“Nothing is random. Everything in the frame is designed to tell one story.”
Film Radar looks at the ways costume designers help create characters and tell stories – and how their job requires a deep understanding of both:
- Script Analysis – getting inside the head of the character, to “set the time and the place”, as described by Daniel Orlandi, through wardrobe.
- Conversations with Director – Costume design is “a true collaboration,” says Deborah Nadoolman Landis, for which “the screenplay has clues” which should prompt several discussions.
- Research – pulling from reality, and in particular understanding how and why something is designed a certain way, in order to better collaborate with other departments (eg hair & makeup)
- Sketches – Michael Wilkinson notes that the camera’s ability to zoom in and show “little clues about who these characters are” means those “little details” take on big importance.
- Production – on big-budget films especially, outfits are manufactured: from multiple takes, to bringing authenticity to a scene, to helping an actor to create their performance.
Now You See It looks at one particular type of costume design:
As Henry Wilkinson observes, while it’s not uncommon for Hollywood and haute couture to meet nowadays, when it began in the 1950s, it was revolutionary – and its watershed moment was the meeting of two breakout stars in their respective worlds, Hubert de Givenchy collaborating with muse Audrey Hepburn:
Oscar-winning costume designer Ruth Carter (Malcolm X, Selma, Roots) explains the storytelling that went into her “feast for the eyes” in Black Panther (2018):
“Piero Tosi died last week and it made me really sad. he was one of the first to understand how staying close to history can actually make the film costumes fascinating, not boring,” writes Karolina Żebrowska about her parody of what she sees as “mainstream cinema” [being] all about ‘making things relatable for the modern viewer'”: