The Playgoer: "Costume" Dramas vs Costumes

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Tuesday, March 01, 2011

"Costume" Dramas vs Costumes

In standing up for Sunday's non-Oscar winning movie costume designers, the Guardian's Tim Walker speaks to the challenge of their stage counterparts as well. The dirty little secret being that the most challenging and costuming assignments are often the contemporary stories--not the attention getting period pieces, or "costume dramas."

The job of dressing contemporary characters has its advantages, but it has its challenges, too. In a period drama, let alone a fantasy, it's far easier to convince the average viewer of a costume's plausibility. Most will have no idea when the ruff went out of fashion, or when pantyhose first went on sale. They can spot, however, when someone is too old for a hoodie, or too posh for trainers.


The Costume Designer's Guild has its own awards each year, with one prize for contemporary costume design, another for period design, and a third for fantasy. Far be it from me to suggest the ceremony go on any longer than it already does, but surely the Academy ought to acknowledge the same distinctions?
File this under the old adage popular among all "behind the scenes" artists, both designers and directors-- "if the audience can see your work or becomes too conscious of it, you're not doing it right."

Actually, I personally don't mind some intrusive style myself sometimes.  But not a bad mantra.

What think you, costumers?

1 comment:

M-to-the-Flo! said...

Thank you for posting this! I championed True Grit this past weekend- yes, it's a period- but the period is done right and the clothes were so "lived in" and "worn." Making the costumes look like boring, everyday clothes had to have been a design process for the team, and I feel it needed to be commended.

I do love Colleen Atwood; but, really, Alice? Fantasy is easy to love because it captures your eye and strikes us as being inventive. (Which it is, yes, but how do you judge appropriateness?)

This calls to mind the Tony's where Jess Goldstein's Henry went against Wicked. Period drama versus fantasy blockbuster? I like to think this solidified the choice to go with a musical and play category. I would love the Oscars to go a similar route.

I approve of the mantra you quoted. But I agree, sometime, sometimes I like to be made aware of style.