Forgive the self-promotion as we draw your attention to Clothes on Film’s essay in the book Hollywood Costume edited by Deborah Nadoolman Landis, published to accompany her exhibition at the V&A.
Even without the involvement of Clothes on Film editor Chris Laverty, we would still be recommending this publication wholeheartedly. Firstly, it is absolutely beautiful; the kind of text that university students will actually want to pore over for their coursework. That is not to say it is purely educational, but emphasis is strongly on the nitty-gritty use and conservation of costume. What gives the book a novel twist is Landis recruiting actual Hollywood costume designers to discuss their work, including Jeffrey Kurland (Inception), Kristin M. Burke (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World), Joanna Johnston (War Horse) and even a conversation with the legendary Ann Roth (Midnight Cowboy).
Hollywood Costume is available now in all remaining high street book shops and, of course, online.
The Clothes on Film chapter (starts on page 265 just in case you are desperate to get there) was specifically requested by Deborah Landis, the mouthful title being necessary to encompass exactly what is being discussed. Briefly this 2000 word article looks at how the Internet can preserve and promote the reputation of costume design. Topics covered include the Black Swan Amy Westcott/Rodarte scandal, costume influencing fashion, costume as meaning (subtext), and the future of the craft via animation and motion-capture. The following is a sample paragraph examining symbolic themes within Atonement:
‘Atonement (2007, costume design by Jacqueline Durran) alludes to this idea that clothing trends can be dictated by cinema. Jacqueline Durran created the slinky silk evening gown worn by Keira Knightley as 1930s socialite Cecilia Tallis from scratch, its distinctive colour a combination of Lin black, green organza and green chiffon. While historically accurate the dress is also a heightened form of perfection, in that flawlessness is given even greater significance than realism. Green alludes to temptation, and yet to ascribe absolute definition to any colour is impossible. As such it becomes mysterious and by proxy so does Cecilia. Such mystery and delicate beauty add to the romance of the dress.’
While much of the essay was written over a year ago the subject and conclusions are still relevant, perhaps now more than ever. Moreover Hollywood Costume is well worth buying even without our chapter, though all the more readable for it. The book covers similar ground to Landis’ other publications (all of which are worth owning) but has more of a ‘coffee table’ feel. At around £20-25 it is not cheap, but then quality never is.
You can watch Keira Knightley in Atonement at LOVEFiLM.com.
© 2012, Christopher Laverty.