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‘Dune’ and ‘West Side Story’ Designers Discuss New FIDM Movie Costume Exhibit


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The “Art of Costume Design in Film” exhibition at FIDM Museum at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in downtown Los Angeles kicked off with a party on March 12. Open to the public free of charge from Tuesday, March 15 through Saturday, June 4 (closed Sundays and Mondays), the exhibition features 70 costumes on loan representing 22 films, including all five nominated for the 2022 Academy Award for costume design.

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“Cruella” costume for Emma Stone by Jenny Beavan, on display at FIDM Museum.

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This year’s nominees are Paul Tazewell (West Side Story); Jenny Beavan (Cruella); Luis Sequeira (Nightmare Alley); Jacqueline West and Bob Morgan (Dune) and Jacqueline Durran and Massimo Cantini Parrini (Cyrano). Tazewell and West attended the party, along with Mark Bridges (Licorice Pizza) and Mary Zophres (The Tragedy of Macbeth) whose costumes are also on view at FIDM. Costumes by Sharen Richard (King Richard), Clint Ramos (Respect), Ruth E. Carter (Coming 2 America), Janty Yates (House of Gucci and The Last Duel), and more are also included in the exhibit.

Nick Verreos, co-chair of the Fashion and Film & TV Costume Design Program at FIDM, told THR that a goal of the exhibit is to show a range of genres, from period and contemporary to sci-fi, as well as the breadth of what a costume can be.

“For Licorice Pizza, Mark Bridges used half vintage from rental shops and the other half were custom made,” said Verreos. “The white suit worn by Cooper Hoffman is a found vintage piece in perfect shape that still had the tags, and the label was some obscure store in the Valley that’s not even there any more! In House of Gucci, Janty Yates pulled one GG-logo tunic for Lady Gaga from the archives, but everything else was custom-made or shopped at vintage stores, Etsy, or The Real Real. Yates said that it was really hard to find Tom Ford-era pieces. And Gucci didn’t even make men’s suits in the ‘70s, so Adam Driver wears a vintage Gucci cravat and belt, but all the Gucci men wore custom Zegna or Brioni suits.”

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“Nightmare Alley” costume for Toni Collette by Luis Sequeira, on display at FIDM Museum.

Alex J. Berliner/ABImages

Pointing to how the current fashion world can be infused into period film, Verreos said, “The Tragedy of Macbeth is a black-and-white film, so Mary Zophres used a lot of texture, and one star-patterned cloak worn by Denzel Washington was custom-made with new Valentino fabric, because creative director Pierpaolo Piccioli is a good friend of Frances McDormand.”

He also noted that Luis Sequeira studied ‘30s sketchbooks as inspiration for Cate Blanchett’s looks in Nightmare Alley, where 90 percent of the costumes were custom made, and Bradley Cooper’s suits “got sharper, more fitted, more elegant,” as he moved from the carnival world into high society in New York City.

“And then all Will Smith kept telling Sharen Richard every time they did fittings for those custom red shorts in King Richard was ‘Shorter! Tighter!’” Verreos said, laughing.

First-Time Oscar nominee Tazewell told THR, “I’m just so honored to be in this circle. All the support that comes with a Steven Spielberg film is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Early on in our meetings, Steven was very clear that, for his version of West Side Story, he wanted to reflect a more realistic view of New York in the mid-1950s — to show the grit and the rubble of that time. It re-envisioned Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in the San Juan Hill neighborhood; with the gentrification, buildings were being torn down so that Lincoln Center could be built in that space. That was beautiful to embrace when I was thinking about the clothing. I had to acknowledge that they were going to be on concrete streets and sidewalks in front of the breathtaking ‘50s store fronts that [production designer] Adam Stockhausen recreated.”

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FIDM Fashion Design Co-Chairs Nick Verreos and David Paul flank Oscar-nominated costume designer Paul Tazewell at the opening of the “Art of Costume Design in Film” exhibition at the FIDM Museum, Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising, in Los Angeles on March 12, 2022.

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To achieve this, Tazewell enlisted a team of talented dyers and painters to “paint down, distress, add dirt and sweat to carefully infuse the designs with as much naturalism as possible,” he said, adding that the aging had to be precisely repeated over and over on costume multiples.

It took about nine months to create the costumes, including 1,000 pairs of custom shoes. At FIDM, a worn-in pair of actress Ariana DeBose’s heels are on display and Tazewell quipped, “You can see that she spent days and days on hot asphalt, spinning her life away, really!”

