Costume Design

Last week I attended “The Iconic Moment”, an event hosted by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences, during the LA Film Festival. This event brought together Michael Kaplan, Jeffery Kurland, Ellen Mirojnick, and Sophie de Rakoff to have a chat about costume design. With Laura Dern moderating, the panel was a great look at iconic costumes, the process, and personal moments.

North by Northwest

Michael Kaplan: Iconic costume pick

The Graduate

Jeffery Kurland: Iconic costume pick

Ellen Mirojnick: Iconic costume pick

Ellen Mirojnick: Iconic costume pick

Sophia de Rakoff: Iconic costume pick

Sophia de Rakoff: Iconic costume pick

Starting out the night with a reception of wine, tiny bites, and catching up with friends. The panel quickly started, with much excitement, we watched a group of costume designers waiting to be introduced. With each introduction, a roar of applause, and then movie clips, each with an iconic costume. These clips were personal and influential to the costume designer, carrying meaning and showing the importance of storytelling held within costume design. Jeffery Kurland chose Mrs. Robinson from The Graduate, an iconic character played wonderfully by Anne Bancroft. Mrs. Robinson’s leopard print coat was Jeffery Kurland’s pick but Kurland felt her whole wardrobe had great meaning. Not only was this movie influential in Jeffery Kurland’s personal life, like many young graduates, but also a great example of the role costume design can play in storytelling. What makes these costumes iconic? All designers seemed to be in agreement, costumes can only become iconic over time, it could be the actor who embodies the character. Like Ellen Mirojnick’s choice of Breakfast at Tiffany’s staring Audrey Hepburn, and iconic women, wearing an iconic brand, and playing an iconic character.

flashdance MPW-33273

The designers were also asked to pick a movie clip from their own career, each clip contained an iconic costume. Sophia de Rakoff and Michael Kaplan had a similar experience, Sophia de Rakoff chose Legally Blonde II, Elle Woods pink Jackie O inspired suit. Michael Kaplan chose Flashdance, Alex Owens sweatshirt. Both have reached iconic status, each is part of the social conscious, and immortalized in small-scale on a Barbie. Sophia de Rakoff explained that both costumes were placed on the movie poster, a possible reason for the iconic status. Another factor could be the want of the viewer to emulate a character they admire or to capture a piece of the magic.

The panel was really fantastic, dripping with knowledge, and with many lovely stories about their work and experiences. It was a treat and pleasure to hear Michael Kaplan, Jeffery Kurland, Ellen Mirojnick, and Sophie de Rakoff speak passionately about their work.

I’ll leave you with advice from Jeffery Kurland, if you want to become a costume designer, you must LOVE IT, don’t stop working, and learn all that you can.


Last Saturday I was able to peruse some fantastic television costume designs at the FIDM Museum & Galleries. If you have been to the FIDM Museum in Los Angeles then you know it is tiny but can carry a punch. For the past 6 years the FIDM Museum has been showing the Emmy nominated costume designs. You can’t take pictures but you do get a little booklet that is filled with information about the television show, costume designer, and time period.

There were a few pieces that I was incredibly excited to see and some that I didn’t know but excited me into a costume induced tizzy. Boardwalk Empire was the first, the costume are very detailed, the color are so strong, and I felt as if I was looking at actual historic pieces.

From Boardwalk Empire I turned to find behind me Game of Thrones, another television show with highly detailed costumes. A costume standout was Daenerys Targaryen’s, the detail would not be possible to see on television, the overdress is patterned with a sliver leaf print, a beautiful detail that is sadly lost on screen. All others were extremely detailed, fabrics that are embellished, and such a richness in color.

Just across the way were the Downton Abbey costumes, just as stunning in person, I was most excited to see my favorite. Sybil’s harem pants, a costume that most illustrates her character in my eyes. In person you are able to see sewing techniques used on the harem pants and the fine beading on Lady Mary, Dowager Countess of Grantham, and Isobel Crawley’s costumes.

Around and hidden in the corner was American Horror Story, a television show that I have now been completely sucked into after seeing the costumes. The costumes are a mix of historic, contemporary, and horror. Each costume on display was so strong and distinct. I was most excited by Rubber Man’s costume, it has a strong impact in person as it does on screen, it is not over the top and beautiful in its sleek and minimal design.

There were so many fantastic designs there, I enjoyed Sons of Anarchy for how grounded the designs felt, Revenge for the strong pattern and textured designs of the men, and The Fresh Beat Band for the utility and nicely executed dinosaurs. Overall it was a great experience and I cannot wait for next!

