Mavens tailor designs to specifics of film, TV
Gordon Gekko looks seriously sexy. So does Don Draper.
While “Wall Street” and “Mad Men” were made for different media, each shares a great costume design that defines their character. The clothes connect with the audience on both an emotional and sexual level — no matter what the screen size.
Sexuality has nothing to do with any obvious design. “You could be covered from head to toe,” Mirojnick contends. “It’s about the essence of that character: What they look like. Are they luscious? Does the audience look at that screen and just drool?”
Sex in costume design may be a common factor in the media, but there are key nuances. Some costume designers believe that while fashion in film is aspirational and dreamy, fashion in television is more down-to-earth, reflecting much of our culture.
The film of “Sex and the City” embellished and amplified the fashion from the smallscreen. “The television show took this idea that women can wear a Salvation Army find, a cardigan from their grandmother’s wardrobe and an expensive Balenciaga bag and put them together — which is what Sarah Jessica Parker did,” says celebrity stylist Robert Verdi. “It got really exaggerated in the movie when she was always in couture. Even the simplest of cotton dresses was Azzedine Alaia. In television, there is an honesty in fashion.”
Does television tend to focus on the closeup and medium shot? Do you ever see the shoes?
“For TV, I have to adjust my designs to accommodate the fact that we may never see the bottom of an outfit or see somebody from the chest down,” says costume designer John Dunn (HBO series “Boardwalk Empire,” features “Away We Go,” “The Women”). “But everybody on my projects has the right shoes on. Even though you’re not seeing the full extent of the costume, it affects how that actor carries himself.”
On the bigscreen, viewers can examine the tiniest facet on a diamond necklace, the subtle shade of that eye shadow and the exact height of those Christian Louboutins.
“When you watch Elizabeth Taylor in ‘Cleopatra’ on the bigscreen, you absorb all the details. You take in more information,” Verdi explains. “I don’t think that ‘Cleopatra’ plays well on a 13-inch screen. Thirteen inches is a good measurement for porn but not for glamour.”
Costume designers have to take another fact into consideration when designing for the two media: the length of time between wrap and release. Film can’t follow fashion trends. TV can.
“With film, it can be as long as two years. When you shoot for TV, it can air in weeks,” says costume designer Deena Appel (“Austin Powers,” “Miss Congeniality 2”). “When you’re doing a film, costume designers don’t think about what’s in fashion. You can’t react to what’s in the stores because you don’t want to look dated when the film comes out. You have more leeway with television. Film is such a different animal in that way.”