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“West Side Story” costume for Ariana DeBose by Paul Tazewell, on display at FIDM Museum.

Alex J. Berliner/ABImages

To distinguish between rival gangs, Tazewell broke looks into color camps. The Jets gang wore cool blues and greens, with gray, black and indigo denim on their rubble playground. “And I wanted the Sharks to reflect where they had migrated from — the Hispanic islands, Puerto Rico and Cuba — with floral patterns for the tropical climate and warmer colors, so gold, oranges, reds and browns,” he said. “But Rita Moreno’s floral housecoat is a mix of blue, yellow and pink, because Valentina lives somewhere in between the Latinx community, since she’s married a white man and is a safe space for the Jets and Tony.”

As for the dancing scenes, “Stephen and I wanted dresses to move in very specific ways for the different numbers,” said Tazewell. On display is Ariana DeBose’s standout yellow dress with cold-shoulder sleeves and a red pleated silk organza underskirt trimmed in satin ribbons. “There were a lot of cold-shoulder tops out at that time, two years ago, so I was thinking about what might stylistically appeal to a modern audience,” he said. “You see her flipping her skirt around, because it’s so light and the petticoat was created to respond to her body, allowing her to have full control and show off her leg line. It was a beautiful effect.”

Spielberg requested early on that Rachel Zegler’s dress be white at the gym dance. “I loved that idea, because it taps into her background tie to the Catholic church, seeing this as a confirmation dress that Anita as a dressmaker has refashioned or made new,” said Tazewell. “We ended up custom-embroidering the cotton, because we couldn’t find a lightweight-enough cotton to be reflective of her delicacy and the innocence.”

Ansel Elgort’s wardrobe was limited, given that Tony was fresh out of prison — for the gym dance he wears an ill-fitting jacket that was potentially owned by Valentina’s late husband.

Fourth-time nominee West, who initially turned down Denis Villeneuve’s offer to work on Dune, because she had never done sci-fi, told THR that the director responded, “That’s why I want you. I don’t want it to look like a typical sci-fi movie; I want it grounded in history.’”

“I’m a huge fan of British art historian John Berger,” continued West, “and he says that to know what the future’s going to look like, you have to look at the past. So I went a thousand years in the past to find 10,000 years in the future. I came up with this idea of a ‘mod-ieval’ style and based the Spacing Guild [costumes] on the Avignon Papacy — I took pictures of the paintings of all the medieval popes and gave it a modern take — because they persecuted the Templars, and I always thought the House Atreides was betrayed by the Emperor and his people.”

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Oscar-nominated costume designer Jacqueline West at the opening of the “Art of Costume Design in Film” exhibition at the FIDM Museum onMarch 12, 2022.

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Looks worn by Rebecca Ferguson in the film’s first half were inspired by fashion designer Cristóbal Balenciaga, who was influenced by artwork by Goya and Vélazquez. For the turmeric-toned gown that Lady Jessica wears when she lands on Arrakis, West was influenced by clothing of the Middle East and looked to paintings of women in North Africa. “This dress has 100 yards of fabric in the train, and the beading was all hand chain-linked by a specialty costume maker from England, Bryony Tyrrell,” says West. “We call it the most expensive costume ever made, because she worked on it for about eight months at her hourly rate!”

Morgan suggested partnering with sculptor Jose Fernandez of Ironhead Studio in Van Nuys, behind some of Hollywood’s most memorable superhero costumes, to work on the 250 stillsuits worn in real desert sandstorms while filming in Jordan. One is on display.

“[Dune author] Frank Herbert so carefully describes it as a survival suit in the desert,” she said. “Bob [Morgan] took Jose’s prototype to Budapest and set up a factory at Origo [Studios] in our big airplane hangar and we made them all there. The idea is that the stillsuit collects waste water [perspiration and urine] and recycles it like a distillery to make potable water. These pockets are all places where the liquids are kept and there’s a pumping action that starts at your heels and pumps all the fluids back up to your mouth. I keep saying we’re going to need these in L.A. soon!”

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“Cyrano” costumes by Massimo Cantini Parrini and Jacqueline Durran. Worn by Haley Bennett and Peter Dinklage in the film the costumes can be seen in the “Art of Costume Design in Film” exhibition at the FIDM Museum, Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles.

Alex J. Berliner/ABImages

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