How a Costume Designer Creates an Iconic Look | Crew Spotlight

How a Costume Designer Creates an Iconic Look | Crew Spotlight


This video was brought to you by Bombfell,
head over to bombfell.com/filmradar to get $25 off of your first order. Behind every memorable character is a memorable
costume, and behind every costume is a costume designer. Their job is to create a look for each character
that serves the needs of the story, sometimes to make a character stand out from the crowd,
sometimes to blend in to one, but always to make sure that they’re clothed in the appropriate
attire. “That’s the definition of good costuming,
that it’s the most appropriate thing for that character to be wearing.” Deciding on what would make for the most appropriate
outfit requires a deep understanding of character and story. “Sometimes we’re more like psychologists figuring
out our characters, how messy or neat they are, where they shop, we set the time and
the place with our costumes.” Stage One: Script Analysis
The first step to designing a great costume is understanding the script, and each of the
characters. For each character to feel believable, you
have to consider everything about that character when designing their wardrobe, where they’re
from, their financial situation, how fashionably conscious they are, not to mention the specific
context of each scene. Princess Ann in Roman Holdiay should be wearing
something elegant while fulfilling her royal duties, and something rather dressed down
while incognito in Rome. “This is what we call transformation through
wardrobe. The main thing that I want to be very clear
and explain to you is that fashion is not the primary thing – the primary effort in
motion pictures is to tell the story”. A good costume designer knows how to analyze
a screenplay much like an actor would, to get inside the head of the character, to develop
an understanding of the world that character belongs to and design the wardrobe accordingly. Stage Two: Coversations with the Director
After a thorough reading of the script, the costume designer will begin conversations
with the director. Each director will have their own unique vision
for any given project, and it’s that vision that every crew member on a film should be
working towards. “It is a true collaboration in that we’re
all reading the same screenplay, and the screenplay has clues but you have to have conversations
with the director, and not just one but a lot of conversations, because it’s the director’s
movie. Maybe not at Marvel, but it’s the director’s
movie.” Those conversations are crucial to understanding
what themes are going to be explored, the transformations a character may go through
and how the costume should reflect that. How color can be used to subtely imply a character’s
pride in their heritage and subsequent journey to a new country, or how it can show us that
a character has fallen in love, or to us that a character fallen out of it. A costume can show us a character following
in his father’s footsteps, a character’s descent into a criminal underworld where moral lines
become increasingly blurred, or foreshadow a character’s affinity for pretty things. “There is something about him that is slightly
vain, that little neckerchief he wears. So again it comes back to starting to let
the audience know beforehand that there’s something about Smeagol that isn’t as endearing
as a hobbit.” There are endless possibilities for costume
design to contribute to the storytelling, and that’s something that the costume designer
and the director will work closely together to achieve. Stage Three: Research
Once the vision has been established, the costume designer will often enter the research
phase. An essential part of the process that doesn’t
just apply to a period piece, but even something like fantasy or sci-fi because more often
than not you’re pulling from real world examples to influence your design. But even a contemporary piece still necessitates
research to understand the culture or economy of any given setting, and the characters that
exist within. Creative license is often taken, the level
of which is ultimately up to each director and designer, but regardless of how much liberty
is taken with the historical references it’s still important to have a base level understanding
of the history governing the clothing so that the work feels grounded in reality. Nearly every design choice has a practical
function underlying the aesthetic, and understanding why something is designed a certain way allows
a designer to create a costume that feels convincing within its narrative. This of course involves further collaboration
with other crew such as the hair and make-up department or the production designer to follow
the same guidelines as far as color palette or tone, to make sure that each costume can
fall into place within the larger tapestry. Stage Four: Sketches
