Book Review: ‘Hollywood Costume’ edited by Deborah Nadoolman Landis

I’ve been excited about the Victoria and Albert Museum’s ‘Hollywood Costume’ exhibition since I heard about it. (This was over a year ago thanks to Clothes on Film.) So with my visit sorted for Friday (before the exhibition officially opens but I don’t have the connections to get to the Wednesday preview!) the next step was for the accompanying book. I read it in about three days and it is beautiful.

The book is separated into four main sections.

The Art of Becoming: this is made up of essays looking into the nature of costume design, the process of costume design and collaborations. The essays featured include some written by costume designers in the industry such as Deborah Nadoolman Landis, James Acheson, Kristin M. Burke (also the writer of FrockTalk) and Mary Zophres.

Defining the Character: this looks in more detail into the use of costume in film, the history of costume and Hollywood, the relationship between costume and fashion and the effect of costumes on actors. Essays include those written by John Landis, Deborah Nadoolman Landis and interviews with Meryl Streep, Robert De Niro and Ann Roth.

Collectors and Collecting: this section looks at the history of collecting costumes, how some have survived, finding costumes for the exhibition and displaying the costumes. Includes essays written by Deborah Nadoolman Landis and Debbie Reynolds.

The New Frontiers: the smallest section of the book looks into the internet’s involvement in furthering the knowledge of costume design, discussions of design, fantasy/science-fiction/superhero costume design and designing for CGI and Mocap. Authors of these essays include Chris Laverty (of Clothes on Film) and costume designers Jeffrey Kurland and Joanna Johnston.

The book has some incredible photographs be they designs, film stills, photographs of costumes on mannequins or close-ups. The discussions of costume include great thoughts and insight into contemporary costume – the much maligned side of costume design. When I reviewed ‘FilmCraft: Costume Design’ I said that I’d hoped for an interview with Jeffrey Kurland. Well, here it is! I honestly had no idea that the interview was in this book. The only essay that I knew would be included was something by Chris Laverty – the wonder of Twitter.

I want to carry this book around with me and show different aspects to different people I know. I spend so much of my time ranting or raving about costumes and how they are regarded that it’s nice to have some form of “back-up”. Because costume is so important to the world of television, theatre and film; everyone has an opinion – or a lack of opinion due to a lack of understanding. The essays here are so wide ranging that everyone can learn something from them – even if it is just learning the different ways different designers work. Or learning that Meryl Streep has a degree in costume design. And I would, obviously, recommend reading the chapters by Kristin M. Burke and Chris Laverty if only because their blogs are great (and they may have linked to a previous post on DTSFT) – and I’ve been reading them since before this book came out. I promise! My only problem with the book is that due to the nature of essays, some of the information is repeated by different authors. But this is a very petty complaint to be taken with a large handful of salt given the amazing nature of this book.

I would recommend this book to anyone and everyone – not just limited to those with a specific interest in costume design. Costume design is storytelling. Who isn’t interested in a good story?

S x


3 thoughts on “Book Review: ‘Hollywood Costume’ edited by Deborah Nadoolman Landis

  1. Pingback: Exhibition Review: Hollywood Costume at the Victoria and Albert Museum « Damn, That's Some Fine Tailoring

  2. Pingback: Anthony Powell and Deborah Landis: In Conversation « Damn, That's Some Fine Tailoring

  3. Pingback: DTSFT’s Women Of The Year « Damn, That's Some Fine Tailoring

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