“We have to sell an illusion… Reality is boring.” BAFTA Film Craft Costume Design Talk

I was scrolling through Twitter earlier this week, the prime example of procrastination, and stumbled upon a BAFTA announcement of a costume design talk. Luckily I was in time to grab a pair of tickets so yesterday Hannah and I made our way to BAFTA 195 Piccadilly to hear a conversation between Sammy Sheldon Differ, Jany Temime and Steven Noble.

Sammy Sheldon Differ with one of Keira Knightley’s costumes from ‘The Imitation Game’.

Sheldon DIffer and Noble are both nominated for BAFTAs tonight for The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything respectively. Temime is currently working on Spectre but remained tight-lipped.

Jany Temime.

Jany Temime.

The conversation was intended to be inclusive rather than specific about certain designer’s films but inevitably these conversations came up too. The whole event was fascinating because we were able to see designer’s interact with each other and it is not that common to see this. The Hollywood Reporter hosted a round table with the costume design nominees back in 2012 but there hasn’t been one since.

Steven Noble (this is pretty much how he was dressed yesterday - I love it).

Steven Noble (this is pretty much how he was dressed yesterday – I love it).

The first topic of conversation was about the process of designing costumes for a feature film. Sheldon Differ started by talking about reading the script and then starting the research. She collected research about the period (if its a period piece) and also some more abstract research about the emotion of the story. Then comes the creation of boards (to display and organise this visual research), leading onto sketches and then making; where possible. The job is “personifying through research”. But the process can change from job to job because every film has different needs.

Noble agreed with Sheldon Differ’s process and treats the first read of the script as an audience member – the first perception of the characters and the story. It’s a “very organic process”.

Temime had a slightly different process as she said that after she’s read the script she wants to talk to the director right away to find out what his or her vision is. It isn’t Tempe’s film so she wants to make sure that they’re on the same page.

Noble: “Do you ever go back to those first impressions?”

Temime: “Sometimes.”

Then came the discussion of what the deciding factor for working on a film is. Temime said straight away that for her it is the director. If she loves the director then she’ll do the film regardless of the genre. You want to work with people you love. (And the director is normally the one to choose the costume designer.) Noble agreed but said that for him it was 50:50 between the script and the director. Temime agreed that the story is vitally important but the script itself will evolve throughout the process. She said that the script for Spectre is probably on its 13th draft so if she just went for the script which version would she choose? Noble has just finished working on A Monster Calls (directed by J.A. Bayona) and said that in the end they had no script and no shooting schedule! Never an ideal situation when shooting a film.

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The focus then came to Tempe’s work on Bond – more about Skyfall than Spectre (both directed by Sam Mendes). Temime was definitely aware of the “history behind you” and being “responsible for an image”. She made the analogy that a Bond film is like a Christmas tree. Every year you want the same general idea but something different. She feels the need to give the audience what they expect but also to surprise them.

This then lead to a discussion about the constraints of working with a brand or with product placement. Temime is currently obsessed with the watches in Bond – because she has to be due to their contract. She feels that it is more difficult to work with a brand than not – they have a distinct expectation of you. Noble added that people working in fashion work in a much different time frame than costume and film. The fashion brands want to see the script, see where their product will be worn and tend to veto the use if it will be damaged or is worn in a death scene or something they don’t want associated with the brand. Sheldon Differ interposed that she has had occasions of fashion houses getting back to her once filming has finished. Noble concurred this situation. Temime ended saying that she has found fashion people very difficult to work with (no-one’s forgotten Black Swan yet, right?) because “fashion people are completely different from us”. Costume designers are expressing so much more through clothes.

The Imitation Game Movie New Pic (2)

The Imitation Game (directed by Morten Tyldum) was the next discussion launched. Sheldon Differ said that the difficulty she had was making the design faithful and interesting. Nothing that takes the audience out of the story. She looked for reference of colour and happily found some so that the film never looked muted. She tried to be as truthful as possible but there is always this contrast for the audience between realism and view of the period. This is why period films designed in different eras tend to be “visible” (the 1970s version of The Great Gatsby versus the 2014 version for example). Sheldon Differ only met Turing’s nephew after he’d seen the film and he said the costumes were very representative of what he knew of Alan – best compliment she could receive.

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Noble had a similar issue when designing The Theory of Everything. Director James Marsh told Noble that he didn’t want to create a social realist film and he didn’t want to document each decade. He was much more interested in showing an emotional timeline. Noble had to argue for some kind of guide to ensure that he was working from the same period as the make-up, hair and production designers. That symbiotic relationship is key to creating a seamless film. The design is able to travel through fairly smoothly. Key pieces were placed on background artists and a mixture was created. In the same way that you don’t suddenly have a new wardrobe every year, neither do film characters. The costumes needed to be true to the period but fresh for the audience.

