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! **

22nd Art of Motion Picture Costume Design Gala at FIDM!

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Man of Steel Superman suit. Costume designers James Acheson and Michael Wilkinson.

Last night was the big opening gala for FIDM’s 22nd annual “Art of Motion Picture Costume Design” exhibition.  Frocktalk contributor Lauren Fonville and I tore it up – chatting with designers and ooh-ing and aah-ing over the many beautiful works of costume art on display. The exhibit showcased costumes from twenty-one films of 2013, as well as last year’s Oscar winner, ‘Anna Karenina’.

Eleven of the films on display are of the fantasy/futuristic persuasion, and it was interesting to see them grouped together. Their thematic elements, color, texture and silhouettes were remarkably harmonious, if not similar.  If our future really ends up looking like this, we are in for some good times.

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Star Trek: Into Darkness costume designed by Michael Kaplan

For all of you Cumberbiatches, here is the KHAN costume from ‘Star Trek: Into Darkness,’ designed by Michael Kaplan. Since it’s leather, it’s probably not been cleaned, so there still may be a bit of Benedict Cumberbatch’s residual essence on the garment. Distract the security guard for just a second, and you might be able to sniff it.  Just kidding.  Don’t sniff it.

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After Earth costume designed by Amy Westcott

Some really interesting suits from ‘After Earth’, designed by Amy Westcott.  The details in these suits are incredible.  It looks like a lot of work – and the color palette is beautiful.

THOR costume designed by Wendy Partridge

THOR costume designed by Wendy Partridge

The costumes from ‘Thor’ are lovely, too – lots of fantasy element, metal work, and intricate trimming details.  The custom dye-work on the fabric was beautiful.  Costumes designed by Wendy Partridge.

Hansel & Gretl: Witch Hunters costume designed by Marlene Stewart

Hansel & Gretl: Witch Hunters costume designed by Marlene Stewart

‘Hansel & Gretl: Witch Hunters’ was nice to see included here.  Heavy on the fantasy element, the costumes were designed by costume legend Marlene Stewart. The witch dresses are particularly interesting, with all kinds of weird and fun details happening  – really hope you can see this with your own eyes – it’s awesome.

Oz, the Great and Powerful costume designed by Gary Jones

Oz, the Great and Powerful costume designed by Gary Jones

One of the biggest surprises of this awards season is the lack of attention given to the costume design in ‘Oz, the Great and Powerful’.  It’s stunning, and definitely worthy of praise! Costume designer Gary Jones has done such beautiful work, and in prep and shooting, this movie was the talk of the town, costume-wise.  All the details are attended to here – it’s lovely to see in person and close-up.

American Hustle costume designed by Michael Wilkinson

American Hustle costume designed by Michael Wilkinson

The exhibit turns more realistic, in a sense, as we get to designer Michael Wilkinson’s chef d’oeuvre ‘American Hustle’. I had a moment to catch up with him, and we are planning a big epic breakfast interview for your reading pleasure in the next few weeks!  I love him so – he is a dear man and such a talented designer.

Lee Daniels' The Butler costume by Ruth E. Carter

Lee Daniels’ The Butler costume designed by Ruth E. Carter

Ruth Carter’s work on ‘Lee Daniels’ The Butler’ featured the fabulous black and white jumpsuits from the film, along with the famed titular butler’s tuxedo.  Here we see one of the beautiful dresses she made for Oprah Winfrey as Gloria Gaines, with the Jacqueline Kennedy costume for Minka Kelly peeking over her shoulder.

And this is where my camera died.  The rest of these pics are with my phone!

The Great Gatsby costume designed by Catherine Martin

The Great Gatsby costume designed by Catherine Martin

‘The Great Gatsby’ was in full effect, with suits (including Leo/Gatsby’s pink suit) and gorgeous women’s wear by designer Catherine Martin. This simple, chic, capelet-ed number, however, is my favorite. Look at that hat. The elegance and simplicity of this costume is powerful.

12 Years a Slave costumes by Patricia Norris

12 Years a Slave costumes designed by Patricia Norris

Designer Patricia Norris’ work from ’12 Years a Slave’ is here, too – though my favorite dress (worn by Patsy/Lupita Nyong’o) with the delicate floral print was sadly not included (I still weep for you, Patsy!!). You can see the beautiful fabrics here, close up and in person, and observe the age/tech artistry that went in to making these garments look so worn and old.  Lovely.

The Invisible Woman costume by Michael O'Connor

The Invisible Woman costume designed by Michael O’Connor

Very visible indeed are the costumes from ‘The Invisible Woman’, from designer Michael O’Connor. The fabrics are lovely, and in addition to the ladies’ dresses (which, like the one pictured here, are rich with detail), the men’s ensembles are particularly dashing. I missed this film in theaters, but hopefully will be able to see it on DVD soon!

The Grandmaster costume by William Chang

The Grandmaster costume designed by William Chang

‘The Grandmaster’, Wong Kar Wai’s epic tale of Chinese Kung Fu dynasties, has only two costumes in this exhibit, but check this out – it is flat-out gorgeous.  I know that this picture isn’t doing it justice, but the embroidery and trimming on this dress is extraordinary.  Designer William Chang goes for broke with this film – spanning 1936 – 1952, with hundreds and hundreds of background, it’s a real accomplishment.

47 Ronin costume by Penny Rose

47 Ronin costumes designed by Penny Rose

Just about anything designer Penny Rose does turns out beautifully… so it is no surprise, therefore, that the costumes for ’47 Ronin’ are stunning. Look at the colors, the embroidery, the fabrics – it’s lovely. I’m sorry that the film wasn’t more widely seen – the costumes are truly breathtaking, in particular the Rinko Kikuchi witch costume (not pictured here) – the pleating and the piecing of the bodice are amazing.

Saving Mr. Banks costumes by Daniel Orlandi

Saving Mr. Banks costumes designed by Daniel Orlandi

‘Saving Mr. Banks’ was well represented here for both the 1960s and the 1910s periods in the film. Designer Daniel Orlandi was in the house last night, and I sure hope he is as proud of his work as we all are appreciative of it. The fabrics, cut and colors used in these costumes bring the story to life – it’s gorgeous.

Too beautiful!

Too beautiful!

As we made our way out of the exhibit, we stopped in to the Helen Larson gallery to check out what’s on exhibit there… wedding gowns!  Just in time for Valentine’s day, naturally.  Look at this late-19th-century stunner.  The beading is exquisite, and all of these dresses are in absolutely perfect condition.  It seems impossible that they are all so well-preserved, as some of the gowns date to the early 1800s.  There is a bonnet with blue flowers that is worth a drool or two, and a fabulous wedding gown trimmed with swan’s-down that is just unbelievable. Head-spinning!

The Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibit opens to the public on Tuesday, February 11, and runs through April 26th.  If you are in town, you should really see it.  Gallery hours are Tuesday – Saturday, 10A – 5P at FIDM: 919 S. Grand Ave., LA 90015 (213) 623-5821 fidmmuseum.org  Big thanks to FIDM for hosting such a fun event celebrating our work.  We all really appreciate it.

Enjoy, everyone!  Don’t forget that ballots for the CDG awards are due on Friday, February 14!

– KMB

 

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