Costume Designer Patricia Norris Dies at 83

Patricia Norris, the Oscar-nommed and Emmy-winning production designer and costume designer who helped craft distinctive looks for “12 Years a Slave,” “Scarface” and numerous other films, as well as TV’s “Twin Peaks,” died of natural causes on Feb. 20 in Van Nuys, Calif. She was 83.

Working with noted directors including David Lynch, Terrence Malick, Robert Altman, Wim Wenders and Brian De Palma, she was Oscar-nommed six times, for “12 Years a Slave,” “Sunset,” “Victor, Victoria,” “The Elephant Man” and “Days of Heaven.”

Though she didn’t win the Oscar for “12 Years,” she did win the Costume Designers’ Period Film Award. Norris, who was known as Patty, was the only person to receive Lifetime Achievement Awards from both the Costume Designers Guild and the Art Directors Guild.

“At a time when women were new at the creative table, Patricia made a place for herself,” said Marcia Hinds, chair of the Art Directors Council at the ADG. “She elevated all of us. She was a passionate dedicated force. I admired her, a mentor to all of us women. The only designer to receive Lifetime Achievement Awards in costume, art direction and motherhood, showing us that we could do it all. She will be missed.”

She had a longtime collaboration with Lynch. She designed the costumes for Lynch’s “The Elephant Man,” “The Straight Story,” “Lost Highway,” “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” and the “Twin Peaks” pilot, for which she won an Emmy. As production designer, she helped craft the atmospheric and evocative look of Lynch’s influential “Blue Velvet” as well as for “Lost Highway,” “Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me” and the “Twin Peaks” pilot.

“In the landscape of 1990s television, Patricia Norris’ ‘Twin Peaks’ costume and production design for the pilot was revolutionary,” said Anna Wyckoff, editor in chief of the CGD’s Costume Designer Magazine. “With the costumes, Norris did not ascribe to either of the two most prominent strains of thought — what she called Hollywood television overdressing or the cheery conventions of the typical sitcom closet. Instead, she strove to make characters distinctive and their clothing memorable yet unobtrusive. Audiences were mesmerized. Norris elaborated on this eerie verisimilitude for the cinematic version in ‘Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me.’ Two decades later, this filmic approach has become standard for television costume design.”

In regards to collaborating with eccentric writer-director Lynch, Norris said “my mind is odd, too, so we fit nicely. I don’t find him strange so there you go.”

“With Patricia you get no freak-outs, no whining,” Lynch said at the time of her ADG honor. “As a person and as a friend, she is solid gold.”

Norris was production designer on films including “Killing Them Softly” and “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford.”

She designed costumes for those films as well as “The Sunshine Boys,” “The Immigrant,” “Silent Movie” and “Johnny Dangerously.”

She is survived by her sons Patrick, Michael and Chris and her daughter Kathy.

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