Meg Powers's Reviews > Hollywood and History: Costume Design in Film

Hollywood and History by Edward Maeder
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's review
Oct 23, 2009

it was amazing
bookshelves: costume-design-fashion-history

This book is a great source of reference material and inspiration for any aspiring screen costume designer. I haven't read it thoroughly, but the photos (of costumes on actors and on mannequins-it is very useful to see what the garment looks like photographed simply and without any accessory and makeup styling), sketches and renderings alone make this a great resource. It includes tables of historical periods with corresponding Hollywood period films and notes on accuracy.
One of the things I find most interesting about costume design for film is the way a film's interpretation of a historical period reveals much about the time in which it was made. The examples I always use to illustrate this phenomenon are the many different adaptions of Cleopatra's story. During the pre-code silent era, we had the gothy Theda Bara in a sheer Erte-esque tunic that barely hides her breasts and genitals. The 1930s Cecil B. DeMille version of Cleopatra offers Claudette Colbert with pencil line-thin brows and a body hugging floor-length evening gown typical of the era. Elizabeth Taylor's Cleopatra wears CHIFFON of all things in practically neon colors; when her hair isn't in a bouffant she's got Peggy Moffit (a mod model) bangs. This is all in this book, which also covers science fiction films: it's exciting to see the original renderings for Logan's Run,Blade Runner, and Flash Gordon.
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message 1: by Michael (new)

Michael Dipietro I like what you're saying about periods and what movies reveal... Caroline Evans had a similar point to make in the intro to "Fashion at the Edge," saying that times when certain period fashions are revived create ruptures in time and reveal new things about the original period (i.e. what does "Chinatown" reveal about the '30s and what does a '70s Deco revival have to say about the high Deco period?). Not just the other way around, which is played to death... i.e. what was happening in the '70s that made us think about the '30s. I think it's a super interesting thing to think about.

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