Spotlight: Costume designer Ann Roth

'Doubt,' 'The Reader,' 'Mamma Mia!'

Ann Roth delves into the script to find clues for a character’s costume.

“I approach it as the character is written,” says Roth, who worked on “The Reader,” “Doubt” and “Mamma Mia!” this year. “And you build the costume from there, with ideas from the actor or actress.”

While working on “Doubt,” Roth found herself creating a strong look through uniformity: Eight nuns, four priests and 67 schoolchildren all wore similar types of outfits — with only a few exceptions.

“All of that was prescribed, but the look of Viola Davis’ character was something I took from my own experience,” says Roth about the Mrs. Miller character’s suit. “In that time period, even if you worked as a housekeeper, as this character did, you dressed well because there was a lot of pride in looking good.”

Roth had a bit more freedom on “Mamma Mia!,” where the island setting presented her with different challenges. “The actors came to me ahead of time and asked me to be nice to them, but everyone thought their behinds looked so great in those tight pants,” says Roth. “That was a fun, girl-driven film.”

When Roth began her work on “The Reader,” she found herself working on a story that takes place over several decades.

At first she was concerned about the aging of the film’s characters, but her closeness with the actors put her at ease. “When you get into the dressing room with them, the character comes alive. I love that.”

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