This exhibit ends October 20, 2012 so do check it out!

The FIDM Museum & Galleries also shows the Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design. This takes place early in the year so mark your calendars!

As a side note while writing this I started to read the booklet that came with the exhibit and sadly it put me off, I had a really wonderful time and this was a big letdown, let’s just say sources were not cited.

Thank you to Frocktalk for taking some wonderful pictures!

This coat has beautiful clean lines and a simple interesting trim. From The Kooples, a hip modern French brand, inspired from the mixing and matching between a couples clothing. I feel The Kooples is part of a new wave of designers that cater to the hip young and wealthy consumer. This consumer loves a classic design that has an interesting element, the quality, location of assembly, and raw materials sourcing are all important. It is not about fast fashion anymore, it is about looking the part, helping local artisans, and the search of classic wardrobe building pieces. Even if The Kooples does not fit all of these criteria, I feel they still rank within this group. The designs are androgynous and the men’s and women’s line coordinate. The marketing is fantastic in using real couples as models. While in Paris I could not get enough of this brand, they are everywhere from Galeries Lafayette to over 30 boutiques just in Paris. Soon to be coming to the states, I am so excited! The Kooples is ultra hip, young, classic, and luxury.

On that note, what a great costume design for Jim Moriarty! In a recent online shopping session I came across a great coat that could be a nice women’s alternative for The Kooples coat.

This coat from AllSaints Spitalfields is a classic crombie coat, wool blend, with a stand up leather trim collar, very clean lines, and external darts on the back.

Check out the Aleggro Coat here!

“it’s all regulation Michael, to get the top right the pants had to be a little snug” 

Buster Bluth, prone to panic attacks, lost his hand to a loose seal, and the youngest of the Bluth family. This amazing character is from the critically acclaimed television show Arrested Development. Ending in 2006 this television show has lived on through the love of fans and the hope of a movie. Fans received good news in 2011 that the Bluth’s will be back in 2013, and in light of many exciting new images from Ron Howard and Jason Bateman, I wanted to reflect on the wonder that is Buster Bluth and his high fastening pants, wait I mean costume designs!

Buster “Byron” Bluth starts his journey as a motherboy and ends his journey as a motherboy. Buster’s costumes stay safe, just like Buster’s lifelong wish. When we first meet Buster his color palette is mostly pastels, consistently wearing a collared shirt, patterned most of the time, and brightly colored pants. Within the first few episodes the look of Buster Bluth is completely establish.

Buster in the pilot episode with family

The Bluth children

Buster in stripper clothes borrowed from G.O.B.
“it’s all regulation Michael, to get the top right the pants had to be a little snug”

An important change in Buster comes from a loose seal, the seal wearing the yellow bow tie that bites off his hand. Not only does the characters life completely change, his coloring and design change. Due to the hook or fake hand that Tony Hale needs to wear, the costume team must cut the sleeve to lengthen and cover his real hand. After the loss of his hand, Buster Bluth almost always wears a piece over his button down shirt, the costume piece shown here illustrates how they would add length to the sleeve. The sleeve is cut and then taped to the correct length.

One of my favorite Buster ensembles

The loss of Buster’s hand is the turning point for the character and with this the color palette changes. The sweaters become dark, more adult and sophisticated but the brightly patterned shirts are still a staple. After a long battle of family alienation, low self-esteem, and Tobias’s “analraping” Buster is able to stand up for himself and grow a little, still a motherboy but that’s why it’s called Arrested Development.

Thank you to the Balboa Observer-Picayune for the screen shots. Do check out this great site they are a fans one and only stop for Arrested Development information.

With the last Sherlock Series 2 episode upon us and the excitement was utterly overwhelming. In the end it was a gut retching fantastic story and the costumes did not disappoint, but do they ever? I don’t think so.

Reichenbach Fall starts off with a ripe your heart out moment, John Watson’s shirt is a traditional and classic Watson design but in a darker color rather than his regular rust red and coordinated plaids. The viewers soon find out why the change in color, Sherlock Holmes is dead. Switch to happier times, the costume changes are multiple, Sherlock always looking sharp in the classic Spencer Hart suit, Dolce & Gabbana shirt, and Belstaff coat.

John Watson’s costume’s range from an event appropriate suit with a pocket square (folded in a very casual but classic manner) to a brown blazer with a nap and a matching striped shirt, and finally a gingham button up shirt matched earlier with the brown blazer. The passing of time calls for many different costume changes each strongly John Watson in their design.

Sherlock’s deduction of Kitty Riley emphasizes the importance of the costume and character, and I discuss this important correlation in my last Sherlock costume commentary .

