for a film to kind of think about what they’re wearing after they take their shower; what’s the process; what goes on underneath; what makes sense. And it’s a real internal process. The process of fashion is completely external. It’s disposable. It’s changeable. 

Debra McGuire, Hollywood costume designer.

Ms. McGuire is the go-to costume designer for television. Most recently she has designed for Fresh off the Boat, New Girl, and Speechless. From 1994-2004 her main designing gig was Friends.  She has worked on many a film as well. including Knocked Up and Righteous Kill.

 

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nipar-bonnie-370wNot a believer in idle hands, my grandmother presented me with a small sewing box when I was nine years old. She taught me rudimentary hand stitching, cross-stitch, embroidery, and how to darn holes in socks. Soon, I was making clothing for my dolls out of her old aprons. A year later, she announced we would move on to the sewing machine. I felt a thrill of adventure as she pulled down the hideaway ladder in the upstairs hallway and we climbed to the attic sewing room, complete with a large cutting table, bins of fabric and patterns, and nestled close to a dormer window, an old Singer sewing machine with a knee pedal. This room became my haven growing up. My grandmother was the first person to recognize my passion for clothing and design, and foster my creativity. I will always be grateful to her for teaching me how to sew.

Bonnie Nipar, Hollywood costume designer.

Ms. Nipar shared her story with the recent edition of The Costume Designer (the official magazine of the Costume Designers Guild, Local 892). Her work can be seen on television shows Grace Under Fire, Dharma & Greg, and recently Are You There, Chelsea?

 

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