A new photo book arrived on my desk yesterday with a thud (it’s huge!), Deborah Nadoolman Landis’ Dressed: A Century of Hollywood Costume Design, and I couldn’t wait to peek inside. What I concluded (Sex and the City: The Movie being a likely exception) is that the Golden Age of Costume Design is upon us. Not to disparage geniuses like Edith Head (who dressed Swanson in Sunset Boulevard) and Irene Sharaff (who dressed Streisand in Funny Girl), but the visual triumphs in this year’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age and 2006’s Marie Antoinette could hardly have been possible in decades past, could they? Happily for us, the budgets in modern moviemaking enable the most gorgeous clothes to be filmed in the most gorgeous ways. I’m not kidding when I say I look forward to Dec. 7’s Atonement because of Keira Knightley’s stunning green evening gown. (Yes, I loved the novel, so of course I’d watch the film for that reason alone. But wow, that dress!)
Before this post gets so girly that silk ribbons start twirling from your browser, I want to point out something about Project Runway. Of course, having watched every episode since it debuted, I realize the show’s not about costume design, which plays a powerful role in character development within a story. Nor is it populated with true geniuses (not talking about you, Nina Garcia! Or you, Tim Gunn…you’re both brilliant!) But as I leaf through Landis’ book—unfortunately a bit of an uneven read—I’m noticing things about garments I’d never have been curious about before Runway. I may, in fact, be developing an eye for construction and proportion! And so I’m wondering: Do you other other Runway fans find yourselves more thoroughly appreciating (or critiquing) a film’s costumes, or even the wardrobe in a three-minute music video, after witnessing so many clothes being built on the Bravo series? Even if you don’t, I’ll pose this question: What movies, past and present, have blown you away with their costumes? And if you want to get really specific, which particular outfits contributed to your opinion?