Fueling dreams of success, aspirations and simply helping people survive the challenge of daily existence, costume designers are powerfully influential, capturing the zeitgeist and diffusing fashion trends through film.
After the linear silhouettes of the androgynous 20’s, the 30’s were all about feminine drop-jaw glam. Designs not only had to wow the public, but were essential in promoting and shaping the studio image of stars. Today, film is equally as influential, and no less fantastic. Lets look at some of the influential costume designers from the 30’s to the present.
Seducing American women with extravagant silhouettes, MGM’s Adrian ruled from 1928-41, and produced fabulous costume creations for films like “The Great Ziegfield” and “Camille.” Girls swooned over his ruby slippers and gingham check dress worn by Dorothy, in the “Wizard of Oz.” In George Cukor’s “The Women,” a variety of lifestyle choices had women clamoring at retailers’ doors.
Dressing memorable icons – Elvis, Jerry Lewis, Bette Davis – Head was nominated 35 times, and won 8 Oscars. Working with Hitchcock on 11 of his films, she leaves indelible memories of Grace Kelly in “Rear Window,” and Tippi Hedren in “Marni.” Redford and Newman’s natty costumes in “The Sting” were also the stuff of film costume legend. “A Place in the Sun,” 1951, won 6 Oscars, including one for Edith’s costume designs, and Elizabeth Taylor’s white dress was copied widely by retailers.
Also engraved in the collective memory of America, if not the world, Travilla is renowned for designing standout costumes for 8 of Marilyn Monroe’s films. Still stopping men in their tracks: the “Bus Stop” bustier dress, the white accordion-pleated skirt flying in “Seven Year Itch,” the iconic strapless, shocking pink “Gentlemen Prefer Blonds” gown she wore while proving to us those rocks don’t lose their shape.
Monroe’s 4-inch Ferragamo stilettos both on and off camera, possibly contributed to her alluring wiggle walk. The Audrey is still an available classic Ferragamo styles. Without his invention of the wedge, would Carmen Miranda have made it to the silver screen?
Ferragamo made shoes for Hollywood’s elite from 1923-60, and the company still designs costumes and footwear for film today. Drew Barrymore’s beautiful slippers in “Ever After” were hand-made by Ferragamo. Creative director Massimiliano Giornetti describes the designs for the film “Rush”: “I created Niki Lauda’s character’s wardrobe with his most distinctive traits in mind: an extremely determined sportsman, obsessed with perfection.”
Having designed costumes for 225 films, Armani also dresses a hefty percentage of men at award ceremonies and weighs in as a costume design heavyweight. From 1980 dressing Richard Gere in “American Gigolo” to Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street,” he is known for linear, modern looks, exceptional fabrics, deconstructed jackets, and soft suits for both sexes.
Find out more about the creative geniuses behind silver screen garb in these great reads. (click on links to order from Amazon) “Those Glorious Glamour Years: Classic Hollywood Costume Design of the 1930’s” by Margaret J. Bailey, 1988. “Screen Style: Fashion and Femininity in 1930’s Hollywood” by Sarah Berry, 2000. “Dressing Marilyn: How a Hollywood Icon Was Styled” by William Travilla, Andrew Hansford, Karen Homer, 2012. “The Dress Doctor: Prescriptions for Style, From A to Z” by Edith Head, 2008. “Fashion in Film” by Adrienne Munich, 2011.
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