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! **

Costume, Character, and Games.

The Saboteur, video game by Pandemic. Costume designer: Kristin M. Burke

The Saboteur, video game by Pandemic. Costume designer: Kristin M. Burke

I’ve been doing a lot of research for the upcoming season of Sleepy Hollow, and I have to say – it’s giving me a lot of pause.  I have spoken before at length about the difference between costume, wardrobe, fashion and all of that.  Cliff’s Notes:  We are not the fashion police, and please don’t refer to us as “Wardrobe”.  At the end of the day, our work is about designing characters, and specifically the clothing that becomes the costume that tells the story about the character.

Sometimes when my work world gets really uncool/nutty, I fantasize about other career paths into which I could make a transition.  One of the career paths that consistently beckons me is video game design.  And – disclaimer – I did help design the character of Sean Devlin in Pandemic’s game “Saboteur” way back in 2006.  It was awesome to work with Pandemic – they were so respectful, and they gave me what I needed, no questions asked, in order for me to do my job.   Everyone there was seriously respectful and bright – the team of artists they had assembled for this particular game were of an unbelievable talent level.  I’d never seen anything like it.

They were utilizing concept artists for the game – something I had never seen before.  These guys were unbelievable illustrators – able to make anything look dramatic, moody, scary, wrecked – it was comic book drawing taken to a higher level, using computer programs to generate illustrations so dimensional and so real, you’d think they were photos.  It was breathtaking.

And yet they had hired me, a costume designer, to come up with a sartorial concept for this character.  They didn’t hire an illustrator; they hired a costume designer, someone with an understanding of fabric and movement, and perhaps most importantly, character.  It was a cool assignment, for sure – I took the team to a costume house and we tried garments on our model.  I researched personal props, fabrics, textures, and all kinds of things, much like I do for films and TV. And I thought about this character’s world, his back-story, and all of the painful, strange and violent things that happened to him on his journey.  It was awesome.  And I didn’t even have to worry about getting garments into production, or whether the actor had a personal preference for a certain shade of green – the character was something we were inventing from the ground up, and he didn’t talk back.  My God.

Alpine

Alpine Climber, the game. Way back when.

I am not a gamer.  Not even by a longshot.  I played the occasional Pac-Man, Caterpillar and Dig Dug at the pizza parlor/arcade in my hometown, but that was about it.  When I was a girl, we had an old game console hooked up to our TV where my brother and I spent days playing “Alpine Climber” on an old 8-bit system.  Looking back, it was pretty pathetic, but it seemed cool at the time.  Some people are bitten by the gaming bug and it sticks.  Not me – I was bitten by the sewing bug.  By the storytelling bug.  By other things.

GodofWar

God Of War: Ascension. You’ve come a long way, baby.

And now, as I look through lavish and mind-bogglingly beautiful books of gaming art, I think to myself, “Why did I not get into gaming?!?!?”  Have you seen the artwork?!  Look at these costumes! It’s so insane!  If you don’t know what I’m talking about, do a Google search for images from games like “Thief”, “Castlevania”, “God of War”,Batman: Arkham City”… I mean, it’s CRAZY cool costume design in these games.  And on the days at work where I’m banging my forehead into my keyboard in frustration, occasionally I stop and say, “What about gaming?!”

I’ll bet the hours are better.  😉

– KMB

 

 

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