Designer Spotlight: Sandy Powell

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This post is even shorter again than the last; I had planned to post it in February but completely forgot to finish it, so it’s a little slapdash. It’s also formatted a little differently and I’ve left out so many of the films I’ve seen that she’s worked on, because I got a bit overwhelmed.

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The third post in my ‘Designer Spotlight’ series is focused on Sandy Powell OBE. Born in 1960, Powell is a British costume designer who has won three Academy Awards (for Shakespeare in Love, The Aviator and The Young Victoria) and worked with directors such as Derek Jarman (Caravaggio is her first film credit), Martin Scorsese and Todd Haynes.

Like Colleen Atwood, Powell often collaborates with one of my favourite directors – this time, with Todd Haynes. She designed the costumes for one of my all-time favourite movies, Velvet Goldmine, a glam-rock faux biopic which marries the career of David Bowie with the narrative structure of Citizen Kane. Naturally, the costumes are a vital element of the film, aiding in the construction of the central character Brian Slade and all those around him.

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This is my absolute favourite costume of the entire film. It’s like a fop and a glam-rock star had a baby. The contrasting textures and competing patterns should be overwhelming but they’re tied together with the colour palette, lilac being used as an anchor throughout. You can see the costume in action in this video.

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The feathered neck piece is so dramatic, which works perfectly for this scene: the ‘death’ of Brian Slade, which turns out to be a hoax. The silver bodysuit is the perfect colour to show up the bright red blood.

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Again, the contrasting textures are eye-catching and the costume recalls 18th and 19th century men’s fashions.

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This scene is a lot of fun and there are so many fabulous costumes in it. Mandy’s dress in the first screencap above is easily my favourite: I love all the colours, the oversized hat and the gorgeous platform sandals.

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I love how everyone in Brian’s entourage sort of has a theme with their costumes. Mandy has her leopard print for one, seen here in this magnificent skirt suit.

I apologise for the quality of the Velvet Goldmine screencaps. I have a really old copy of the movie and the resolution is clearly not that great.

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Designer Spotlight: Colleen Atwood

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Time for the (very overdue) second post in my designer spotlight series! This time I am focusing on Colleen Atwood. It was hard not to just post costumes from all the Tim Burton films she’s worked on, because their collaborations are always stunning, but I managed to pick just two Burton films for this post. I’ve mostly looked at one costume per film to keep it brief(ish). This post will be just as picture heavy, but may be a little lighter on text than the last one as I’m very tired today.

titleColleen Atwood, b. 1948 in Washington, has been working in movies since the early 1980s. She has been nominated eleven times for an Academy Award and has won three times, including for Chicago (2002), which is one of my personal favourites. Her filmography is extensive and includes many of my favourite film costume moments.

1ItW_04771ItW_00581ItW_0476I’m going to work backwards, chronologically, through the five films I’ve chosen, starting with Into the Woods. All of the costumes in Into the Woods are gorgeous and evocative but it’s no surprise that Little Red Riding Hood’s costume caught my eye the most. (I also love the wolf’s zoot suit, reminiscent of the wolves in Tex Avery cartoons). Red and light blue is one of my favourite colour combinations and the contrast between the puff-sleeved dress and cape is particularly striking (especially against the darkness of the woods). You can just see some of the details on the hood in the middle image, above, like the cutout designs and soft scalloping around the edge.

1ItW_05211ItW_0536I love the smocking and Peter Pan collar. It reminds me a lot of vintage little girls’ dresses from the 30s-50s, which I’ve always found to be very sweet and charming.

Snow_White_and_the_Huntsman_2012_EXTENDED_720p_BRRip_x264_AC3-JYK_0183Snow_White_and_the_Huntsman_2012_EXTENDED_720p_BRRip_x264_AC3-JYK_0172Snow_White_and_the_Huntsman_2012_EXTENDED_720p_BRRip_x264_AC3-JYK_0170Next is Snow White and the Huntsman. While I adore the redesign of Snow White’s look into something quite practical, it’s Ravenna (Charlize Theron) who wears the most elaborate and fun costumes. I absolutely adore her wedding gown, with the skeletal-like cage around her shoulders. While the costume is undoubtedly beautiful, I like that it’s not soft as we usually think wedding gowns should be. It hints at Ravenna’s journey and nature that we see revealed. In an interview, Atwood says ‘there’s always an element of trapped death in her costumes, such as the skeletal cage around her shoulders in her wedding costume.’
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Designer Spotlight: Eiko Ishioka

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A lot of my ‘reviews’ focus quite a bit on costumes, so I thought I would start writing about some of my favourite costume designers. For one, it will give me something different to write about. For another thing, it will make me actually research some costume designers. I can only think of a few off the top of my head – Eiko Ishioka, Colleen Atwood, Edith Head – and as someone who has an appreciation for costumes, it’s about time I start to look at the people designing them, more often.

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As it was an idea I had while watching Immortals (don’t ask how many times I’ve seen that movie), I decided to start with the late Eiko Ishioka, who designed the costumes for that film (arguably the most impressive aspect). She also designed the costumes for one of my favourite movies, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, for which she won an Oscar. I’ve mostly focussed on these two films, as well as Mirror Mirror: The Untold Adventures of Snow White, as I’ve shamefully yet to see any others.

Eiko Ishioka was born in Tokyo in 1938. Before costume design, she previously worked in advertising and then in production design, when she worked with Paul Schrader for Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters. But it is her surreal, over the top costumes for which I best know her.

1bramstokersdracula03Of course I had to start with this dress from Dracula. It’s so iconic! I remember reading something where Ishioka mentioned she was influenced by frilled neck lizards, which I just love. (Note: I think it was in the video I’ve posted below). As a part-time cosplayer this is on my ultimate dream costume wishlist.

1dracula-movie-screencaps.com-2432 copyLucy and Mina make a stunning pair. Their costumes reflect the differences between these two friends – Lucy is often seen with her hair down and in flowing gowns, her shoulders exposed, even before she starts transforming, while Mina is more reserved and modest by contrast with high necks, rows of buttons and carefully coiffed hair.

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