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Gravity posed a particular difficulty for Temime. One directive she was given by Alfonso Cuaron was “do not have two teletubbies”. The costumes for Sandra Bullock and George Clooney needed to be completely different from true astronaut suits but still look realistic. It was a technically boring film for Temime because she needed to research precise reasons for the positioning of parts of the suit so that she’d be able to move them. Then there was the issue of white. She thinks they worked with around 50 different shades to allow for different shooting. Temime agreed to Gravity because she wanted to work with Cuaron again.

ex-machina

Sheldon DIffer talked about the difficulties of working on Ex Machina to create a very specific costume for Alicia Vikander’s Ava. There were experiments with UV powder to try to get the wire mesh to glow in different light but this never worked as intended. Eventually the fabric was made using a metal powder and they were able to generate this undulation to make it look as close to “skin” as possible. Another constraint was that the director, Alex Garland, didn’t want to see any seams. (He was one of the main reasons Sheldon Differ signed up.) The suit had to be weaved together and Vikander had to squeeze into it. (So much so that she fainted during one of the early fittings.) Sheldon Differ had to work very closely with the visual effects department so that she could give them the best result that they wanted.

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Under the Skin posed different problems for Noble mostly because Scarlett Johansson only wears two costumes throughout the entire film. Jonathan Glazer had been working on the film for about 11 years before Noble came on board and he wanted to protect his “baby”. There were limited special effects in the film so Noble doesn’t class it as a science fiction film in the same vein as Gravity and Ex Machina – he shies away from them and has great regard for Sheldon Differ and Tempe’s work on them. Johnasson’s character in the film was envisioned by Noble as an Eastern European view of the West. The way things are put together in a way that doesn’t look bad but doesn’t have a Western eye. The majority of Johansson’s clothes were from the high street (Next, Forever 21 and River Island) except for a Dolce and Gabbana camisole and Mulberry boots – that had to be heavily adjusted for the scenes in the wood.

Harry-Potter-and-the-Prisoner-of-Azkaban-film-picture

Harry Potter has been mentioned earlier but this was the first time the series was fully examined with Temime. The question was whether she felt pressure entering a series but Temime said that she started working on The Prisoner of Azkaban before The Chamber of Secrets had come out and by that point the films were just successful children’s films. Cuaron wanted to make the film for teenagers so both of them went into the process knowing that they would be changing the aesthetics of Potter dramatically. The films got bigger as she went along and generally the process got easier – Azkaban was the most difficult film. The problems Temime had were making the cast look younger on screen and getting them to separate themselves from their characters. Allusions were made to on-set antics from the cast…Temime clearly has stories to last a lifetime! There was mention of The Goblet of Fire being less easy to work on due to Mike Newell taking a more “Chris Columbus” view of the series but when David Yates came on board with The Order of the Phoenix she was able to continue with her established style and had more and more freedom.

The final point came with requirements of a director. Talent, vision, clarity and an understanding of the process of a costume designer.

Questions were a little monopolised with my most loathed question: what advice would you give? The designers were all helpful and generous with their advice.

Overall, the talk was fascinating and the three designers gave the impression of being long held friends. Temime in particular was full of joy, laughter and you can be sure that with some alcohol in her she’d tell you some wonderful gossip. I wish the best of luck to Sheldon Differ and Noble tonight at the BAFTAs but in my heart of hearts I believe that Milena Canonero has got the award sewn up for The Grand Budapest Hotel. Unfortunately neither are nominated for the Oscars but they are both nominated in the Period Film category at the Costume Designer’s Guild Awards (once again against Canonero).

Hope this was an interesting round-up and sorry if it went on – they were all so fascinating!

S x

(This talk only referenced a few of each designer’s films so don’t forget to check out their other work!)

Costume Review: ‘The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1’

There be spoilers in costume discussions…

Kurt and Bart had some big shoes to fill when they took over costume design duties from Trish Summerville but Mockingjay is a very different beast from Catching Fire, which was itself noticeably different from The Hunger Games (designed by Judianna Makovsky). Summerville was able to play around with lots of extravagant costumes for scenes in the Capitol and for the victors but Kurt and Bart have certain restrictions working on a film mostly based in District 13.

Katniss

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As with all the inhabitants of District 13, Katniss is provided with a utilitarian costume of grey cargo trousers and a grey shirt. (Oddly this costume is slightly reminiscent of her reaping costume in Catching Fire.) Shown above is her Mockingjay costume designed by Cinna before his death. The costume takes references from real soldier’s armour and is functional as well as interesting. The initial idea behind the Mockingjay costume was as a symbol but it was realised for practical and protective wear. Whenever Katniss has been in the games her “protective wear” was decided by the Capitol and was fairly limited in its effectiveness. This is battle ready. It marks a huge step forward for Katniss and her role in the rebellion.

Katniss-VV

Katniss’s key costume piece is returned to her and remains with her when she and Gale go hunting. Her father’s leather jacket became an iconic piece of clothing for her and solidifies who she is.

Peeta

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Peeta spends most of this film in the Capitol and his costumes reflect that but there is so much more to them than just extravagance. His first appearance is in the white suit we see above. The lines are sharp, minimal and reflect Snow’s roses. The high collar of the shirt is noticeable here but is nothing to compare to the constricting collars yet to come. Peeta’s colours darken as his physical and mental state deteriorates. His gaunt appearance is emphasised with the tightening of the collars. His suits become his own personal straight-jacket.

Gale

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Gale’s costumes follow the standard clothing of District 13 and the soldier’s armour. His shining costume moment comes with Gale’s key scene in District 12. This is one of the most vulnerable moments that we’ve witnessed from Gale and the softness of his costume (seen above) reflects this.

Effie

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Effie’s costumes take on a very different role in this film. The first time we see her she purports to be a political refugee and fights against everything in District 13 (in her mind at least). Once Plutarch gives her purpose to help Katniss she begins to regain her identity through her clothing. Yes she is still limited by the same clothes as everyone else in District 13 but she uses these to her advantage. She is a creative person and creates the new Effie. She still has her high heels and accessories from the Capitol and she uses these to help rebuild herself.

Finnick

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Finnick doesn’t have too much screen time in this film and his costumes are generally limited to hospital clothes and the standard District 13 uniform. But, as with Gale, soft knitwear comes out when he is speaking in the propos. Finnick is not talking as a soldier but a victim of the Capitol. He needs to be sympathetic, sincere and approachable. The public need to believe and trust him. And the style of knitwear flashes back to his first appearance in Catching Fire.

President Snow

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Snow is trying to keep control over Panem. District after District are joining the rebellion and his main weapon (Peeta) hasn’t been put into action yet. He remains dressed in the sharp tailored lines that we have come to expect from him. These suits reflect his power and tight control despite troubling circumstances “moves and counter moves”. There are also many more instances of white roses included throughout the film and Finnick’s revelation makes them all the more disturbing.

Haymitch

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Haymitch enters the film just when Katniss needs him to and after he’s sobered up. For the majority of the film he is dressed in the District 13 uniform with the concession of a grey woollen hat and layers of grey cardigans. Could it be that without alcohol these are the only form of protection he has left? He sported similar jumpers in Catching Fire so the idea of safety in soft wool is not completely ridiculous.

Caesar Flickerman

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We always expect Caesar to be a bright and colourful influence on the film and this time he doesn’t have Effie to compete with. His suits are all fully patterned but there general tone is deeper and richer. There is much less extravagance shown here. This is no time for frivolity and Caesar’s costumes reflect this, even though this may not be instantly visible.

Overall, I was very impressed with the costume design in Mockingjay. The film has a more solemn tone and the costumes needed to reflect that. I’m very interested to see what Kurt and Bart have waiting for Mockingjay, Part 2. The world has entered a much grittier political ground and the historical references in the costumes are great for echoing that.

S x

Transformers: Age of Extinction? Transformers: Age of ExSTINKtion more like. Ha.

(Picture: Paramount Pictures)

Everything is awful

When Tesco Tony Stark Cade Yeager (Mark Wahlberg) discovers an abandoned truck that turns out to be a Transformer, he and his daughter become wanted by a crooked government official and the evil Decepticons, who are both trying to wipe Autobots off the face of the earth.

Quick disclaimer first – I haven’t seen Transformers 1 through 3, so I can’t say whether they were better or worse than Age of Extinction, but I’m going to go with better.

Man of Steel (which I enjoyed) raised a few eyebrows with the amount of destruction depicted on screen, but Age of Extinction manages to top it. Stuff blows up. A lot. Cars crash into other cars that then crash into buildings, and as a result the already trying 165-minute running time seems much, much longer. The plot is weak, the dialogue is atrocious and the third act features a dull, lengthy scrap in the streets of Hong Kong that only serves as a way to push more brand names in our faces. Oh yeah, and there are dinosaur Transformers now too, and the sight of Prime riding one like a horse is the least ridiculous part of this film.

That honour probably goes to Cade’s daughter Tessa (Nicola Peltz), who fell victim to the “woman in a Michael Bay movie” trope. Despite the fact she’s meant to be 17, there’s a lot of focus on how hot she is (including a weird comment from her dad’s friend about her shorts) and she spends 85% of the film screaming for someone to save her.

