From Sketch to Screen: The Costume Designer Part-2

31 Oct

2nd. Article in our 5 Week Series “Effective People Rarely Seen in the Spotlight”

No other costume designer in history is as well-known as Edith Head. The legendary costume designer won eight Academy Awards for her work outfitting Audrey Hepburn, Bette Davis, Elizabeth Taylor, and Olivia de Havilland. Google a few days ago boosts the late Oscar winner’s popularity by making her, and her iconic designs, the search engine’s homepage in celebration of what would have been Head’s 116th birthday. The eccentric fashion designer Edna Mode who outfits the superheroes in Disney/Pixar’s The Incredibles was modeled after her.[1]

Edith’s ability to shape each gown to a character or image made her as popular with film directors as with the glamour girls she dressed in both their private lives and screen roles. Yet the image she devoted the most work to was her own. Her friendly frankness led to regular appearances on Art Linkletter’s daytime television show in the 1950s, offering advice to the un-chic.[2]

The Costume Designer Today:

Costume Designer’s making Edith Head impressions on audiences today designed costumes for The Great Gatsby and The Butler this year.

CATHERINE MARTIN– who created the costumes for the long-awaited film version of The Great Gatsby, worked alongside Miuccia Prada and Brooks Brothers to create the Twenties-inspired costumes that the cast wear, including Carey Mulligan and Leonardo DiCaprio. The designer has long been fascinated by the book’s time period, due to the social revolution that took place after World War I.

Ruth E. Carter-Oscar-nominated costume designer Ruth Carter was on HuffPost Live to talk about her latest project “The Butler” as well as her work on classic films like “Malcolm X” and “Amistad.”

As the Oscar season draws near we wish these costume designer’s the best luck.  What films costume designs have made an impression on you this year and why?


18 Responses to “From Sketch to Screen: The Costume Designer Part-2”

  1. littlebells November 2, 2013 at 4:22 PM #


    Are there any films where you felt the costumes were just awful? Or simply did not add to the characters and storyline?

    • Open Book November 4, 2013 at 11:24 AM #

      Hahaha! Hmm! YES! I have a few on my list but I will try to keep it short and focus on those that are on the top of my cringe worthy list 🙂

      “Sex In The City 2”- It was over designed and over the top ridiculous. The film was obnoxiously a product placement extravaganza one big commercial. Yuck!

      “Twilight Eclipse”- The hair and make-up and wardrobe were too distracting and took away from the performances and story.

      “Breaking Dawn 2”- Horrible and campy vampire coven costumes. Amazon sisters and Irish covens costumes were especially foolish. Overall the wardrobe was too distracting and obvious about product placement. For example no ripped fabric on vampires when in fight with wolves yet the fabric ripped to shreds when the wolves transform? Illogical and comical.

  2. comicrelief2 November 7, 2013 at 10:59 AM #

    I always liked the “Incredible’s” Edna Mode yet does anyone understand the accent or the bob. Still, I don’t doubt Hollywood types recognize Edith Head.

  3. comicrelief2 November 7, 2013 at 11:01 AM #


    I can’t help but notice the big black-rimmed glasses librarian costume all of these designers are wearing.

    Why is this mousy costume so popular? And what role does the costume play in the larger scheme of things?

    • Open Book November 10, 2013 at 2:05 PM #

      Hahahaha! Yeah! To answer your question. I find most clothing/costume designers have a signature look for their own wardrobe. The more public the designer the more simplistic their wardrobe tend to be so they don’t compete with the costumes they’ve designed. 🙂

      • comicrelief2 November 11, 2013 at 9:44 AM #

        I guess that’s understandable. Obviously many actors and directors are “working” off camera too.

  4. comicrelief2 November 7, 2013 at 11:02 AM #

    Though I did not understand you that you aspired to be an actor, would you ever consider wearing that costume to get ahead professionally?

    • Open Book November 10, 2013 at 3:34 PM #

      No, I never had any interest in being an actor. What costume are u referring too? However, I believe people have to be true to themselves first. Taking on a persona that’s not u will eventually impact your work and how u want people to receive u.

      • comicrelief2 November 11, 2013 at 9:52 AM #



        What I meant was being career strategic when the cameras are off tends to be the kind of things I associate with actors.

        – Showmances
        – Trying to be a hero off camera
        – Running for political office

        …are all things many actors might do to extend some association with them that may have been started by a character they played.

        If like an actor, a Costume Designer adopt the “librarian” pose were discussing they are being career strategic also.

        I did not mean you had any desire to be an actor.

        • Open Book November 11, 2013 at 2:57 PM #

          Oh! Sorry, I misunderstood u.

          “if like an actor, a Costume Designer adopt the “librarian” pose were discussing they are being career strategic also.”

          I guess u could say that. I mean Edith Head designed sexy dresses for Marilyn Monroe’s character so it’s not like she didn’t know how to dress sexy. But Edith dressing similarly to Marilyn would be ridiculous and would compete with the actor, character she designed. Its just not done.

  5. comicrelief2 November 7, 2013 at 11:02 AM #

    It’s amazing how much technology has changed or eliminated so many design fields that that we associated with both theatre and film. Yet like actors and directors, the costume designers role has largely stayed the same?

    Why is this, and for this field, do you predict this position will remain the same?

    • Open Book November 10, 2013 at 3:41 PM #

      Well it takes a lot of people to costume a movie. Especially, a big budget film. If u ever stay and watch the credits for a film like Superman or Thor the costume/wardrobe has almost 100 hundred people responsible for wardrobe. So it’s important for a Costume Designer to be a good leader above all else IMO and why the role has stayed relatively the same.

      • comicrelief2 November 11, 2013 at 9:56 AM #

        Thanks for being so graciously answering my questions. After two great articles, (after many previous articles), my respect for the work of the costume designer keeps growing.

        • Open Book November 11, 2013 at 2:57 PM #


  6. comicrelief2 November 11, 2013 at 10:25 AM #

    I listened to the whole Ruth Carter interview.

    Ignoring the interviewer, who mentioned how gorgeous Carter’s designs might be. Yet Costume Designers have a whole range of decisions to execute that Ms. Carter minimally referred to.

    • Politics referred to in the narrative script
    • Physical as well as hygiene concerns
    • Human resources leadership regarding working relationships

    Will you discuss some of the more corporate, esoteric, and nerdy aspects of the job? Believe it or not, I will not be bored.

    • Open Book November 11, 2013 at 3:01 PM #

      Wow! U are making up for lost time. Hahahaha!

      Well knowing how to delegate and thread a needle is key 🙂

  7. comicrelief2 November 11, 2013 at 10:26 AM #


    Carter mentioned how much she liked theatre, yet she mentioned how different the fields are. What are feelings about theatre different from film?

    Before you answer………………. in neither article, I notice than you intentionally haven’t featured one theatre Costume Designer.

    • Open Book November 11, 2013 at 3:06 PM #

      I like both for different reasons. However, if we focus on scale. Costume for film is more detailed and Theater is more exaggerated.

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