You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Costumes Are the Stars at Pre-Awards Exhibits

When it comes to the mass marketing of movies, studio execs look to TV ads, billboards, newspapers and, increasingly, social media, but there’s also a relatively low-cost way to capture the attention of filmgoers enthralled by the outfits worn by a picture’s characters: the costume exhibit — in which, say, the period attire from “The Imitation Game” or the futuristic gear in “Interstellar” go on display to stir the hearts of fashion-conscious cinephiles.

Two such exhibits take place each year at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Downtown Los Angeles, one around the Oscars (Feb. 10-April 25 this year), another during Emmy season.

Selma” costume designer Ruth Carter loaned four outfits for this year’s show, but only after sending other clothes from the film to such places as the Arclight Cinemas in Hollywood and Lincoln Center in New York.

“That’s all I had left,” says the self-taught artisan. “I wish they had more (costume displays) when I was a kid, but I guess I did OK.”

For a field that once had to fight to get credit in reviews, costume design has come a long way. Pop-up displays with costumes appear in stores and theaters as films are released.

As the world’s film capital, Los Angeles sports several exhibits. In addition to FIDM, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences has entered the fray.

The shows at the fashion institute and the museum have little in common, says Barbara Bundy, FIDM VP of education. The museum offering is a joint presentation of the Academy and London’s Victoria and Albert Museum, and the costumes are more classical, she says. “Our exhibition shows only current movies that are nominated, or (films for which) our curatorial staff thinks the costumes are very good. We’ve been doing this for 23 years.”

The institute even loaned some historical costumes to the AMPAS display, a traveling exhibition curated by costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis that first opened in 2007 at the Victoria and Albert. The AMPAS exhibit, called Hollywood Costume, premiered Oct. 2 and will close March 2.

Landis says she compiled the list of repped films from her favorites, then added to the list. “Other exhibitions are about the clothes, but this exhibition was never about (just) that. I created it to express costume designers’ place in film,” Landis says. The interactive display has its own specially commissioned music, and video interviews conducted by Landis with such industryites as Meryl Streep and costume designer Sharen Davis.

Sometimes it’s difficult to acquire display items, Landis says, because studios no longer keep wardrobe on hand due to the expense. “Costumes are recoverable assets,” she says. “Now they are sold on eBay.”

Even though costumes from films like “Gone With the Wind” traveled around the country to market the film, things were different in Hollywood’s Golden Age, Landis says. “In the old days, after MGM, Warner Bros. or Paramount would finish a film, the costumes would go into a vast (stockroom), and were used by the second lead in the next picture and then by the bit players in the third picture. Those were working costumes.”

For designers like Carter, today’s displays are a great opportunity to teach others about the profession. “Any student who wants to learn will go to that exhibition and absorb something,” she says. “I’m proud to contribute to their learning.”

Popular on Variety

More Artisans

  • Ad Astra

    How 'Ad Astra' Production Crew Created Authentic Look for Brad Pitt Space Drama

    In “Ad Astra,” Brad Pitt’s astronaut Roy McBride crosses the solar system to find and confront his long-lost father, requiring the movie crew to create an authentic-looking future that conveys the theme of traveling long distances to learn the lesson that it’s where you started from that has the most value. “Visually, the aim was [...]

  • Women in Animation Logo

    WIA Partners With Animation Mentor, Toon Boom to Expand Scholarship Program

    Women in Animation has partnered with Animation Mentor and Toon Boom to expand the organization’s WIA Scholarship Program with workshops and software packages. WIA scholarships are given to animation students with a financial need and who demonstrate talent and passion for animation that will lead to a promising career in the field. The Animation Mentor [...]

  • Steven Poster ICG National President

    DP Steven Poster to Receive SOC Lifetime Achievement Award

    Stephen Poster, cinematographer on such classics as “Donnie Darko” and Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” will receive the Lifetime Achievement Distinguished Service Award from the Society of Camera Operators at a ceremony on Jan. 18, 2020. SOC grants the award to an Individual who has served the community at large and/or the Society through outstanding service [...]

  • Swedes Call for Incentives to Keep

    Swedes Call for Incentives to Keep Potential Runaways at Home

    Horror film “Midsommar” did it last year. A new adaptation of the Swedish classic “The Emigrants” will do it next year. Prestigious productions that could have taken advantage of beautiful Swedish locations and craft expertise continue to run away to foreign locations for lower costs and tax incentives. Despite having a strong film industry creatively [...]

  • Game of Thrones

    Ireland Lures Filmmakers With Locations, Expertise and a 37% Tax Credit

    Few locations on earth can match Ireland’s proverbial 40 shades of green. In addition to its restful hues, the island nation also boasts alluring lakes, rugged windswept coasts, small charming hamlets, rustic farmhouses of aged stone, hilltop castles and breathtaking expanses of wild scrubland. Bustling and modern Dublin, Ireland’s capital, will be the largest English-speaking [...]

  • UNDONE Animated Series Amazon

    How Animated Series 'Undone' Used a Mix of Techniques to Tell the Mind-Bending Tale

    When Kate Purdy wanted to tell a story about the nature of reality, she knew she wanted to play with perception and time, fade in and out of memories and give voice to visions that only her main character could see. And it wasn’t long before the executive producer and co-creator of Amazon’s new series, “Undone,” [...]

  • John Wick: Chapter 3

    James Cameron, Keanu Reeves Starring in '2nd Unit: Invisible Action Stars' (EXCLUSIVE)

    Rootbeer Films has completed “2nd Unit: Invisible Action Stars” with James Cameron, Keanu Reeves, Mark Wahlberg and Halle Berry, Variety has learned exclusively. The film explores relationships between actors and stunt performers — a topic at the heart of Quentin Tarantino’s recent “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood.” Joe Mantegna narrates “2nd Unit: Invisible Action [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content