Actually, all the human characters are paper thin. Wahlberg’s performance is particularly unremarkable, which is a shame because he’s usually engaging and likeable on screen. Jack Reynor’s Shane on the other hand is neither, and should have been killed off in the first act along with Cade’s pervy mate. As for Stanley Tucci and Kelsey Grammer – why did they agree to something so beneath them? WHAT DOES BAY HAVE ON THEM???

There are plus points: the heavy Imagine Dragons track for one; and the visuals are impressive. The fluid look and feel of the Transformium-made bots works well, and seeing Optimus Prime and co. switch from Transformer to vehicle is still pretty cool to watch. Bay has spent so much time making sure the non-human characters look good that he’s forgotten to, you know, actually make a decent movie.

60 minutes too long, incredibly boring and some mild racism thrown in for good measure (Ken Watanabe’s samurai Autobot), even 15-year-old boys will be insulted by this crap. And if they aren’t then they should be. No bueno.

ONE OUT OF FIVE

Sheena Napier: Costume Design Talk at the V&A

The last costume talk I attended was last September with Deborah Nadoolman Landis and the last V&A talk was with Jenny Beavan back in January 2012 – so this talk was well overdue.

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Sheena Napier may not be a “household” name like Beavan and Landis but she has worked steadily in the industry (mostly designing for TV) for years and has been nominated for an Oscar (for Enchanted April), an Emmy and won a BAFTA (both for Parade’s End).

'Enchanted April' 1991

‘Enchanted April’ 1991

The talk started with Napier talking through how she got started in the costume industry. She went to art college to study theatre design but discovered that her poor maths skills (her words not mine!) caused problems with set design but, more importantly, she was much more interested in costume as social comment and social history. At the time costume was a vocational course rather than a degree so Napier left. She went on to work in the theatre and despite initial intentions to return to college she never made it back.

'Enchanted April' (1991)

‘Enchanted April’ (1991)

She started ironing for the opera and then worked for the wardrobe master at the Festival Theatre (I want to say Chichester Festival Theatre but I didn’t catch it – I’m sorry!). Napier said that John Bartlett was the greatest teacher she ever had and he taught her everything about costume. He was a perfectionist and wanted everything to be made properly – no shortcuts. He taught her tailoring, costume making and the importance of attention to detail.

'Backbeat' (1994)

‘Backbeat’ (1994)

Napier told us horror stories relating to time shortages and occasions of working for three straight days and nights to get costumes finished (we’ve all been there) but said that this camaraderie in the environment strengthened her love of costume and the industry.

'Ravenous' (1999)

‘Ravenous’ (1999)

She took over from Bartlett as wardrobe mistress for five years (making good use of the costume cutting books he bought her) and relied on his advice:

Tell them you can do the job, then you have to do the job and you’ll find that you can do it.

'The Heart of Me' (2002)

‘The Heart of Me’ (2002)

After working in the theatre Napier took some time out and had a knitwear craftshop in the country until opportunity came knocking. A friend of hers at the costume department at the BBC told her how desperate they were for design assistants. Napier’s knowledge of costume houses and fabric sourcing locations gained from her work in the theatre meant that she was able to become a design assistant and completely jump the traditional previous step of dresser – with a little bit of tension from some members of the department. She signed a three-month contract and left three years later.

'The Heart of Me' (2002) [Going against Napier's wishes see if you can spot Olivia Williams' dress later on in this post...]

‘The Heart of Me’ (2002)
[Going against Napier’s wishes see if you can spot Olivia Williams’ dress later on in this post…]

She knew that the BBC costume department was on its last legs so after some success working for the BBC (particularly her work on ‘Allo ‘Allo) she was able to leave to design Enchanted April. The film was made by the BBC in partnership with Greenpoint Films but when it was bought by Miramax it was widely distributed and became (in Napier’s words) a “proper” films. (This was the film that marks Napier’s Oscar nomination for Best Costume Design.)

'Poirot' Five Little Pigs (2003) [Notice a younger Little Finger from Game of Thrones?]

‘Poirot’ Five Little Pigs (2003)
[Notice a younger Little Finger from Game of Thrones?]

The success of Enchanted April led to designing Backbeat but then a critically unsuccessful film left Napier out of work for a while. Napier learnt the importance of saving money and to spend the time off in a positive way. The next film she mentioned was Ravenous which has gained a cult following but she’s not personally a huge fan of.

'Poirot' Five Little Pigs (2003)

‘Poirot’ Five Little Pigs (2003)

Ravenous was then followed by The Heart of Me and then Poirot (the show Napier is most famous for). She told us that she wasn’t particularly keen on taking the job because the show had already been on the air for 15 years and she felt like it would be taking over someone else’s work. She was one hour late for the interview (and she’s never late) but she loved David Suchet and the director and their work process. They talked through every character’s life and story and she felt that this was something she would enjoy doing. Her first Poirot episode was Five Little Pigs and she thinks it is still her favourite (and mine).

