Monday, July 23, 2012

Costume Designers: The Exhibitionists

          In the last 100 years since the invention and acceptance of the washing machine, there has been over a 1,000 fold decrease in bespoke and handmade clothing. Beyond the initial higher design cost for something made-to-measure, there is a higher regular use in terms of maintenance both from dry cleaning and ironing. It is something that I give a lot of thought to as Liz Claiborne built an empire that her successor burned to the ground in a few years on the idea that clothing can and should be both good quality and easy care. But that is a discussion for another day.
            Today we are talking about THEATER! Specifically, how amazing I think that costume designers who design for the stage are. My favorite guilty pleasures often come to me thanks to my girl friend, Heather, who let's me borrow her brain from time to time. She's completely into custom and bespoke wear and if I came back rich and didn't have to sing for my supper, the first thing I would do is kidnap her to set-up a custom clothing shop where we made over the top fashion every day with no thought of money. Well, everyone has to have a fantasy. Since I don't see anyone giving me 100k to create works of beauty, I will stick to the practical for now. It's also hard when a custom suit made-to-measure takes roughly 20-30 times more to create plus fitting time compared to a ready-to-wear version.
            However, I always respect my fellow designers who seem to be able to manage what I never could which is making theater and costume one-offs pay. So, I get to watch these beautiful people on tv make things I dream of having the time to do a full-scale production run of. My current favorite is the popular tv show Game of Thrones costume designer, Michele Clapton. I encourage you to go check out her as she's done masterpiece theatre for years for all you snobby types.
She even weaves her own, however...while her pieces have inspired collections, most of the other series I watch for clothing in them generally have to do with the specific quality in cut, not a specific designer. This is mostly because there are several great costume houses which farm out their period collections so it's sometimes hard to detect if you are seeing the actual work of the costume designer's needle trade or simply their ability to beg or borrow from the great houses.

               Take Downton Abbey which I was so into, only to find the pieces were in large part borrowed by Susannah Buxton from various houses instead of all assembled by her. I can't blame her as that show is full of costume changes, but it did make me decide to look less critically at costume designers for stage as few of them probably have the time or inclination to draft hundreds of costumes from scratch every few weeks. I try not to judge people for working smarter, everyone makes sacrifices to pay the bills. I have a portfolio of discarded projects I loved that got tossed for more practical ones. So I love to watch shows as it lets me dream. Alright, besides Game of Thrones, here's 3 more shows I love to watch for the clothing previews:

     Sherlock Holmes which I watch for Holmes's clothing, specifically his coats

     Suits which I watch for all the male lawyers suits. The women's wovens on the other hand are horribly unflattering and seem to result in boob wads which is so prego. BUT the suits are yum.

   Covert Affairs which is all about some hot shoes and zipper dresses. Those things look so impractical, but I love how this show takes risks.

Ok, have a great day and enjoy a little theater from me to you.

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