Book Review: ‘FilmCraft: Costume Design’ by Deborah Nadoolman Landis

This book was published on 25th June 2012 and I’ve had it since…middle of July. Life and such have prevented me from reading it in its entirety until now.

This book comes after Deborah Nadoolman Landis’ previous books on costume design: Costume Design (Screencraft Series), 50 Designers/50 Costumes: Concept to Character and Dressed: A Century of Hollywood Costume Design. (She has two upcoming books due to be released in the next few weeks to coincide with the Victoria and Albert Museum exhibition Hollywood Costume. These are Hollywood Costume and Hollywood Sketchbook: A Century of Costume Illustration.)

I mentioned Nadoolman Landis in my Downton post but only briefly and in passing. After I’ve attended her talk on ‘Hollywood Costume’ I’ll do a post on that but for background to this book it is just important to say that Nadoolman Landis has been working very hard to help costume design gain greater respect. She has a PhD in The History of Design from The Royal College of Art in London – so if anyone was going to edit this it makes sense that it’s Nadoolman Landis!

The book starts with an insightful introduction from Nadoolman Landis where she talks about the public perception of costume design, the process of costume design, refers to different designers in the business and, one aspect I particularly like, thanks her assistant and the team that help her with curating and editing books. It’s always nice to see support like that given credit in such a public way.

After the introduction the book concentrates a chapter on an individual costume designer and also has short tribute chapters.

Brief overview of designers included:

Jenny Beavan – designed for A Room with a View (1985), Gosford Park (2001) and The King’s Speech (2010). One Academy Award, eight further Academy Award nominations.

Yvonne Blake – designed for the Broadway musical Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), The Three Musketeers (1973) and Superman: The Movie (1978). One Academy Award, one further nomination.

Mark Bridges – designed for Boogie Nights (1997), Magnolia (1999) and The Artist (2011). One Academy Award.

Legacy: Danilo Donati – designed for Romeo and Juliet (1968), Fellini’s Casanova (1976) and Flash Gordon (1980). Two Academy Awards, two further nominations.

Shay Cunliffe – designed for The Family Stone (2005), The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) and The Bourne Legacy (2012).

Sharen Davis – designed for Ray (2004), Dreamgirls (2006) and The Help (2011). Two Academy Award nominations.

Lindy Hemming – designed for Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), GoldenEye (1995) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012). (Having completed the Nolan Batman trilogy and acted as guest curator for the Barbican’s ‘Designing Bond – 50 Years of Bond Style’ exhibition.) One Academy Award.

Legacy: Elizabeth Haffenden – designed for The Wicked Lady (1945), Ben-Hur (1959) and Fiddler on the Roof (1971). Two Academy Awards.

Joanna Johnston – designed for Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), Forrest Gump (1994) and War Horse (2011). (Honorable mentions for designing Back to the Future Part II (1989) and Part III (1990) if only because I love those films.)

Michael Kaplan – designed for Blade Runner (1982), Fight Club (1999) and Star Trek (2009). One BAFTA.

Judianna Makovsky – designed for Big (1988), Pleasantville (1998) and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001). Three Academy Award nominations.

Legacy: Jean Louis – designed for Gilda (1946), From Here to Eternity (1953) and The Misfits (1961). One Academy Award, eleven further nominations.

Maurizio Millenotti – designed for The Importance of Being Earnest (2002), The Passion of the Christ (2004) and Tristan + Isolde (2006). Two Academy Award nominations.

Ellen Mirojnick – designed for Fatal Attraction (1987), Wall Street (1987) and Starship Troopers (1997).

Aggie Guerard Rodgers – designed for American Graffiti (1973), One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) and Beetlejuice (1988). One Acadmey Award nomination.

Legacy: Ruth Morley – designed for Taxi Driver (1976), Annie Hall (1977) and Tootsie (1982). One Academy Award nomination.

Penny Rose – designed for The Commitments (1991), Evita (1996) and Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003). Three BAFTA nominations.

Julie Weiss – designed for Twelve Monkeys (1995), American Beauty (1999) and Frida (2002). Two Academy Award nominations.

Janty Yates – designed for Gladiator (2000), De-Lovely (2004) and Prometheus (2012). One Academy Award.

Mary Zophres – designed for The Big Lebowski (1998), Ghost World (2001) and True Grit (2010). One Academy Award nomination.

Legacy: Shirley Russell – designed for Women in Love (1969), The Boy Friend (1971) and Tommy (1975). Two Academy Award nominations.

This currently just reads as a list now but I wanted to get across some of the designers work so that there could be a form of recognition. Everyone will have seen at least one of these films and probably not paid a lot of attention to the costumes – particularly if it is a contemporary film. Designing for a contemporary film is regarded by a number of designers as being harder to design than a period film.

The chapters on each designer are essentially interviews. The designers themselves explain how they got started in the business, how their process has developed and anecdotes about some of their film work. Rather than just creating a list of their work (as I’ve done!) the book gives you personal insight into the designers thoughts. They each explain their view of costume and this, in itself, is very itneresting.

Nadoolman Landis mentions in her introduction that there are a number of designers that could have been included in this book and I would love for there to be another book with some designers that couldn’t be included such as Jeffrey Kurland (for his incredible contemporary design on films including Inception (2010), Collateral (2004) and Ocean’s Eleven (2001) ), Jacqueline Durran (for Atonement (2007), Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) and Anna Karenina (2012)), Colleen Atwood (for Chicago (2002), Sweeney Tood: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007) and Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)), Sandy Powell (for Shakespeare in Love (1998), The Aviator (2004) and The Departed (2006)) and these are only some of my favourites off the top of my head! There are a number of great costume designers out there and I hope that books like this help for the field of costume design to have a greater public perception.

Please visit Clothes on Film for Chris’ review of the book.

If you can, please get this book if just to look at some of the great pictures – be they costume illustration of production shots. Hell, I love the cover – I think it’s just a beautiful shot of Carey Mulligan in a beautiful dress (from Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps designed by Ellen Mirojnick).

S x


One thought on “Book Review: ‘FilmCraft: Costume Design’ by Deborah Nadoolman Landis

  1. Pingback: Book Review: ‘Hollywood Costume’ edited by Deborah Nadoolman Landis « Damn, That's Some Fine Tailoring

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