×

Catherine Marie Thomas plants ‘Garden’

Costumer achieves flamboyance with biopic

Costume designer Catherine Marie Thomas was no slouch in the credits department when she landed the costume design job of a lifetime, transforming Drew Barrymore and Jessica Lange into the Beales of “Grey Gardens” for the HBO biopic.

Yet the veteran designer of “Kill Bill” Vols. I and II (for which she earned two Costume Designers Guild noms), “A Prairie Home Companion” and “27 Dresses,” found herself daunted at the thought of disappointing fans of the famed documentary that preceded the HBO film.

Thomas pulled it off seamlessly, so to speak, creating brilliant interpretations of the Beales’ bohemian style without letting the costumes dominate the actors. In addition to an Emmy nomination, the effort earned her name recognition beyond Hollywood, with styling gigs for Women’s Wear Daily.

“For as presentational and exciting and innovative as she was, and true to Edie as she was, she didn’t go over the top into a costume realm,” Barrymore says. “That she could (execute) the accuracy and the artistry without it feeling like a costume piece is a delicate balance not many people could pull off.”

Barrymore trusted Thomas to create “iconic, cool and unique” costumes for “Whip It,” her directorial debut about derby girls, which opens Oct. 2. Expect some fashion spillover as Barrymore, Ellen Page, Juliette Lewis and Eve hit the skates in DIY uniforms that include bustiers, rainbow socks and Girl Scout tops. (Her third collaboration with Barrymore is the currently lensing “Going the Distance.”)

Thomas seems to be the favorite designer of strong, funny women. She partnered with actor-producer Sandra Bullock on “The Proposal,” creating sexy power outfits that added to Bullock’s B.O. appeal (the film has earned $293 million worldwide thus far).

“I’m certainly drawn to strong women who are very knowledgeable about the businesses,” Thomas says. “And luckily, they trust me to help them do their job.”

IN A NUTSHELL

Job title: Costume designer
Mentor: “Edi Giguere. She dragged me out of the costume shop at Juilliard and said, ‘You can make more than $300 a week.'”
Career Mantra: “Laughter. And to not be afraid to trust your instincts”
Leisure pursuit: “Being home.”
Philanthropic passion: Chicago Academy for the Arts (alma mater)

Popular on Variety

More Film

  • German Cinema Is Diverse, But Is

    German Cinema Is Varied, But Is It Too Risk Averse?

    One of the strengths of German cinema is its diversity, says Simone Baumann, managing director of the national film promotion agency German Films. As well as the three films at Toronto directed by female German helmers, there was also German filmmaker Thomas Heise’s documentary film essay “Heimat Is a Space in Time.” Then there were [...]

  • Female Filmmakers in Germany Make Progress

    Female Filmmakers Surge Forward in Germany, But Still Face Obstacles

    Four feature films by German filmmakers screened at the Toronto Film Festival, and three of them were directed by women – Angela Schanelec’s “I Was at Home, But…,” winner of the Berlinale’s best director prize, Ina Weisse’s “The Audition,” and Katrin Gebbe’s “Pelican Blood,” the latter two both starring Nina Hoss. Germany’s Oscar entry this [...]

  • Bull

    Annie Silverstein's 'Bull' Takes Top Awards, Robert Pattinson Starrer 'The Lighthouse' Wins Jury Prize at Deauville

    Annie Silverstein’s feature debut “Bull” swept three awards at the 45th Deauville American Film Festival, including the Grand Prize, the Revelation Prize for best first film and the Critics’ Prize. “Bull,” a portrait of a rebellious teenage girl from South Texas, world premiered at Cannes’s Un Certain Regard and marks Silverstein’s follow up to her [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Jennifer Lopez's 'Criminal' Striptease: How 'Hustlers' Landed the Fiona Apple Hit

    Contrary to what you might be expecting, the number of songs by Jennifer Lopez, Lizzo and Cardi B in “Hustlers,” their newly released acting vehicle, adds up to … zero. Meanwhile, the standout music sync in a movie that’s full of them belongs to no less likely a choice than Fiona Apple. The scene in [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8

    'Game of Thrones,' 'Avengers' Win Big at 45th Annual Saturn Awards

    As Jamie Lee Curtis picked up her first trophy ever at the 45th Annual Saturn Awards Friday night, she had a good luck charm on her arm: former manager Chuck Binder, whom she said was the reason she became an actor. “I was in college and had no thought of being an actor,” Curtis told [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu star

    Box Office: 'Hustlers' Dances Toward $32 Million Opening Weekend

    “Hustlers” is eyeing the biggest opening weekend ever for STXFilms, following a Friday domestic ticket haul of $13.1 million from 3,250 theaters. If estimates hold, the stripper saga could take home around $32 million come Sunday, marking the best live-action opening of Jennifer Lopez’s career. “Hustlers” follows a group of former strip club dancers, led [...]

  • Hustlers intimacy coordinator

    Meet the Stripper Consultant Who Gave 'Hustlers' Authenticity, Dignity and Sexual Freedom

    At last week’s Toronto Film Festival premiere of “Hustlers,” an audience of Hollywood heavyweights and Canadian locals applauded as a statuesque woman strutted on stage, rocking six-inch platform heels and a pastel tie-dye bodysuit. This adoration was not for stars Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu or Keke Palmer, nor was it for the film’s acclaimed writer-director [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content