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FIDM Celebrates 28 Years of Motion Picture Costume Design

As the 92nd Academy Awards approaches Sunday, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) Museum is celebrating the creativity of costume designers for film.

Now in its 28th year, the exhibition features over 100 costumes from over 30 films. Among the costumes on display are costumes featured in the Outstanding Costume Design category.

Museum curator Kevin Jones explains, “This whole exhibit is almost a year in the planning.” He notes, “By the time we get to see and exhibit the costumes, the designers have already moved on to other projects, but they’re always willing to come back and talk about them.”

Costumes by Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson from “The Irishman” stand in one corner. Together they created the costumes spanning five decades for Martin Scorsese’s epic. “The thing that is so great is this exhibit shows you how these costumes are meant to look on screen,” Jones says. “Look at that color palette,” he says, pointing to the pastel outfits worn by Robert De Niro and Al Pacino.

The vibrancy created in costumes by Mayes Rubeo to reflect “Jojo Rabbit’s” world is also on display.

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Walking over to the “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” costumes designed by Arianne Phillips, Jones notes the details on the costumes, right down to the R on Rick Dalton’s (Leonardo DiCaprio) belt buckle. “The camera doesn’t start at the waist and make you look at that.”

Phillips worked with Quentin Tarantino to create the costumes for Hollywood 1969, marrying fictional characters with real-life characters. The real moccasins that Brad Pitt’s Cliff Booth wears are on display, a choice Phillips did that would be indicative of his character. She calls him a “badass” — he is, after all, a stuntman. The casual moccasins contrast with Dalton’s cowboy boots, emblematic of his Western roles.

Jones says, “I love that she created period costumes that don’t look like costumes, but clothes.”

The costumes by Deborah Cook from Laika’s stop-motion animated feature “Missing Link” were also on display, as well as an actual set from the movie. The detail in Cook’s costumes are impeccable. Her Victorian London costumes are the smallest on display, designed by Cook at 1/5 scale. She built those with understructure to enable movement as the animators needed.

Costumes from “Captain Marvel,” “Avengers: Endgame” and “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker” were also on display and Jones pointed out that interestingly, none had been recognized by the Academy. Though Michael Kaplan created a scene featuring over 700 extras in the Jordanian desert for “Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker,” the Academy instead nominated the more classic period look of “Little Women” and the fantasy “Maleficent: Mistress of Evil.”

Every single costume on display whether nominated or not, tells a story before any character speaks a word. “The amazing thing about these designers is they create for extras standing 20 feet back, 10 feet back, five feet back and the actor upfront,” he says. “If you’ve got a cast of characters on screen and someone is wearing a red tie, you’ll notice that tie.” The red on Mark BridgesJoker” outfits is a dark shade for a reason. It’s at the point where he has fully transformed and looks almost blood-like.  The viewer notices, if they’ve been paying close enough attention.

The exhibit also houses Ruth E. Carter’s costumes from “Black Panther” and her historic Oscar. Carter became the first African-American to win an Oscar for Costume Design.

Jones encourages visitors to come and see the costumes up close, then he says, “Go home and watch the movies again to see how much you notice about the costumes.”

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