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Home / Los Angeles Film

The Artistry of Costume Design

By Elizabeth Collazos

Feb. 16, 2017

The FIDM Museum (Fashion Institute of Merchandise and Design) in downtown Los Angeles opened its 25th Annual “Art of Motion Picture Costume Design” on Feb. 7 to the public. The exhibition runs through April 22.

The showing celebrates the creativity of costume designers for film. Visitors get the opportunity to view more than 100 outstanding costumes from 23 films released in 2016, including works by costume designers nominated for the Academy Award.

LA CANVAS got a sneak peak at the exhibition the day before its opening by Nick Verreos, Project Runway alum, author, designer and FIDM spokesman. Verreos hosted the tour and gave a lively and informative presentation that began in La La Land and culminated with the eclectic designs from Zoolander 2.

“Costume designers must tell a story through the wardrobe designed and curated within each film,” Verreos says.

The wardrobe is chosen based off the time period of the particular film, the personality of each character, and an overall sense of authenticity towards the film itself.

All of the costume designers presented an excellent showing of the characters representing the films featured for the exhibition including Allied, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Foster Florence Jenkins, and La La Land. Each of these films are nominated for costume design awards, with all of the respective nominees being women. Colleen Atwood is a standout costumed designer, who has four of her films featured at the exhibition.                                             

The intricacy of detail and mood as a costume designer is a crucial. Mary Zophres, the costume designer for La La Land, uses color and significant homage to the Hollywood musical era of the 40s and 50s; with its retro style, glamour, and sass.

Many of Emma Stone’s colorful and fabulous frocks were custom made for the film. The emerald green and canary-yellow flowy dress Stone wore had to adhere to aesthetic and comfort for her dance scenes. Even her shoes (heels, yes) had to be secure enough so that dance scenes could be performed. It might be hard to believe but Ryan Gosling adorned a limited wardrobe (only 3 classic suits with two-tone shoes). The overall wardrobe theme for this film embraces a modern LA glam factor.

La La Land

The costume design for the women in Hidden Figures tells a much different story. Sharon Davis is the costume designer and excelled in replicating details that represent the time era. Since there were certain dress codes in the 60s, the dress or skirt is always just below the knee, and usually with no-side seams or muted colors.

Hidden Figures

Allied (also nominated) is subtle and overall, the wardrobe is very streamlined and elegant for both of the characters played by Marion Cotillard and Brad Pitt. Joanna Johnston is the costume designer and once again, displaying a recurring contemporary vibe that is present in many of the 2016 wardrobe choices. Even though the film takes place during WWII, Cotillard’s wardrobe was inspired by Katherine Hepburn and Lauren Bacall. There is a very “Old Hollywood” feel.


For the film Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Scamander enters New York toting a leather suitcase and wearing a wool coat in an unusual shade of turquoise blue. His suit is slightly rumpled and easily portrays the type of person who enjoys hanging out with animals more than people. In regards to the women characters, there is a contrast. Porpentina “Tina” Goldstein is an ambitious outcast worker. She is a bit of a tomboy and that is reflected in her more manly shoes and baggy clothes. However, her ethereal sister, Queenie, floats through scenes in pink pastels with radiant satin and velvet. Her character is softer and lighter, reflected through wardrobe choices expressing the soft personality.

Fantastic Beasts

On a lighter note, Captain Fantastic consists of fun and fantastic costume design. Verreos describes it best as “vintage with thrift-store vibes and grandma chic.”
There is also a mod channeling of Gucci, which is always interesting to integrate unexpected elements.

Captain Fantastic

Unbelievably, for Batman versus Superman: The Dawn of Justice, the costumes were digitally made and sewn into the fabric to create a 3-D effect.

Batman versus Superman

Last but not least for the Zoolander fans, the sequel is represented with leather, vintage, and thrift store treasures. Accessories are abound as well. The costume designer Leesa Evans wanted a playful feel but a modern vibe too.



The “Art of Motion Picture Costume Design” exhibit runs through April 22, Tuesday through Thursday from 10am – 5pm at the FIDM Museum and Galleries 

Tuesday through Saturday at The FIDM Museum and Galleries (919 S Grand Ave #250, Los Angeles, CA 90015).

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