Costume designer Janet Patterson tackles familiar ground

It’s not often that a costume designer gets to design costumes for a character who’s also a costume designer.

While she’s not exactly a costume designer in the modern sense, 18-year-old Fanny Brawne, the love interest of poet John Keats in Jane Campion’s “Bright Star,” is described as an outspoken student of fashion.

Fanny’s options, like those of many women of her time, are restricted and her outings are chaperoned. She expresses her creativity by designing and sewing clothes — an artistic pursuit that Keats doesn’t understand.

For Janet Patterson, the film’s costume designer, dressing Fanny posed an exceptional challenge “because she was playing with her own identity and creativity through her costumes.”

Keats and his intellectual friends “have a problem with her as a suitable partner for him,” says Patterson, “because they couldn’t reconcile her love of fashion as self expression with her intelligence, as if those qualities cannot co-exist.”

In her designs for Fanny, Patterson stressed the young woman’s originality, “her extreme youth and lack of experience, joined with gauche confidence.”

“Janet had a good understanding of Fanny and the clothes she might be creating,” says Abbie Cornish, who plays Fanny in the film. “She would put things on me and everything felt really right.”

Patterson, who also served as production designer on “Bright Star,” is no stranger to period films. She held both positions on Jane Campion’s 1996 “Portrait of a Lady” and was also costume designer on Gillian Armstrong’s 1997 “Oscar and Lucinda” and P.J. Hogan’s 2003 “Peter Pan.”

Each time she comes aboard a project, Patterson immerses herself in research with “books, art, history and the Internet.” For “Bright Star” she read Keats’ poetry and the letters exchanged at the time.

The result: an accurate wardrobe for Fanny, but one with unusual creative flair. “The things I loved the most were the jackets, shoes and hats,” says Cornish. “They were so authentic it was kind of scary. I had undergarments, stockings, the corset, a petticoat, then another layer which give the dress its shape, and another layer over that with a blouse, and then the dress, then the collar… sometimes I had six layers of clothing on my body.”

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Bookings & Signings

Paradigm bookings in TV: editors Henk Van Eeghen on “Rex Is Not Your Lawyer” and Mary Jo Markey on J.J. Abrams’ “Undercovers”; both are NBC pilots. In film: production designers Jane Stewart on Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants” and Maher Ahmad on Mike Mitchell’s “Monstersquad.”

CES bookings: Steadicam operator Chris Paul on ABC’s “Ugly Betty” and CW’s “Gossip Girl”; makeup artist Ashley Fox and editor Jen Lilly on Nayan Padrai’s “When Harry Tries to Marry”; and production designer Travis Zariwny is making his directorial debut on “Scavengers,” with d.p.’d Austin Schmidt. CEC signings: editor Anton Salaks (“Shades of Ray”), costume designers Camille Jumelle (“Pizza with Bullets”) and Yasmine Abraham (“The Experiment”), and production designer Alex Brook Lynn (“Zerosome”).

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Vfx vets Joel Hynek, Tricia Ashford and Treva Blue will develop a new Santa Monica studio for the Visual Computing Labs (VCL) unit of Tata Elxsi, the vfx and animation division of India-based conglom Tata Group… Showtime’s “State of the Union,” with Tracey Ullman, and John Curran’s “Stone,” with Robert De Niro and Edward Norton, are among the projects using the new Santa Monica office of Studio City-based editorial house Electric Picture Solutions (EPS)… Vfx house Zoic Studios launched a design unit headed by exec producer Miles Dinsmoor and creative director Derich Wittliff Snap Sound’s Zach Seivers was hired as sound designer on “Mahler on the Couch,” helmed by Felix O. Adlon and Percy Adlon. German film is drama about the relationship between Gustav Mahler and Sigmund Freud.

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