I want you to be able to know something about [the character].

'Poirot' Death on the Nile (2004)

‘Poirot’ Death on the Nile (2004)

This was specifically important with the Poirot adaptations where a story must be condensed to such a degree that character details are inevitably lost but costume can be used to create the depth and understanding of the character for the audience.

'Wah-Wah' (2005), designed by Sheena Napier.

‘Wah-Wah’ (2005), designed by Sheena Napier.

Napier told us of the trials of late casting that she first became aware of when filming Death on the Nile. Besides Suchet the first actor was cast five days before shooting – frantic costume fittings became standard for most of the shoot. She also told us that she turned on a tv and found an old episode of Poirot playing and realised that they were using the same cardigan! Due to late casting, limited budgets and time constraints costume making was impossible (apart from for Suchet) and there was (and is) a limited costume pool for the 1930s. Napier made the decision to start buying and storing pieces and she has a 150 sq ft storage space that is filled. She loved working with Suchet and was able to focus on attention to detail (as taught by Bartlett) but also try to make each episode look different. She was particularly fond of The Labours of Hercules which she thought was the most stylish episode. [Napier thinks that http://recycledmoviecostumes.tumblr.com is a little unfair.]

'Ballet Shoes' (2007), designed by Sheena Napier.

‘Ballet Shoes’ (2007), designed by Sheena Napier.

[One fun note was a photo of a pair of cufflinks that were nicknamed the “murdered man” cufflinks and appeared on every murdered man. They were never seen but were a fun in-joke.]

'Wild Target' (2009), designed by Sheena Napier.

‘Wild Target’ (2009), designed by Sheena Napier.

Then we looked at Napier’s work on Parade’s End. She brought one of Rebecca Hall’s (Sylvia Tietjan) dresses with her that had been made based on an original dress. The dress combined some original very delicate pieces of beading (one of the few times when Napier allowed her maker to cut up an old dress) with modern fabrics. There was an original dress that she wanted to copy but all the modern fabric she found was too heavy to replicate the tiny pleats in the dress.

'Parade's End' (2012) [This is the pink dress Napier brought with her.]

‘Parade’s End’ (2012) [This is the pink dress Napier brought with her.]

We then moved onto The Village; the second series filming now. The budgets have gone down but expectations have gone up! There was another story of late casting – this time the day before shooting and the producers didn’t seem to be too interested in arranging a fitting.

'Parade's End' (2012)

‘Parade’s End’ (2012)

The last completed work Napier has designed is The Great Fire and this lead to discussions of costume authenticity. Although she appreciates the attention to detail that Bartlett taught her she also understands that the story is the most important factor.

We’re not curators, we’re storytellers.

'Poirot' The Labours of Hercules (2013)

‘Poirot’ The Labours of Hercules (2013)

If an actor isn’t comfortable in something or the shape isn’t as flattering as it could be things will be changed. It isn’t about Napier, but about the actor on screen. They need to be able to sell the character and can’t do that if they’re uncomfortable.

'Poirot' Dead Man's Folly (2013). The final episode of 'Poirot' filmed but not the final aired.

‘Poirot’ Dead Man’s Folly (2013). The final episode of ‘Poirot’ filmed but not the final aired.

There followed some questions:

It is possible to identify when period films were made (for example a 1930s film made in the ’70s). How important is it to be timeless?

The Heart of Me was made in the Merchant Ivory mindset where everything was meant to be perfect. This is no longer true. Everything is seen from a modern perspective and the director is the boss – what they say goes. For example, directors tend to hate hats (actors generally like them) but the directors are likely to get the final word. No matter how inaccurate.

'Marple' A Caribbean Mystery, designed by Sheena Napier

‘Marple’ A Caribbean Mystery (2013), designed by Sheena Napier

Favourite time period?

She was excited to do The Great Fire because it’s a period not commonly done but she loves all periods and contemporary. Her main interest is in characters. But if she could “wear” a period it would be the 1910s shown in Parade’s End.

'The Village' Series One

‘The Village’ Series One (2013)

So there we have a great talk by Sheena Napier. There are a number of films and tv shows that I haven’t seen but I would be seriously tempted now!

S x

Puttin’ on the Glitz: Fashion & Film in the Jazz Age

At the end of March I attended an event at the British Library hosted by Amber Butchart and (Lord) Chris Laverty. I covered this event for Joe Kucharski over at Tyranny of Style and I’m posting the link here in case you haven’t seen it!

