From Sketch to Screen: The Costume Designer-Part 1

24 Oct

1st Article in our 5 Week Series “Effective People Rarely Seen in the Spotlight”

Audiences could name the costume in a film before they could name the Costume Designer responsible for designing it. This isn’t a big shock given many Costume Designer avoid the spotlight (as ironic as it sounds) the majority of their work is not vanity driven.  In Part-1 of this article, we will discuss what Costume Designer do, why they are rarely seen in the spotlight and Part-2 will focus on how their role has evolved since the days of Edith Head.

Not Vanity Driven:

Given they work with actors and clothes, it’s hard to believe the job of a Costume Designer is not vanity driven.  Yet, what propels most designers is storytelling, literature, character design and development. Below some well known Oscar nominated Costume Designer talk about their work.

Rarely in the Spotlight:

Julie Weiss discusses her design process in an article called Spotlight On: Julie Weiss by Anna Wycoff it states,

Weiss views costume sketches as “wearable notes and changeable thoughts” for an actor’s evolving personality. In her illustrations, dynamic lines describe the character. Sewing instructions, references, and swatches fill the margins, imparting the overall effect that the character is already in motion. In addition to silhouette and fabric, psychological and sociological details become the raw materials for yet another way to give a character dimension. She also loves mud, dirt and sweat. It is not unusual to find aging instructions like “all items rain, mule trough aged” on a sketch. These subtleties are an effort to create real people that an audience is compelled to invest in.

Here’s some of her work.


2009-The Time Travelers Wife


1999-American Beauty

11 Responses to “From Sketch to Screen: The Costume Designer-Part 1”

  1. Open Book October 25, 2013 at 1:17 PM #

    Costume Designer: Colleen Atwood who is featured in the round table up top has designed.

    Chicago, Public Enemies, Nine, Sleepy Hollow, The Rum Diary, Dark Shadows, Alice in Wonderland. She frequently works with Actor: Johnny Depp.

    • Open Book October 25, 2013 at 1:20 PM #

      This is one of my favorites of hers.

      • Open Book October 25, 2013 at 1:24 PM #

  2. Open Book October 25, 2013 at 1:28 PM #

    Here is the full Interview of the Costume Designer’s

  3. Open Book October 26, 2013 at 11:40 AM #

    Costume Designer: Mark Bridges designed costumes for “The Artist.”

  4. Open Book October 26, 2013 at 11:43 AM #

    Costume Designer Jacqueline Durran designed costumes for Anna Karenina

  5. Open Book October 26, 2013 at 11:47 AM #

    Costume Designer: Paco Delgado designed costumes for Les Miserable

  6. Open Book October 26, 2013 at 11:51 AM #

    Costume Designer:Joana Johnston designed costumes for Lincoln

  7. littlebells October 26, 2013 at 4:12 PM #

    Great article OB! I will have to come back with the costumer designers I love. I’m not familiar with their names, hence I love your acknowledging them in this article.

    I will start off with Catherine Martin’s amazing work with The Great Gatsby. Full of life and vibrancy completely fitting for the period. They seemed authentic down to the pantyhose.

    • Open Book October 27, 2013 at 4:42 PM #

      Hi LB,

      Great, Great choice. I love Martin’s work. She does decadence really well without over designing. Meaning her designs never overwhelms the character. I could go on about Gatsby but I was planning on discussing Martin in Part-2 of my article but u beat me to it. Hahaha!

      LB besides Martin. What other Costume Designer’s work u admire?

  8. comicrelief2 November 7, 2013 at 10:08 AM #

    Great job OB, I’ve been waiting for you to write this for a long time.

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