By Lauren Fonville
The gala opening of the 7th annual Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design wowed this reporter at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in downtown L.A. on Saturday evening. Attendees strolled among 120 costumes from 15 television shows representing the crème de la crème in TV costume design.
Guests were greeted by Sansa Stark’s sweeping, intricately embroidered wedding dress flanked by “Game of Thrones”’ Lannisters, Tyrells and Tullys. “Game”’s fellow costume-design primetime Emmy nominees “Downton Abbey” was represented in all of its Edwardian elegance and “Behind the Candelabra’”s costumes flat-out bedazzled in head-to-toe sequins and furs.
Exhibit curator and President of the Costume Designers’ Guild Mary Rose included many shows in the exhibit that may not have landed Emmy nods for costume design, but are nonetheless groundbreaking. “Smash”’s exhibit was a smash with extravagant wardrobe from two Broadway shows-within-a-show, “Bombshell” and “Liaisons the Musical.”
“It was great fun doing the show and to see it mounted this nicely is really a pleasure,” said “Smash” costume designer Joseph G. Aulisi.
Delightful surprises were around every corner, including one of my favorite costumes from the 2013 TV season, Leslie Knope’s DIY newspaper wedding dress from “Parks and Recreation.” Seeing Knope’s crafty number a few feet away from Lady Mary Crawley’s delicate, drop-waist, pearl and Swarovski crystal-encrusted wedding gown from “Downton Abbey” emphasized the broad scope of costume design on TV today.
Mary Rose said her objective is to educate the general public about such diversity in the art of costume design. “I want people to understand what we do,” Rose told Frocktalk. “In my first interview this year, the interviewer asked, ‘Why do you have shows that really don’t have costumes?’ I said, ‘Excuse me, everything is a costume once it’s on screen.’ It’s not just about pretty dresses. Especially this year. I really ventured from that because television is rapidly changing.”
Rose said it was important to include the sleek modern suits and evening wear from Netflix’s “House of Cards,” an unexpected Emmy favorite, and other contemporary costumes like Olivia Pope’s polished looks on “Scandal” and Hannah Horvath’s now-iconic yellow mesh top from “Girls.”
Betsey Potter, costume designer and member of the Television Academy’s board of governors, said the exhibit highlights the large role costuming plays in filmmaking. “We are always talking about costuming as storytelling. The minute you see the costumes they tell you a whole lot about who the characters are. We’re always trying to educate the people. So, whether it’s contemporary, fantasy, historical it’s still telling a story. And costuming cuts to the storyline really quickly. People seem to forget that sometimes.”
Friend of Frocktalk, “Behind the Candelabra” costume designer Ellen Mirojinick, said she watched the announcement of her Emmy nomination in New York with “Candelabra” production designer Howard Cummings. “Steven [Soderbergh] was awarded four nominations, which is brilliant. We read our names and were so excited. We were texting everybody. The show got 15 nominations. We couldn’t have been happier.”
“It was like Lee [Liberace] sat on our shoulders and guided it along the way,” she said of making the HBO film. “It was a lot of work in a very short time and not a lot of money, but there wasn’t a hiccup. There was another guiding force at work, I’m sure of it.”
To see more photos from the event, visit the Frocktalk FLICKR account!
Devotees of costume design should guide themselves to FIDM right away to check out the exhibit in person. The Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design runs July 30 to October 19. Museum hours are 10 am to 5 pm Tuesday through Saturday. Admission is free. FIDM Museum and Galleries are located at 919 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90015.