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Costume design

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About costume design

"What a costume designer does is a cross between magic and camouflage." Edith Head

Costume design, like production design, cinematography and editing, plays an important role in creating character and mood in film and in bringing the director’s vision to life. As Deborah Nadoolman Landis, costume designer and historian, explains, quoting the great Edith Head, “the director is the captain of the ship. Costume designers are facilitators: every decision that the director takes, the costume designer supports. The director only has a few frames to utterly seduce so we need to help bring the people in the story to life. The public are just supposed to meet the characters, fall instantly in love and become stakeholders in the outcome.”

The relationship between director and costume designer is fundamental to the success of a film. Directors often form strong working relationships with costume designers: Martin Scorsese and  Sandy Powell, Tim Burton and Colleen Atwood, the Coen Brothers and Mary Zophres. Likewise, actors often say they only really assume the identity of their character when they have donned the costumes painstakingly created for them by the costume designer.

From Gillian Armstrong’s Orry-Kelly biopic Women He’s Undressed through to the V&A’s Hollywood Costume, our audiences have an insatiable desire for costume design.

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