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The event was great and it’s worth thanking everyone all over again. And, contractually*, I have to say how charming and handsome Chris is. Amber was perfection and wears a turban like nobody’s business.

I hope you enjoy and don’t forget to check out the rest of Tyranny of Style.

S x

*not really.

Costuming a Teenaged Private Eye

64 episodes and a 7 year wait later there came a Veronica Mars film (I’m British, I don’t like saying movie). Regardless of the Kickstarter backer facts etc, the film shows an eleven year development of characters seen in the first season (Veronica is 16 in season one, 15 in the flashbacks, and 28 by the time of the film). Developments that are very clearly shown in costume. Rather than looking at every character (there are loads) I’m going to look at this development in our favourite teenaged private eye – Veronica Mars (Kristen Bell) herself.

Season One

Season One costume designed by Salvadaor Perez Jr.

For a season based so heavily on flashbacks we are shown two distinct Veronica’s throughout. There’s the pre-Lilly’s murder Veronica and ostricised Veronica. The personality changes are made clear and, as you would expect, these are referenced in her costumes. The first time we see Veronica she is clearly established in her outside status. She’s disgusted with her high school classmates, as are they with her. She is competent, unexpectedly considerate towards Wallace but, most of all, snarky.

Veronica Pilot

Then we get two quick flashes of “old Veronica”:

Veronica Pilot2

It would have been too easy and obvious to make Veronica go from light and fluffy to lots of black. But the change is still obvious. Besides the long flowing hair the colours are light and subdued. “New” Veronica hasn’t moved to leather but the fabric choices remain sturdier than before. Stripes became a bit of a classic costume touch for Veronica and here we see it established in the flashbacks that she’s always been a fan of stripes. As much as Veronica is ostracised she has no desire to blend in to the background. Her strong character comes through and she stands out much more now than she did when she was merely Duncan Kane’s girlfriend. This also marks the first appearance of Veronica’s pink and green colour scheme, the canvas messenger bag, hoodies and denim/military style jackets. These are Veronica’s trademark pieces whether worn as armour or for practical reasons.

Veronica Pilot3

The pilot also shows us Veronica at Shelly Pomroy’s infamous party. We can assume that after the events of that party old Veronica became new Veronica – she is clearly already on the way there but still clinging to the past. We have the white dress that signifies the final stage in Veronica’s loss of innocence. But then there’s the black choker – chokers being a common occurrence on Veronica throughout this first season.

And don’t forget the disguises:

undercover

(Yes, technically one of these is from S2 but you get the message.)

Season Two

Season Two costume designed by Salvadaor Perez Jr.

As Season Two starts the new mystery means that the flashbacks concentrate on the earlier summer (and the rest of the season) rather than a year earlier. We see characters in their current state (pretty much) and the sense of change is much less obvious. The main mystery arc is also much more far-reaching than the Lilly Kane murder. The economic differences in the town become more overt and dangerous, as does Veronica’s standing in the town following her rekindled relationship with Duncan Kane (and solving Lilly’s murder).

Veronica S2

The choker has gone, the messenger bag remains, as do the hoodies, jeans and jackets. Veronica may be more welcome in the 09er set but that doesn’t mean that she fits back in. Or that she wants to. A year on the outside and working as a private eye have changed her – much as the death of her best friend and her rape did.

Season Three

Season Three costume designed by Salvadaor Perez Jr until episode 5 ‘President Evil’ when Jennifer L Soulages took over. (They co-designed ‘President Evil’.)

Season Three has a different aesthetic to seasons one and two for a number of reasons:

  1. The characters have gone to college and so their environment (although still in Neptune) is different from high school.
  2. The series took a different approach to its standard mystery arc – more shorter spanning mysteries.
  3. Veronica Mars moved from UPN to the newly formed CW network.

After recovering from the shock of Veronica and Logan’s new cars, the other main change is Veronica’s messenger bag – moved on from a canvas bag to a leather studded bag.

V 3

The season also has some nice costume callbacks from previous seasons. The most regularly commented one being the blue argyle sweater, but there’s also the small silver star necklace Veronica was given by Lilly. The necklace is worn on and off throughout seasons 1 and 3 but specifically mentioned when stolen.

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Lilly's necklace

The small crystal star from Lilly.

The other key aspects of Veronica’s costumes remain. We still have stripes, jeans, boots, denim and military jackets. But now we also have the introduction of cropped waistcoats – they were very much a fashion feature of the era. None of these pieces are “cute” though, the slightly tough aesthetic remains. A headscarf and headband also made a brief appearance but didn’t stick around.

New Looks

Veronica Mars Film

[SPOILERS FOR THE VERONICA MARS FILM]

Film costume designed by Genevieve Tyrrell.