Before any design is manufactured, it starts as a sketch. Not only does this allow for quick changes
if a certain fabric or color isn’t working with the rest of the crew’s designs, but most
importantly, it saves the entire production valuabe time and money. It also gives the costume designer the opportunity
to explore their best options, based on things like budget, the specific actor, or a costume’s
functionality; say designing an outfit that can cover the stunt rigging for Neo in The
Matrix. But whatever criteria may be influencing different
design decisions, I think the most important thing to realize about costume design is that
everything you see a character wearing, from the lead actors to the background extras,
is designed. “nothing is random, everything in the frame
is designed to tell one story.” The reason that everything is designed, is
because in film, everything matters. “With a camera you can zoom in and get close
to every single part of the human body. You can tell if a shirt has been pressed or
not pressed, or you can tell if shoes are cared for or neglected. You know, all of these little things that
help give the audience little clues about who the character is.” Stage Five: Production
Once sketches have been finalized the crew will begin manufacturing the costumes. Sometimes things can be pulled from a shelf
or rack but the vast majority of costumes have to be manufactured to maintain continuity. “All of these clothes are manufactured, designed
and manufactured, why? Fight Club, so many fights! Right?” “You could not just buy a piece, you had to
have-” “Doubles, triples, quadruples, right?” “This is a thing most people also don’t realize
is that the clothes don’t deteriorate through the course of making a movie, every scene
in which they’re deteriorated is a separate piece.” The scale of the production is entirely based
on the size of the budget, and what’s needed for each film, but it’s not unusual to have
hundreds of people working on costumes for a project. Expert tailors, cobblers, blacksmiths, tanners;
will all come together to craft the costumes that you see on screen. And for a film like Ben-Hur, that involved
creating thousands of costumes that were all researched and designed for every single background
actor, even if they only appear for a few frames. Two crew members at Weta Workshop famously
lost their fingerprints after making the chainmail for all of the different suits of armor required
for the films, which had around 13,000 rings per suit. But it’s that dedication to the craft, to
getting every single detail right that makes these movies great. Costumes help to tell us something about a
character, and the world they inhabit. They aid the actor in the transformation process
and help them to deliver their best performance. They become important pieces of iconography
surrounding any classic character whose outfit is often the most recognizable part about
that character. “The costumes that stick in your mind are
the ones the character has inhabited and the character has really come alive in, and that’s
why you remember them, that’s the goal I think.” And just like a costume designer will create
an iconic look to help tell a story, you too can tell your own story by how you choose
to dress. But picking out clothes can be hard, stores
don’t always have the right size or style that you’re looking for and it can be frustrating
to spend hours looking only to walk away empty handed. Most of you have probably already heard of
Bombfell but for the uninitiated, they’re a website that pairs you with your own stylist
to send you the right clothes every time. They work off of details like height, weight,
body type and style preferences to put together an outfit, send it right to your door and
from there you have a 7 day try on period to decide what you’d like to keep and if there’s
anything you’d like to send back. But before they ever send you anything, they
give you a preview of what you’re about to receive, with 48 hours to communicate with
your stylist about any potential changes you’d like to make, so as long as you’ve provided
the correct details and work intimately with your stylist, who you can message any time
with questions or concerns, sending anything back will be a rare occassion. Which is not only great for your convenience,
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and ended up keeping all three. Because I worked with my stylist, expressed
concerns when I had them and had my order adjusted to fit my needs. Everything fit and looked great, and all in
all it was an incredibly easy experience that I would recommend to any guy out there struggling
with his wardrobe. If you head over to bombfell.com/filmradar
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100 thoughts on “How a Costume Designer Creates an Iconic Look | Crew Spotlight

