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Spartan Scoop

Spartan Scoop

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Spartan Scoop

COSTUME DESIGNERS: BEHIND THE CURTAIN

Costume designers and how they are overlooked
Two+fashionable+women
Karma Patey
Two fashionable women

When most people think of the fashion industry they imagine complex outfits draped over models who stalk down the runway with confidence. They think of cheap and disposable outfits that will only ever be worn once and are made only to provide momentary shock serving no purpose in the real world.

Though this may have been the idea of fashion presented to the world, there are many creators who work behind the scenes and serve equally important roles in today’s fashion industry.

Their designs are showcased far more than that of typical runway fashion, yet are continuously overlooked. Though they may not be in the spotlight, the costume designers of the world deserve just as much respect.

Costume designers have worked, and will continue to work, in any and all live action movies, shows, plays, and operas that are to ever be produced. They have a careful eye that is able to narrow and identify what would look best on the screen or stage in order to wow the audience.

A designer will begin their process by reading a copy of the script as a way of “getting to know the roles and relationships of the principal characters.” This can help to broaden their overall perspective of what the characters should look like individually and as a group.

After the researching process, they will begin to sketch and map out potential ideas using drawings, photos, and whatever else they find sparks inspiration for the project. Pieces of these ideas may or may not become physical in order to determine how it would look on the actor themself.

Costume designers have worked, and will continue to work, in any and all live action movies, shows, plays, and operas that are to ever be produced.

Any pieces chosen by the designing team are run through further evaluations by the entire group in order to receive the appropriate feedback. Any issues found are then revised as the final step and can be incorporated into the film.

The job of a costume designer is an especially daunting one considering the fact that creating costumes is not their only responsibility. Designers direct the team, arrange meetings with crew for set and lighting design, as well as organize time to see the pieces on each individual actor. 

These factors are especially important because every tiny detail must be considered when it comes to how the character is expected to look. 

To leave the clothes looking as presentable as possible, there is a long list of factors that must be taken into consideration. Ensuring that clothes do not look ‘cheap’ or too plain, keeping the designs within their set time period, and being able to make the clothes stylish and functional are all ways to keep audiences in awe.

There are many films that have managed to take on the task with great success, one very popular example of this is Disney’s 2021 film Cruella.

When Cruella hit the screens fans were amazed at the attention to detail as well as the overall beauty of the creative designs featured throughout the film. 

Being a story of fashion itself, it was incredibly important the garments had a style unique to who their creator is supposed to be.

The film’s designer, Jenny Beavan, has been widely recognized as being one of the best costume designers in the industry. She has worked on many projects in her 72 years and has been nominated for more awards than could possibly be named. One of which is the award for “Costume Designer with Unique Visual Sensitivity.”

While creating for the character, Beavan claimed she wanted to keep and expand upon the kind of  “punk rock” look that the film had decided to take on. 

Keeping this in mind, and armed with the knowledge that the story was to be set in the 1970’s, Beavan took to some vintage stores both as pieces of inspiration and to work as parts of certain costumes.

She even stated that, “she [Cruella] would’[have] definitely used vintage stores, especially before she had much money.”

The costumes worked so well because, not only were they beautiful without being overly sexual, they fit the chaotic character of Cruella so well. Throughout her searchers Beavan had been continuously keeping in mind what the character would have done should she had been in her place. 

Cruella was arguably one of Beavan’s most widely praised projects and rightfully so. However, not all films can have the same level of success. 

In 1997 DC’s Batman and Robin came to theaters. With the last film having been released two years earlier fans were quite eager to see the characters, once again, come to life on screen. 

Upon seeing the film, however, many were left appalled at specific parts of the hero’s uniforms. 

Batman and Robin from the very beginning of their comics were presented in skin tight suits that “always looked like they were naked with spray paint on them.” 

This evidence was used as a counter argument when the film’s designer, Jose Fernandez, began receiving backlash for over accentuating the nipples on the mens’ uniforms. Fans found the detail to be off putting considering how unnecessary most found the addition to be. 

Fernandez claims that, though he may have been the one to craft the pieces, the decision had been spurred on by director Joel Schumacher and that he “wanted them sharpened, like, with points.”

With this instruction, Fernandez says that he proceeded to not only make them larger, but also circled them on both the interior and exterior of the suits. Reflecting on this he admits that he “doesn’t know where his head was at,” when he was younger and hadn’t expected it to cause such a commotion amongst the viewers. 

The designer even goes as far as to say that the film’s focus on the characters bodies had been “a bit much” for him. “It was silly and bombastic,” he says “and there were times where shots were focused on just Batman’s a–.” 

Being able to showcase a costume without sexualizing the one who wears it is very important. Fernandez clearly had talent but his design was overshadowed by the strange requests and filmography the directors included in the movie. 

Not every film can quite live up to the pedestal it had been placed upon. However, that should not reflect negatively on the designers as all they can do is wait for director approval. 

So much goes into making any costume the masterpiece that it is. No matter if it is criticized as being good or bad it is undeniable that time and effort must have been put into its creation and it deserves to be treated with just as much respect as the creator themself. 

It does not require making a masterpiece to be a designer, just a design. 

 

About the Contributors
Caitlyn Busig, Reporter
Karma Patey, Illustrator
the dude who draws the things who isn't the other one