In the court-house Sherlock and John are both wearing costumes that are classic them, Jim Moriarty’s costume on the other hand has had a slight shift. The viewer’s first glimpse of Jim Moriarty is casual with an overly touristic hat, this is the first time we see Moriarty casual and in light colors. His jacket has an interesting design that shows off the underlying fashionable Moriarty, even in a casual state he is dressed for the moment. This character knows he will be photographed so why pick such an understated outfit?  The light colors are key, white and beige, later on in a cream and light grey ensemble. The story that Jim Moriarty is weaving is part of his new color palette, being intensely photographed and under the media’s microscope he is planting the seed of Richard Brook. Seen by many, he is a mixture of the sharp dressing Jim Moriarty and without sin Richard Brook.  Reminiscently angelic Moriarty wears a double vent suit with a round collar Spencer Hart shirt, an immaculate tie pin and pocket square matching his tie, a smart design by Sarah Arthur.

The next time the viewer meets with Moriarty he is seen as a cabbie, his clothing is hard to distinguish but it is dark in color, his normal demeanor calls for his regular Moriarty color palette.

The last time we see “Richard Brook” he is in casual clothing, wearing jeans and a cream knit top with a maroon cardigan. The cardigan being a warm deep color is very different from the angelic colors seen previously and could be signaling a turning point.

Finally the last time we see Jim Moriarty. Let’s save this for the end.

Mycroft, a character I have never discussed on my blog, the reason is I felt a little overwhelmed trying to cover all of the costumes. Mycroft a classic dresser, always wearing a 3-piece suit with a handkerchief, and pocket watch. The evolution of Mycroft’s costumes start with the umbrella, now so iconic, the umbrella was first used to create a pleasing silhouette and adds an ominous aura to the characters first appearance. The umbrella contributes to the mystery and villain image but once that is thrown to the side the umbrella becomes a classic and upper class portrait of the character. Mycroft’s costumes are always consistent in style but changing in color, textile, and style of pocket square. From A Study in Pink wearing a 3-piece suit with a red tie, red being such a strong color and contrasting with the muted tone of his suit, is the viewers first introduction to who Mycroft is. This character is classic and tailored like his 3-piece suit but the pop of red denotes a fiery and quick-witted person. These traits become much more apparent when the viewer first observes the exchange between Sherlock and Mycroft. The last time viewers see Mycroft is in The Reichenbach Fall, always in the classic 3-piece suit but the red of the tie and handkerchief just pop off the screen, such a strong contrasting color hiding some sort of contemplative pain.

Below is the changing of Mycroft’s suits, from A Study in Pink to The Reichenbach Fall. Often in pinstripes, so classic!

Molly Hooper, I have loved her since the beginning and her story is taken to a whole new level. The moments between her and Sherlock are character development heaven and the costume designs are prefect. The mismatch patterns and over sized coat, a prefect look for a hard-working woman who does not have the time to be keeping up with fashion trends. The ruffles of her shirt and the pattern of the textile are in line with her young girlish like qualities, much like her Christmas outfit in A Scandal in Belgravia. Her color palette is not muted, much like the first series but she is now popping with color, red cherries and mauve printed blouse, showing much more of her strength and willingness to speak up. Once a self-described doormat, Molly has found the strength she always had. I am curious to see how her costumes will change in the upcoming third series.

The beautiful city views from the rooftop, the superb acting, and the fall. A tear your heart out scene with great costumes. Sherlock wearing his classic costume, the slim suit, scarf tied like a noose, purple shirt, and the billowing coat. Jim Moriarty back to his darker color palette and wearing a beautiful coat just barely seen in A Scandal in Belgravia. The Vivienne Westwood suit, and a pointed collar shirt, he is once again dressed to kill just like the end of The Great Game. The coat has beautiful lines, a mandarin collar with leather trim, these factors bring a fantastic edge that only Moriarty can bring to a scene. Their collars and color palette mirror each other, and together they look complete and beautiful.

Leaving us wanting more yet so satisfied, the ending of series 2 could not have gone more perfectly. Who knows what series 3 will bring us but I’m excited!

Check out my other Sherlock costume posts:

Sherlock: John Watson’s Costume: Part 1

Sherlock: The Suits: Part 2

Sherlock Series 2: Irene Adler 

Sherlock: Sarah Sawyer

Sherlock Series 2: A Scandal in Belgravia Costume Overview

Sherlock Series 2: The Hounds of Baskerville Costume Discussion

Sherlock Series 2: Irene Adler and the Lace Dress