By Susan JAMES
The eighth annual exhibition of television costume design at the L.A. Fashion Institute of Design and Marketing – FIDM – opened on July 22 and runs (free to the public) through Sept. 20. Over 100 costumes from 20 television shows are featured representing 98 current and past Emmy-nominated costume designers. As usual the costumes are wildly diverse from the prison uniforms worn on “Orange is the New Black” by costumer Jennifer Rogien to Caroline McCall’s luxuriously beaded gossamer gowns for “Downton Abbey.” Handwork on many of the costumes, like the embroidery on Van Broughton Ramsey’s dresses for “The Trip to Bountiful” or the variety of women’s looks seen in the designs created by Ann Foley for “Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.,” make this show a must-see for anyone interested not only in costume but in clothing.
“It’s great to show non-costume people the variety of costume design,” says fashion designer and FIDM host Nick Verreos.
The opening display of Joseph A. Porro’s costumes for WGN America’s supernatural series “Salem” provides a master class in design and detailing. A gown of hand-embroidered peach silk taffeta overlaid with antique lace topped by a delicate lace cap stands next to a long black gown with gold appliqué and a gold metal overlay bodice in the form of a spider’s web. Another in the collection of Porro’s exquisite work includes detailing that uses peacock feathers and the carapaces of scarab beetles imported from Thailand.
According to Verreos, “Most people think that those dung beetles are actually jewels and I get to tell them that, no, those are insects.’
Luke Reichle, who designs the costumes for ABC’s long-running procedural “Castle” had a ball when producer Andrew Marlowe told him they were going to shoot an episode based on “The Devil Wears Prada.” Reichle’s designs for what was “ostensibly a Vogue shoot” are a mix of period and contemporary. His silver lace and white organdy wedding gown worn by the show’s co-star Stana Katic stands between a fur-trimmed, floor-length camel’s hair wrap-around coat and a reinterpretation of an 18th century woman’s hunting outfit complete with layers of lace petticoats. Reichle loved doing the varying designs for fictional high fashion.
“You can’t actually put store-bought clothes on an actor and say it’s Armani if it’s not Armani,” Reichle said. “So that was good for me.”
For something completely different check out Alonzo Wilson’s designs for Sundance TV’s “The Red Road.” Based on true stories from the Ramapough Lunaape Indian Nation in southern New York state, Wilson’s costumes are a combination of middle-class American wear with a trendy vibe and authentic Lunaape buckskins, fringed, beaded and embroidered by Lunaape costumer Autumn Wind Scott. Earth tones with layers of detail are the hallmarks of costumes that probably speak louder when seen in person than in fleeting glimpses on a television screen.
Across from the “Salem” exhibit are Lou Eyrich’s Emmy-nominated designs for FX’s “American Horror Story: Coven” – yet more witches. The stunning black and white skirt and top with matching shawl worn by Frances Conroy has huge red roses creeping vine-like across the fabric demonstrating both the art of costume design and the art of creating a character. Diane Crooke’s costumes for NBC’s ‘Parenthood” look remarkably normal in comparison. Crooke said that her major challenge is the size of her cast and, because of that, “95% of the things I buy are off the rack. I love to shop at little boutiques. I love to find local designers that do both clothing and jewelry.”
And together with research, design and detailing, jewelry is the star at the Emmy-nominated “Downton Abbey” exhibit. Andrew Prince, who designs all of the jewelry for the show, explained that he can’t simply copy photos of originals.
“You can’t do the jewelry that is absolutely correct for the period because it doesn’t photograph well, but the jewels,” he insisted, “have to have the correct cut for the period.”
Prince has created elegant jewels for icons from Maggie Smith’s Downton dowager to Miss Piggy’s wedding jewelry.
“The first piece of jewelry I made was when I was 3. It was a piece of copper wire from the television and beads from my mother’s wedding dress,” Prince recalled. “I made a ring for my grandmother and she still has it.”
Such dedication to creating beautiful things is the main theme of this year’s FIDM exhibition.
The exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at FIDM Museum, 919 S. Grand Ave. in Los Angeles.