Hollywood Costume Exhibit: 10 Peeks at a Classic Movie Wardrobe Collection
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
Designer: Theadora Van Runkle
It took Hollywood Costume Exhibit Curator Deborah Nadoolman Landis five years to assemble more than 150 film fashions and craft the collection into a multimedia spectacular (on display in Los Angeles through March 2; see www.oscars.org/hollywoodcostume/ for more info). The styles range from an antebellum Abe Lincoln suit to the dystopian future designs worn by Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games series. The exhibit shows that a great costume can change history, or, at the very least, inform our perception of it. Case in point: Best Picture nominee Bonnie and Clyde was set in the '30s, but '60s women went crazy for the beret and body-skimming midi skirt that designer Van Runkle created for Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway). ''Fashion trends are never made by bad movies,'' says Landis, who counts Van Runkle as one of her mentors. ''She was one of the greatest, if not the greatest costume illustrator of all time. Her sketches are incredible.''
Basic Instinct (1992)
Designer: Ellen Mirojnick
''I wanted to create a look that would be everlasting in your psyche,'' Mirojnick says of this minuscule white shift dress worn by the icy Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) in Instinct's famous interrogation scene. ''Knowing what the room looked like I thought [white] would be a really great choice for this character to seem so effortless but so capable in her ability to manipulate and draw the light,'' says Mirojnick. When a producer suggested that perhaps the dress should be longer so as not to date the movie, Mirojnick pushed back, knowing that what she was creating something new and fresh and that it was important to see the length of Stone's legs in that chair. ''There was ease to the design and it created a silhouette that was modern, clean—no frills, no fuss, no muss,'' she says. Also? Stone ''wanted to be able to use her arms and legs as easily as a man sitting in a chair.''
The Hunger Games (2012)
Designer: Judianna Makovsky
For the film adaptation of Suzanne Collins' best-selling novel, reluctant warrior Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) needed a badass hunting jacket, but in the book, she wears her dad's. ''Originally we did it like it was her father's and, frankly, it looked horrible. She couldn't shoot her bow and arrow because it was too big,'' says Makovsky, who ditched it for a fitted design that retained the look of Depression-era and midcentury workwear. ''We didn't want it to be dead-on period. Even though it's based on period garments, there is something timeless about workwear anyway. We tried to keep the feeling of vintage workwear but make it more nondescript than that.''
Lady in the Dark (1944)
Designer: Edith Head
The mink-lined extravaganza that fashion magazine editor Liza Elliott (Ginger Rogers) dons in a dream sequence is among the most expensive costumes ever made. Head spent $35,000 on it. WWII ended that opulence. Studios were soon forced to ration fabrics because of wartime restrictions, Landis says, adding, ''That was the last costume that Ms. Head could do at that cost.''
Pretty Woman (1990)
Designer: Marilyn Vance
Vance battled to get hooker Vivian Ward (Julia Roberts) into this dress. Disney wanted black. Director Garry Marshall wanted a ball gown. But Vance, inspired by the John Singer Sargent painting Madame X, insisted on elegance, not '80s excess: ''I was trying to give her something in the time, but timeless.'' It wasn't just about a striking dress, either. For Vance, that outfit was vital to Vivian's character development and the burgeoning romance with Edward (Richard Gere). ''I had to show her intelligence when she meets Edward who is so refined and so sleek in his look. Usually a wealthy man would have a more elaborate appearance. He was very simple and very elegant and she picked up on that. I tried to show how smart she was. She got it by paring down and becoming simpler,'' says Vance.
The Great Gatsby (2013)
Designer: Catherine Martin
To create F. Scott Fitzgerald's privileged Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), Oscar-winning designer Martin looked to real 1920s fashion, opting for authenticity over sequin-soaked nostalgia. ''We needed to make the costumes feel familiar but also surprising,'' Martin has said. ''Not everything was a flapper dress with fringe beading.''
The Birds (1963)
Designer: Edith Head
Terrorized heroine Melanie Daniels (Tippi Hedren) wears only one outfit for most of this avian Hitchcock thriller. The director challenged designer Head to find a color that audiences wouldn't get sick of and a style that would allow Hedren to run. Head settled on a muted green and a classic silhouette. ''In terms of what the costume had to be and the color it had to be was really what all good design has to be which is reductive. Good design is mostly about what it can't be,'' says Landis.
Lee Daniels' The Butler (2013)
Designer: Ruth E. Carter
This disco-era jumpsuit worn by White House butler's wife Gloria Gaines (Oprah Winfrey) in the decade-hopping drama elicited giggles, but it's a dead ringer for a his and hers look designer Carter found in a '70s issue of Ebony after she realized that loud Pucci and floral prints just wouldn't work on Winfrey. In the image, ''they both had Afros and they were standing with their hands on their hips and their feet wide out and they had matching jumpsuits on. One side was black and one side was white and their poses were so big and bad,'' says Carter. ''That was the time of 'Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud' and all that great stuff.'' Director Lee Daniels was on board too. ''He fell out of his chair he was laughing so hard,'' she says.
L.A. Confidential (1997)
Designer: Ruth Myers
Hooded capes weren't exactly a mainstay of 1950s Los Angeles, the era in which the film is set, so to conceive this cloak for call girl Lynn Bracken (Kim Basinger), designer Myers drew from the lighting of noir film, which celebrates the framed face. ''I had this memory of the last shot of The Maltese Falcon where Mary Astor went down in the lift and she had a veil over her face and I just wanted to reproduce something that resonated in your mind forever like that shot. I wanted to give you the same sense of 'god, look at her','' says Myers. Noir, Myers says, ''created fashion that was then copied'' in the real world. Made of velvet and satin, the fabric may not have been anything extraordinary, but Myers and her team did quilt the bottom so that it would stand out like a petticoat, adding an element of drama to the look.
Legally Blonde 2 (2003)
Designer: Sophie de Rakoff
Fashionista Elle Woods (Reese Witherspoon) had only one sartorial inspiration for her trip to Washington. ''It was going to be Jackie O,'' says de Rakoff, who used vintage pink bouclé for this homage to the First Lady. ''It wasn't a replica of an existing costume. It was about making it work for Reese who is a very modern person and a very small person. It was about taking it in so the length wasn't too dowdy and shaping it so it was more body conscious and more modern in that sense, but still with the period details with the seams down the front and the neckline,'' she says. Witherspoon initially nixed the pillbox hat, but caved when she saw it on camera, de Rakoff says, adding, ''She just looked so stinking cute in it.''