Costumes in film: dark Hollywood glitz, that green Atonement dress, Barbarella's PVC bodysuit
Spring Festival is only a week away - don’t miss our Inspiring Filmmakers event with screenwriter/director Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), art department researcher Celia Barnett (all eight Harry Potter films!), production designer Tony Noble (Moon) and up and coming director Jamie Stone (Orbit Ever After). More info and tickets here.
Today’s guest blog on film costumes is written by students from Central Saint Martins Fashion History and Theory course.
Sunset Boulevard (1950) was one of the most critically acclaimed movies of the 20th century. Directed by Billy Wilder, it tells the tragic come-back story of fading silent movie star, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) and the troubled companionship she finds in Joe Gillis (William Holden), a struggling screenwriter. The costumes were designed by Academy Award winner Edith Head.
A real icon of the silent-film era, Swanson fit the role of Norma perfectly. References to Swanson’s film career are dotted throughout the film and her personal photographs decorate Norma’s fictional mansion. Head later said that she had drawn on Swanson’s expertise and authenticity when designing her costumes.
The costumes epitomise the darker side of mid-century Hollywood glitz. Head’s designs for Norma resembled Christian Dior’s New Look of the late 1940s, combined with hints of Jazz Age glamour. Norma's signature look is leopard print. The first time we meet Norma, she is dressed in a sweeping house gown trimmed with leopard and topped with a leopard turban. Later, we see her dressed head-to-toe in leopard fabric whilst lounging by the pool.
The dramatic final scene reveals Norma dressed in what is arguably her most significant costume: an off the shoulder glittering evening gown with a jewelled snake bracelet coiled around her arm and sequins sprinkled over her bare shoulder. - Jihane Dyer
Ian McEwan’s Atonement, tells the tale of forbidden love and family conflict before, during, and after World War II. The novel, published in 2001, was adapted into a film in 2007 by director Joe Wright. Both works harmoniously introduce us to the confident aristocrat Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley), her sister and aspiring writer Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) and their housekeeper's promising son, Robbie Turner (James McAvoy).
Nearly a character itself is Cecilia's iconic, green silk gown. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran, (Pride & Prejudice, 2005 and Anna Karenina, 2012) created the provocative dress with a flowing bias cut that transforms within different scenes. Durran added slits to allow for movement in that intense sex scene. The knot that decorated the front of the dress is a nod to a classic 1930s design and was used to symbolise Cecilia's virginity. In 2008 Durran won a Bafta for Best Costume Design. - Angelina Todd
The 1968 cult classic Barbarella starring Jane Fonda takes us on a futuristic fantasy journey in her shag pile spaceship to seek out missing scientist Durand Durand. While the plot remains a fairly simplistic sequence of Fonda getting herself into danger, it does lead to a showcase of incredible outfits.
Based on a comic book tale, Barbarella required costumes that embody a glamorous vision of the future and also represent a sense of comic surrealism. French costume designer Jacques Fonteray, took influence from the work of Spanish fashion designer Paco Rabanne who was known for his of use innovative materials. As a result, costumes were made from PVC, Perspex and chain mail. Rabanne was personally involved in creating a green dress made of linked plastic tiles, which gave Fonda an almost reptilian-like appearance while still carrying a 1960s silhouette. - Hannah Beach
For a full line-up of Spring Festival events visit: bl.uk/spring