Welcome to FrockTalk, the web’s only costume-based movie review site. The goal of Frocktalk is to shed light on the magnificent artistry of costume design in motion pictures. Reviews on this site are written by working costume designers in the entertainment industry – people who know, better than anyone, what it takes to make it all happen. The focus of FrockTalk is not to comment on the big flashy costume dramas, but to call attention to the seemingly ordinary costume design work in film that silently and persuasively moves the audience toward understanding the characters. Costume design for motion pictures is an art form that deserves more recognition than it usually gets. Fancy, pretty costumes do not always equal effective, appropriate costumes. The art of the costume is in letting the audience know who the character is, before the actor even has a chance to open his mouth. Read on, and enjoy. ** CAUTION: ALL REVIEWS CONTAIN SPOILERS! **

Black Friday Special: Ten Holiday Gift Ideas for Costume Types

It’s Black Friday; let the shopping madness begin!! So, let’s say you need to get a holiday gift for your favorite costume-type. And by costume-type, I mean: costume designer, costumer, tailor, aspiring designer, or mini-designer (meaning: adolescent). The gift possibilities are practically endless, but I have cut through some of the crap in an attempt to make it easy for you. Click on the bolded links for purchasing info!

In no particular order, here are ten good ideas:

Set Bag ($90). Available locally at costume houses like CRC, or for those out of town, online.

The set bag (also known as “ditty” bag) is an especially good gift for an aspiring costume designer or costumer. Most of us who have been in the business for a while already have a set bag, but for a newcomer, it’s a particularly thoughtful gift. Additionally, they last forever (mine has lasted almost twenty years), and they seem to expand like magic to fit whatever you put in them. A must-have for the film/TV costume person.

Floor Steamer ($150). Available locally at costume houses like CRC, or for those out of town, online.

While not the most romantic gift out there, this one will likely get your costumer hooting and hollering. If your costume-type is a practical person, s/he will jump out of their socks for this gift. A new steamer for a costumer is equivalent to a new bicycle for a kid. It’s useful, it’s sleek, and it makes everyone look good! Just don’t put playing cards in its spokes. A typical steamer’s life span is about 12 – 13 years with regular use, so it is a good investment indeed.

Sewing Machine/Serger (from $99 to $800). Available at your local fabric store.

If one is involved in the construction of garments, one can never have too many sewing machines. I am NOT a big advocate of expensive, computerized machines. All you really need is forward, backward, zigzag and buttonhole. That’s it. You do not need a computer in the machine; you do not need a stitch that looks like Mickey Mouse ears. Generally more bells and whistles = more stuff that will break. You don’t need a fancy machine. As far as sergers go, the same logic applies. Simpler is better. You might even be lucky enough to get a free SEWING LESSON or two with your purchase, which your costume type would truly enjoy!!

And here is a picture of a serger.  Sigh.  Serger love.

Good, Expensive Blood (from $20 to $80). Available online only.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but there is nothing as singularly satisfying as applying good fake blood on a white t-shirt. No one makes better costume blood than the MAE-KUP line. It comes from the UK, so order now in time to get it for a holiday gift. The Mae-Kup brand has an extensive array of blood products – check out the website at makeup provisions to see the entire line. It is expensive, but it is worth every penny. It doesn’t turn pink when it gets wet, and it washes out. It is like, the sangre sagrado y milagroso of your dreams!! And it makes a perfect gift for a costume type, especially if they are into violent movies and/or vampires.

Dress Form (starting at $50 for vintage/shabby to $700 for new). Available at fabric stores, or online.

A dress form is the quintessential symbol for clothing and costume design. Dress forms range wildly in quality and price. You can find flimsy, horrible display forms AND super-high-quality Wolf dress forms on eBay. You can sometimes find a nice, shabby chic dress form in a thrift store or vintage store and talk your way into a bargain. Remember that each period in fashion has its own silhouette, and dress forms were designed to reflect this fashion. If your costume-type has a favorite period in fashion (let’s say, like the 1920s or the 1950s), you might look for a dress form from that period. This would blow his/her mind. Some of these are rare and highly sought-after from a collecting standpoint (for example, children’s dress forms, and turn-of-the-century women’s dress forms). However, if you are simply looking for a utilitarian dress form (adjustable, even), you will have no trouble finding one on the website above or even at your neighborhood fabric store. If your costume-type is a purist, make sure you get a Wolf dress form.  They are considered the best in the business.

Jewelry ($20 – $65). These pieces available online

Measuring Tape Rings

Scissor Earrings

Scissor Necklace

A little bit kitschy, and a little bit funky, these jewelry pieces are representative of our art form. This is a relatively inexpensive gift idea that would make a huge impression on the costume-type in your life. I was given one of these tape measure rings years ago and I wear it every day. It’s subtle, it’s funky, and it’s cute. Done.

Gift Certificate for Paints and Art Supplies




This is a no-brainer. We all love to create art. Many of us are crafters4lyfe. A gift certificate to the art store will always get used quickly by a costume-type. And you get to decide how much it costs, which is brilliant. There are many locally owned art stores in LA (like Graphaids) and there are surely a few in your neighborhood. I would always recommend supporting the local guys first. However, if you live in the sticks or can’t get out of your house, Blick or Utrecht are excellent alternative options.

Gift Certificate to Fabric Store

In LA: International Silks and Woolens, F & S Fabrics, Michael Levine Fabrics, Diamond Foam and Fabric.

ONLINE: Crafty Planet

Ditto the fabric store idea. Every single one of us has something we’d like to do at the fabric store. Give us an excuse, any excuse. I recommend the above LA fabric stores if you are local here, or (as a very nice alternative) I recommend Crafty Planet (out of Minnesota) for their whimsical fabrics and easy-to-navigate website. Even if you live in the middle of nowhere, you will be able to shop these fabrics like you were in the store. Save yourself from the likes of the WalMart fabric aisle!!! There is HELP, friends!

Thank you Amanda S. - future Frocktalker!

Thank you Amanda S. - future Frocktalker!

Lucky Magazine ($9.97 for 12 issues) www.luckymag.com/

This is the greatest magazine of all time. Why? Because it is all about shopping. And if shopping were ever to be an Olympic sport, the gold medalists would all be costumers. It is what we do. It is why we get up in the morning. Lucky magazine is our Sports Illustrated. It’s an inexpensive but very thoughtful gift, one that keeps on giving, month after month.

Vintage Photographs (prices vary). Available at various locations, or online.

Vintage photographs, or “found images” as they are sometimes known, are windows into lives we have never led. These photographs can be found at flea markets, antique stores, vintage shops, and sometimes in even stranger places like bookstores and coffee shops. Found photographs can be hit or miss. I have purchased some that have knocked my socks off – families on vacation in Antigua in 1962, Christmas with the hated in-laws in 1974, young women in Berlin in the 1950s – while tossing many more back into the bin. If you have the patience to pick through a pile and scrounge a bit, you can find some gems that your costume-type will love. Look for great clothing, good characters and good photography. This is a charming, thoughtful gift that does not have to be expensive.

I could add a hundred other things to this list, like a really nice pair of Gingher scissors, or the Mophie Juice Pack for the iPhone , or any number of great BOOKS ABOUT COSTUME DESIGN, but I will stick to the top ten to keep it simple. Good luck out there today, troops! I will be thinking of you as I do NOTHING related to shopping… because hey, my shopping is already done. Gold Medal Olympian, yes I am.


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