Once again, I attended the Art Of Motion Picture Costume Design Exhibit at FIDM’s Museum and Galleries in Downtown Los Angeles. Now in its 22nd year, the exhibit showcases outstanding costumes from the year’s best films. In a year filled with period films, superheroes, sci-fi, action, and fairy-tales retold, costume designers had considerable opportunity to display their talents on the big screen.
While some may find it particularly mesmerizing to see costumes displayed from the likes of Man Of Steel, G.I. Joe, and Thor, my eyes wandered toward more classic costume design. I was far more fascinated by the detailing of the more elaborately tailored and embellished costumes from The Hunger Games, Oz, American Hustle and The Great Gatsby.
The contributions of motion picture costume designers capture a world, an era, and a story on film. Costume designs come to define a character. Costume designer, Catherine Martin, nominated for The Great Gatsby, explains: “That’s the job of a costume-the actor is the transformer. The actor with the script and the director really make the story, and the costume is there to support the process.” (From FIDM exhibit notes) What would The Great Gatsby be without the lined suits of Tom Buchanan’s Yale pedigree or Daisy’s glittering headpieces and gorgeous Prada evening gowns? Also, on display are costumes from American Hustle including several of Rosalyn’s frocks as well as some of those low-cut ensembles Amy Adams wore so well as Sydney. American Hustle‘s Costume Designer, Michael Wilkinson, is among those nominated for an Oscar this year.
Sometimes underappreciated, but equally impressive are the costumes that appear anything but extraordinary. These are the classically cut and historically accurate costumes that perfectly fit into a film’s period. The painstaking research that costume designers must undertake is mind-boggling at times. It’s not just about being historically accurate to a film’s period. Sometimes, for example, they may have to track down where to source original fabrics and accessories, locate items that are no longer manufactured, or age newly constructed outfits so the fabric appears stressed and worn. Other times, the challenge is more than just depicting a historic period. In the case of the film, 42, costume designer Caroline Harris had an obligation to depict Jackie and Rachel Robinson as the elegantly, well-dressed couple of their era. Equally as challenging was the efforts to make sure every last detail in baseball attire, logos, numbers, and official uniforms was accurate. On that front, Major League Baseball acted as a consultant on the film to ensure the authenticity of baseball history.
While at the costume exhibit, don’t miss a chance to browse the FIDM Scholarship Store, housed in the same building. The scholarship store offers overstock fashion items and accessories at rock-bottom prices. If you like to be stylish, but your wallet doesn’t always cooperate with your tastes, a trip to the scholarship store is a must. I almost always find something.
After you’ve completed your cultural excursion to the museum and soothed your inner fashionista at the FIDM scholarship store, take advantage of downtown L.A. While I was there, a friend and I walked from the Fashion Institute to The Bradbury Building (304 S. Broadway.) Originally built in 1893, The Bradbury Building is known for both its architecture and its appearances in films such as Bladerunner, 500 Days of Summer and The Artist.
The Bradbury’s exterior is rather understated, but walk a few steps inside and you’ll see what all the fuss is about. The building’s interior houses a central court and atrium that beautifully allows natural light to illuminate the cascading staircases and highlight the ornate filigree ironwork that’s seen throughout the building. Tours are available, but it’s just as easy to walk around the building on your own. Visitors are permitted in the central court and up to the first floor, but are not allowed to ride the old-fashioned birdcage elevators. Photographs, however, are permitted here. The staff merely requests that you respect other tenants and office workers within the building while you’re there. Fair enough, I’d say.
Across the street from the Bradbury Building you’ll also find Grand Central Market. If you have more time to explore, there are several vintage theaters nearby that are also worth seeing including: Los Angeles Theater (615 S. Broadway), The Palace Theater (630 S. Broadway), Tower Theater (802 S. Broadway) and Orpheum Theater (842 S. Broadway)
The Fashion Institute Of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) hosts the 22ndAnnual Art Of Motion Picture Costume Design February 11 – April 26, 2014.
FIDM Museum & Galleries: 919 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles CA 90015
Gallery hours are: 10:00a.m. – 5:00p.m. (Tues – Sat)
** The exhibit is FREE and easily accessible from the Los Angeles Metro Red Line. Please note: Photography is not permitted inside the exhibit. FIDMmuseum.org
The Bradbury Building is located at 304 S. Broadway, Downtown Los Angeles.
The building is open to visitors from 9:00a.m. – 6:00p.m. (Mon -Fri) and
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. (Sat/Sun)