Movies & Costuming
Edith Head, the Oscar-winning Costume Designer, famously said,
"What a costume designer does is a cross between magic and camouflage. We create the illusion of changing the actors into what they are not. We ask the public to believe that every time they see a performer on the screen, he's become a different person."
And isn't that all of us?
We can be one thing on the outside and several others on the inside. This split personality, if you will, is what I like to write about. How we can be capable and worldly on the outside and on the inside, something entirely different.
This duality is partly why I wanted to write about movies and wardrobe, but it's also a place where women primarily run the show, and no one gets to see that show. Women and some men design, curate, and work long hours to dress the stars. And, yet it is only the stars that shine under the lighting.
And so, here is the unveiling of what goes on behind the scenes. Lights, camera, action.
Marilyn in Blue
This is a video of Marilyn Monroe wearing the blue suit that is very important in my book.
Niagara was a 1953 Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller movie starring Marilyn Monroe. As two couples are visiting Niagra Falls, tensions between one wife and her husband reach the level of murder.
A link to the entire movie is here.
Dorothy Jeakins was an American costume designer born and raised in California. She dressed Marilyn Monroe in her iconic costumes in the movie.
The Women Who Taught Me Everything I Wrote About Wardrobe and Movies
Emmy Winning Costume Supervisor for The Watchmen, Hidden Figures, King Richard.
Known for The Matrix Fully Loaded, Battleship, The Morning Show
Known for Suits, This Is It, Cliffs of Freedom
Known for Dune, Oblivion, Star Trek, Terminator
Known for Mississippi Burning, 50 First Dates, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan
It's Not All Costume Designing
Other positions in the Design/Costume Department:
The costume designer is responsible for developing the look and feel of a show. They usually spend time talking with producers or the creators of a show, reading scripts and discussing character with the actors and actresses, as well as researching. They conduct fittings and manage the entire department.
Assistant Costume Designer
Often, the assistant designer is the one who dresses the background actors. They also often deal with the budgets.
The shopper spends his or her day out in the world, shopping. Being a shopper in NYC is completely different than being a shopper anywhere else because well, you can’t get around NYC efficiently in a car. NYC shoppers spend a lot of time walking, schlepping and taking the subway. There’s often a costume department driver who will meet them to pick up purchases.
This position is the department head. He or she manages the day-to-day execution of the designers vision. They are responsible for making sure everything runs smoothly on set. They spend a lot of time looking ahead and anticipating problems and catastrophes before they arise. They are also very good at putting out fires.
A set costumer takes care of the actors on set. He or she is responsible for continuity (making sure the correct outfit is worn at the correct time in the proper manner). Shows are rarely, if ever, filmed in order. A set costumer watches during filming and makes adjustments as needed. He or she pays attention to things like: How many buttons are buttoned, are the sleeves of the shirt supposed to be rolled, should that bag be over the right or left shoulder.
There is usually more than one set costumer on a show. Some actors have personal set costumers who only take care of them, but most television shows don’t have the budget for this. Some high paid, “famous” actors have a personal costumer written into their contracts.
In Europe, a set costumer is often called a stand by costumer.
Every department tends to have a production assistants who are usually people just starting out in the business. They do all sorts of things. In the world of television, they spend a lot of time returning unused clothing and organizing receipts.
I always think of the Costume Coordinator as the glue that holds the entire department together. They should really be paid more money than what they are.
They are the accountants of the department, the phone call makers, the calmer of nerves, the birthday party planners, the detectives, the soothsayers, the joke makers, the ice cream and alcohol buyers, the lunatic whisperers and the magicians. A costume department with a shoddy coordinator will most certainly fall apart at some point.
Most contemporary television shows have one full time tailor who is responsible for alterations and clothing construction. Big, costume heavy shows often have a full in house costume shop.