Frocktalk reporters Kim Ngo and Hannah Greene spoke with FIDM’s Registrar Meghan Hansen at the big Art of Motion Picture Costume Design gala. Meghan is the one responsible for the installation of this beautiful exhibition, and here’s what she had to say!
Meghan Hansen, FIDM Registrar
MH: I am Meghan Hansen, I am the museum registrar and I am in charge of the installation of the costumes today so I can give you the inside scoop. We have a 110 mannequins and I think 22 films, although I haven’t counted since we’ve finished. We went with a theme of the classical style because we had so many films that were either Greek, Roman or historical epics so you see some beautiful pieces that are museum stock curated that are put together to convey the idea.
FT: How did you choose the costumes that are represented in this exhibit?
MH: We start from the first of the year, we’re already starting on next year’s exhibit. We keep an eye out on the films that are coming out and look for potential Academy Award Nominees.
FT: How are the individual costumes in each film chosen for the exhibit? Do you personally request a particular costume or do the costume designers pick which pieces to be exhibited?
MH: Yes, sometimes. We get an early start on contacting the costume designers, studios, production offices, and pretty much anyone we can get in touch with who knows about the film and the costumes because production company, every studio, every film goes about it a little differently. It’s very much like a jigsaw puzzle to put it all together. We’re on the look out for interesting costumes whether it be modern, historical, or any period films that are the big screen that year.
FT: So do you study costume as well?
MH: I study historic fashion primarily, but also looking at costume design and how designers go to historic clothing and come up with ideas. In this case of The Last Airbender, this would be ethnographic clothing as well as fashion. I’ve never been a designer myself but it’s really interesting to peak at the process of how things go from a concept to what you see on screen. It is especially interesting to see the details in these costumes (The Last Airbender) that you would never see on screen because they tend to focus either here or here (gestures medium shots and wide shots). We present an unique opportunity to see the entire costume.
MH: Burlesque is our sparkliest! It’s quite lovely. Michael Kaplan is the designer, he is in Vancouver working on a show right now, but he came by before we finished so he was able to give his input. That is always really valuable to get their full vision for us to accomplish the look as best as possible.
FT: How many designers exhibited here were able to give their input?
MH: I would say somewhere between a quarter and a half because they’re all so busy especially with Academy Award season, there is a lot of pressure on their time. However we definitely get a lot of input. If they are out of town and really interested, we’ll send photographs to give us the “okay.” There’s always the challenge of the mannequins because we only have so many shapes and sizes available in the market. For example the Burlesque costumes for Christina Aguilera, she of course has the most detailed and varied costumes in the film and the green dress in particular was really hard to dress on the mannequin! She’s much taller than the mannequins we choose, so we have this challenge to find the right mannequin this way (length) and this way (width). We don’t get the height quite right, but you’ll have to forgive us, we work on it as best we can.
MH: We’ve got quite a few 20th century historic films. Here we have Shutter Island, designed by Sandy Powell who was the Academy Award winner last year for The Young Victoria that you’ll see at the end. I think this is really interesting because she is known for her historic epic types of costumes and this is a little more contemporary and you see her color palette is just so precise.
FT: Yes, even the little details in pattern in the jacket.
MH: Yes, there’s a very light red window pane pattern to it, it’s very interesting.
FT: So does FIDM dress the mannequins?
MH: Yes, but there are a few that we don’t. In some cases certain costumes are archived at the studio. For instance with Universal, certain hero costumes from certain films, their staff comes out because they are trained in mounting historic costumes. Other interesting sections in our exhibit are Robin Hood and Alice in Wonderland.
Thank you so much, Meghan, for your beautiful work on this exhibit. You make all of us look good. Thank you Kim Ngo for the wonderful interview!