Running through April 26, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in Los Angeles is presenting the 22nd annual exhibition of Oscar-nominated costumes featuring all five Oscar nominees. In addition, costumes from 17 other hit movies will be on display, over 100 costumes in all. As with previous Oscar races, the exhibition highlights a clash of periods and cultures that runs from the demure Victorian outfits designed by Michael O’Connor for the Dickens-themed film “The Invisible Woman” through the self-illuminating sci-fi body suits designed by Kate Hawley for “Pacific Rim” to the fantastical looks created by Gary Jones for “Oz the Great and Powerful.”
This journey to the universe and beyond begins in the first gallery with a collection of sci-fi/superhero outfits designed for “Oblivion” (Marlene Stewart), “Thor” (Wendy Partridge), “Man of Steel” (James Acheson/Michael Wilkinson), “After Earth” (Amy Westcott), “Star Trek Into Darkness” (Michael Kaplan) and “Ender’s Game” (Christine Bieselin Clark). According to fashion designer and costume guru Nick Verreos (now starring in Bravo TV’s “Under The Gunn”), this collection of outfits pulls new fabric technology, developed for cutting edge sports, into the realm of costume. Menacing manikins with inscrutable faces stand motionless along these viewing platforms where plastic, urethane and neoprene costumes reign supreme.
“This first gallery is the amuse-bouche of the show,” explained Verreos. “It’s intended as a wink to the Comic-Con kids who love these movies.” The purpose, according to Verreos, is to engage younger visitors who can recognize “The Hunger Games” (costumes by Trish Summerville) at first glance but aren’t as familiar with the broader world of costume design.
Back on Planet Earth, a succession of galleries showcase dramatically different looks for dramatically different films. Period costumes like Patricia Norris’ basic cotton minimalism for “12 Years a Slave” stand across from opulent multi-colored Asian silks used by Penny Rose in “47 Ronin” set in 18th century Japan. The sensuously layered gauzes and embroidered velvets of Carlo Poggioli’s creations for “Romeo and Juliet” contrast sharply with the pared down monotones of Catherine Martin’s designs for “The Great Gatsby.” Marlene Stewart’s flamboyant and creepy costumes for “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” seem about to stage a supernatural attack on the very restrained Daniel Orlandi outfits worn by Emma Thompson and Tom Hanks in “Saving Mr. Banks.”
Whichever way you look, a different time and a different world open up through the art of costume design. The designers freely admit that as well as artists and craftsmen they have to be historians and researchers, too. Gary Jones, who designed the costumes for “Oz the Great and Powerful,” went to the circus for his inspiration; James Acheson and Michael Wilkinson had to come up with a back story for Superman’s suit, and Marlene Stewart researched the world of steampunk for the outfits worn by “badass bounty hunters” Hansel and Gretel.
From “American Hustle” (Michael Wilkinson) with its ’70s vibe to William Chang’s period Chinese designs for “The Grandmaster,” FIDM’s Oscar exhibition, free to the public, has something for everyone. Maybe you should bring your light saber just in case.
The exhibit is open Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at FIDM Larson Gallery, 919 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles.