Here is an extract from an enlightening interview with Ann Roth, costume designer of Working Girl (1988), The Talented Mr Ripley (1999) and now 1930s set TV drama Mildred Pierce starring Kate Winslet. Read the full interview over at Harper’s Bazaar to learn why costume design is definitely NOT fashion design.
Interestingly, Ann Roth touches upon a similar point made by The Tudors’ costume designer Joan Bergin in our exclusive interview. Bergin explains that, like Roth, she creates for characters, not catwalk. This is a common misconception of the costume designer’s role. Sometimes there is overlap, intentional or not, but costumes are intended to serve the narrative; any allusion to contemporary fashion is either intentional (if it is part of the plot, say with The Devil Wears Prada) or inferred by the audience.
In the Harper’s Bazaar interview, Ann Roth explains her process:
I don’t dress movie stars; I dress actors who are playing characters… I think about how much money they spent, where they go, does she have a drawer for silk slips.
Such understanding of not just period but status of the characters living within it cements Roth as one of the best in the business. Even if she continues to inspire fashion trends with her costumes for Jane Fonda as Bree Daniels in Klute (1971), for her this is a by-product; it was never the goal.
Source: Harper’s Bazaar
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