By Susan JAMES
Opening Feb. 12 and running through April 27, the Fashion Institute of Design and Marketing (FIDM) in Los Angeles is presenting the 21st exhibition of Oscar-nominated costumes created by some of the industry’s most celebrated designers. The five groups of costumes feature a president of the United States and his first lady, a thief from the sewers of Paris, a tragic Russian countess and dueling wicked queens.
British costume designer Joanna Johnston’s meticulously recreated pieces for Steven Spielberg’s “Lincoln” look more like the Smithsonian history gallery than Hollywood. Lincoln’s iconic black suit and stovepipe hat were created not only to turn actor Daniel Day-Lewis into the 16th president’s mirror image but also to make him a little uncomfortable in his clothes, an aspect of Lincoln’s real character embraced by both actor and designer. The intricate period dresses with their trims of fringe and lace that Johnston created for Sally Field’s Mary Todd seem to come straight from a period portrait.
‘The thing about Mary Todd,” Johnston said, “is she’s very fussy, so you can lay quite a lot on, and it still doesn’t look too much on her.”
Paco Delgado, the Spanish costume designer who created the outfits for the French classic “Les Miserables,” went in the other direction, embracing a pared down look dominated by textured wools in monotones of black, brown and white. Using contemporary paintings by Delacroix and Goya as inspiration, Delgado had to dress a wide variety of subjects from prostitutes to ingénues and gentlemen to convicts. Amid all the sober fabrics Delgado used, the delicate white cotton gauze over the pale pink of Cosette’s dress, worn on-screen by Amanda Seyfried, strikes a single refreshing note of innocence and joy.
For “Anna Karenina,” costume designer Jacqueline Durran took her cues from the vision of director Joe Wright, who steered her to French fashion photos from the 1950s.
“I thought that Joe’s idea was genius,” Durran said, “because a lot of 1950s couture was itself looking back to an earlier time.”
The character of Anna, played by Keira Knightley, is a symphony of changing moods and Durran has used color to underscore those changes. The rich red brocade gown on display next to the pure white uniform of Count Vronsky is eloquent evidence of the characters’ differing romantic commitments.
The pièce de résistance of the exhibition are the two groups of costumes for the competing Wicked Queens in the Snow White fairy tale. Japanese costume designer Eiko Ishioka created the fabulous red duchesse satin gown worn by Julia Roberts in “Mirror Mirror.” Embroidered with a design of silver peacock feathers, cleverly incorporating the imagery of all-seeing eyes, and finished with an Elizabethan fan collar of white peacock feathers, the look is lush, lavish and powerful, a strong contrast to the far more restrained look used for Snow White herself. The prince’s Mad Hatter costume, like the queen’s red gown, mixes a period style with fantastical details, blending a white satin suit under a dark frock coat with scarlet lapels and a whimsical high hat sprouting rabbit ears.
Competing in the Wicked Queen category are legendary designer Colleen Atwood’s costumes for “Snow White and the Huntsman.” Charlize Theron as the queen wore 12 major costumes in the film and each required hundreds of hours of handwork. It took $32,000 of rooster feathers and four weeks to produce the queen’s signature transformation cloak. Three dresses worn by Theron also on display are equally spectacular and, unlike events in the film, they overwhelm the Robin Hood-like outfits designed for Kirsten Stewart’s Snow White.
Accompanying these Oscar-nominated examples of the designers’ art are costumes from 15 other 2012 films, including a tribute to last year’s Oscar winner Mark Bridges for “The Artist.” The exhibition is free to the public.
FIDM is located at 919 S. Grand Ave. in Los Angeles.