The key feeling for the film was the idea of addiction. Veronica is addicted to the lifestyle of a private detective and this is what draws her back. Say it’s Logan all you want but it’s more what Logan represents. Simplest terms it’s New York v. Neptune. Normalcy v. excitement, drama and danger.

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We start with the grown-up Veronica. It’s still obviously “Veronica” but there is a greater influence on tailoring and workwear. These are high quality suits and a world away from t-shirts, hoodies and denim jackets.

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Even her pyjamas are more grown-up and tailored.

Then things start to change. Being in Neptune changes her and although the voice over comments on it, the change is instantly noticeable when the season three messenger bag comes out. This is then followed with a stripey t-shirt, albeit in a much darker more subdued tone than we’re used to, jeans and a leather jacket. Leather jackets have taken over from the denim and military inspired jackets but they still work as a form of armour.

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A costume moment so important that it gets its own slow motion shot. (That’s not the main reason but I’m going to take it as that.)

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The clothes have moved back into softer knits and denim inspired pieces as her stay in Neptune extends and extends.

As her acceptance of the life as a private eye becomes more and more apparent the costumes continue to move into an adult version of TV Veronica. There are even small star studs to link back to Lilly’s necklace.

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We end with a fully immersed Neptune adult Veronica. Leather jacket, muted colours, black jeans, boots. This is the Veronica from the TV show with adult aesthetics and styles learnt from New York. Hopefully this won’t be the last we see of her and her interesting costumes.

[Check out this great interview with Salvador Perez Jr. about the series on mtv.

And Genevieve Tyrrell talks about the film’s costumes here.]

S x

Awards Week: Costume Design Nominations (Part Two)

Its’s back (and just in time)! Part Two of my look at the costume designs nominated for BAFTA, CDG Awards and the Oscars. (Read Part One here.)

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug (Ann Maskrey, Richard Taylor and Bob Buck) [Seen]

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Continuing the great work from The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Maskrey, Taylor and Buck continue to add character and tone to the vast characters in the Tolkein universe. This film has more focus on the elves at Mirkwood and the inhabitants of Laketown. The elves needed to have a clear difference from those at Rivendell. These elves are led by Thranduil and are a much more sinister force than Elrond’s forces. Elves still have an ethereal quality but with Thranduil this is taken to extremes with the flowing fabric and hair threatening to take control. Laketown is another interesting aspect because we have a town full of humans but again different from the towns in Lord of the Rings. Maskrey described Laketown as a melting point allowing for a different aesthetic to Lord of the Rings.

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (Trish Summerville) [Seen]

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The costume design in this film is incredible. There is such a clear definition between life in the Capitol and life in the districts but, not only that, the sense of threat has definitely been elevated. The peacekeepers costumes design has been slightly altered from Judianna Makovsky’s designs for The Hunger Games, meaning that they are more insect like (Summerville’s description) and less human. The body armour they wear is so much more threatening and shows the risk that has increased for the people living in the districts – particularly after the uprisings that we saw develop in The Hunger Games. Then there are the costumes of Katniss and Peeta compared to those of the rest of the citizens of District 12. As winners they’re rich. But they are also aware that they’re living in one of the poorest districts and they take no real pride in their wealth. Wealth that came from the deaths of 22 teenagers. There is a lot of reliance on soft fabrics and knitted fabrics and this makes the comparison of the sharp lines and edges of their costumes when in the Capitol more noticeable. That this film didn’t get nominated for an Oscar for costume design astounds me, although it doesn’t surprise me. This year will show us Kurt & Bart’s take on Panem for Mockingjay Part One. I, for one, can’t wait. (Even if I will miss Summerville.)

The Invisible Woman (Michael O’Connor)

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“Ralph wanted to be like Dickens’ world and embrace the period and not shy away from some of the more eccentric and decorated elements in terms of the costumes and an extreme shape for women, especially,” explains O’ Connor. “Normally, people set their movies later in the 1870s when things became more elegant and sophisticated, but we focus on the 1850s, aside from the 1880s, as a framing device.”
…”What was important for Nelly was to go for subtle colors and gray, mousy working dresses that make her more vulnerable. And slowly as she became more influential with Dickens and their relationship grew, her clothes were more ornate. She has pretty dresses at the races, a pink dress at her birthday party. As an older woman, [haunted by her memories] she wears darker, heavier colors and more restrictive clothing. It was about taking the character from one space to another. And there are contrasts with her two sisters and her mother, who is darker and more dramatic-looking.”
…”The pleasure is seeing the difference between the 1850s and the 1880s and the theatrical moments putting on the play together. It’s nice when they feel the costumes working for them because we had to make all of these costumes with all the layers and have them fit tightly. And it was about the restrictions they were under.”

[From interview with Bill Desowitz for Thompson on Hollywood: http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/oscar-nominated-oconnor-talks-costume-designing-the-invisible-woman%5D

Nebraska (Wendy Chuck)

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“I needed to turn Dern, who is a tall, statuesque Hollywood icon, into Woody, a weathered Midwestern man in his 80s who is not only losing his mind, but also has lived a long hard life and is regretful of his body and how he looks. I really wanted his clothes to reflect the ‘wear’,” Chuck says.
…She paid close attention to the little details and nuances of the character, making sure that all of his pants were frayed at the back of the heel, as though they were just too long and continually dragged under the soles of his boots. She also had the pockets sanded in the spots where Woody would’ve kept his wallet, to reflect years of age and wear-and-tear.
At JC Penney she found a selection of various brightly colored flannels, which would aid in creating greater visual depth when shown on-screen in black and white. Although the shirts were vastly different in color and pattern, when presented on-screen in black and white, they appeared uniform.

[From interview with the Costume Designers Guild website: http://costumedesignersguild.com/articles-videos/pick-of-the-week/nebraska/ ]

Oz: The Great and Powerful (Gary Jones and Michael Kutsche) [Seen]

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I have to be honest, my memory of the costumes in Oz is a little hazy having seen it about 12 months ago. I do remember that the visuals of the film were what I enjoyed the most but not all of the costumes felt right for me. Oscar’s costume is great and shows the importance of breaking down to express character – particularly in such a bright, stylised world. Evanora’s costumes are beautifully constructed and help to flash back to the aesthetic of The Wizard of Oz without being overt. The costumes for Theodora and Glinda are where my issues truly lie. I remember being particularly  disappointed by Theodora’s final costumes. They felt unnecessarily “modern” and fashion oriented. They took me completely out of the story in a way that her riding outfit (with seemingly leather leggings) didn’t. The use of the leggings with the Victorian inspired velvet riding habit evened out the look. Glinda again had some similar issues. Many of her costumes were beautiful and carefully designed to make her a stronger character than in The Wizard of Oz which is great but still makes the costumes fit unhappily within the world.

Philomena (Consolata Boyle) [Seen]

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Creating contemporary costumes about real people isn’t easy but Boyle has great experience, having been nominated for an Oscar for her design for The Queen. The key aspects in Philomena are the use of texture and pattern. Philomena is always surrounded by soft fabrics with no tight structure. Then you compare this with the fabrics worn by Martin Sixsmith. Straight away the difference between the two characters is established and the emotional connectivity to Philomena is increased – she is dressed like a grandmother. Then Boyle had to costume the flashbacks to Philomena’s past with a lot of focus of nuns’ habits and the uniforms for the girls. The simplification of the costumes allows for the feeling of realism and believability. Nothing is there to distract from the story and you can tell that Boyle’s job is done to perfection when the design isn’t noticed.

Saving Mr. Banks (Daniel Orlandi) [Seen]

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Orlandi did a brilliant job of clearly defining the characters within the story. Outside of P.L. Travers and Walt Disney there are the Sherman brothers and DaGradi then going back into Travers’ past we have her family. Orlandi had to deal with two very separate worlds – the 1960s (Los Angeles and, briefly, London) and 1900s (in Australia). Designing costumes for characters based on real people means carefully balancing the lines between extreme “realism” and serving the story in the script. The lightness of the 60s scenes (despite the more muted colours and tweeds worn by Travers) and contrasted with the neutral colours and fabrics used for Australia. When Orlandi designed costumes for the “real” Mary Poppins he looked at illustrations from Travers’ book, Julie Andrews and research from clothing worn in 1906.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Sarah Edwards)

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Edwards particularly liked the costume that Walter wears to work because of what it represents, its functionality, and how it helps to explain what is taking place within that space. As Edwards explains, “[It’s] Walter slipping away into middle age and obsoleteness, the slow death, as he and his co-workers are phased out by a new digital era. The idea for this costume was that somehow Walter was frozen in a kind of recent past.”
…The color palette in the office was purposefully de-saturated and so were the costumes, providing a drab starting point for Walter. This helped to provide dramatic visual contrast to Walter’s later jump “into a kaleidoscopic adventure, full of color and passion and living. This helped define the important transition from ‘old Walter’ to ‘new Walter,’ from the rigidness of the uniform for which he starts out to becoming a hip, more laid back ,handsome and rugged Walter,” Edwards says.
…[Without] this costume…there is no story, it’s the beginning, the jumping off point.”

[From interview for the Costume Designers Guild website: http://costumedesignersguild.com/articles-videos/pick-of-the-week/secret-life-walter/ ]

Don’t forget to check who wins the Oscar tonight. Good luck to all!

S x