  1. The thumbnail and video, both are visually pleasing. Thank you for putting a lot efforts and time to make this video 💖👏

  2. Thanks for the video! I currently working on small project in school theater and handling Costume division. This video really enlightening me 👍👍

  3. Clothes are some of the most personal things we interact with every day. As someone who's done acting (for stage) and costuming, the clothes are that final touch that makes a character. There's a reason actors rehearse in appropriate shoes. There's something about the clothes that feel like "Ah this was the final touch I needed". I hope this gave people some insight into what it takes to make costumes for film and stage.

  4. Just subscribed for the peace and calm this video gave off. So tired of everyone practically shouting in their videos. Plus I loved all the information you had to give. Great work. 🙂

  5. video game producers need to watch this. Too often the artists who design the characters work separately from the writers. A great video game that breaks this is dragon age inquisition. Hence why the characters are dressed so DAMN APPROPRIATELY! No matter if you change their armor or weapon, they ALWAYS look in character -__-. Bioware got problems but at least the wardrobe is dank.

  6. The Costumes on the 2004 Lemony Snicket Film A Series Of Unfortunate Events is bloody gorgeous! I'm currently making Violets Costume.

  7. Michael’s Thriller Jacket is actually meant to look like an M, if you follow the black bars from the sleeves to the zipper, it makes a letter M 🙂

  8. Yeah, but can you MOVE in it? I went to go see the Matrix on the Wednesday it dropped on March 31 99. I remember, after being awed by the lobby shootout, thinking that there was NO WAY Keanu and Carrie Anne could run in the type of boots they were wearing. (I hate heels on female action stars, btw. It's so damn unrealistic, even if they are superheroes.) Anyhow, when the DVD came out later that year, I couldn't wait to watch the BTS. Seeing Keanu nearly faceplant while doing a practice run in the lobby made me wince. And then they talked about Carrie snapping her ankle during the wall run. I hate hearing about actors getting hurt. Of ALL the avoidable things on a movie set, actors being tripped up or entangled by their wardrobe is one of them. Practicality is just as important as the aesthetics.

  9. So cool! I'm a college student who has been working as a stitcher in our theatre department's costume shop every year since I started college, and recently I've started really getting interested in the actual design work behind what I'm making. I'm even thinking of trying to get into a job as a costume designer, although I know that would be a big challenge since my major is effectively completely unrelated. It's incredible work.

  10. What is a memorable costume design/piece that stands out for you?
    For me it's Terry's jacket in "On the Waterfront"… don't know why exactly…

  11. Great video. I think one covering cos play and larping is another level of what makes an iconic costumes from film or TV.

  12. 2:36 "Maybe not at MARVEL"
    DAMN SHADE THROWN!
    …but, sadly true. It is what ruined most of phase 1 and 2, and came to a head on Civil War requiring Kevin Fiege to step in and save the day.

  13. I love the costume design in the first Silent Hill movie. The main character’s clothing gradually gets darker and redder as the story progresses. The same outfit, in different shades. It’s fantastically subtle but so important to the story’s feel!

  14. Kill Bill is my favorite film and my favorite costume design ever, It's as old as much as new. Just like the film itself.

  15. The best is to have your own Style without looking at be "à la mode" ! I'm FRENCH and I choose my Style by Music Star like Bowie and many other British Band, my own version of british style

  16. I just love the exquisite detail in seemingly simple looks that the audience can't even decipher on screen! Every dart, pleat, and pattern is deliberate, I can't imagine the hours of thought and work that go into that.

  17. The only thing that would have made that thumbnail even better would have been using Bruce Lee's original jumpsuit, just because the Kill Bill one is not an original design.

  18. The disappointing decision made by The Academy to no longer televise this category (and others) is such a slap in the face to the hundreds of people that put so much detail, creativity and hard work into these costumes

  19. watching all these amazing films run across the screen and seeing so many characters I recognize and love is such a good feeling !

  20. That thumbnail made me want to watch an epic POWER RANGERS crossover:

    Controls zombies;
    Telepathic powers;
    Badas* assassin;
    Drunk assassin;
    Used dealing with wicked people;
    Scary/traumatizing in his own way;
    "Crazy scientist+creepy billionaire" dude.

  21. What about girls struggling with their wardrobes? ))) On more serious note, pretty good video, spot on insight into profession. Thank you very much.

  22. I think the designer for Hocus Pocus got an award for the witches outfits. Brilliant and one reason I started costuming and tailoring.

  23. There aren't many thing I'd brag about in my character design, but the fact that I've been able to make a cast of characters who all have to wear the same clothes, but all wear them in a distinct way that shows who they are makes me proud. The MC wears his uniform very plainly and hides under an optional cap, his unit's leader always has his uniform perfectly pressed and tucked looking like the perfect soldier that he is (when the character loses his leg he also loses his uniform), the leader of their settlement wear's an old worn uniform that sort of hangs on him, but it also doesn't have the harsh look of the others, and so on.

    You can extrapolate from that choice of clothing, in addition to other traits of course, who these people are and what they think of life. Hell, the antagonist was a previous member of this organization and wears a bleached uniform symbolizing his belief that the organization needs to be purified, but he still believes in its base idea.

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