13th Annual Emmy-Nominated Costume Design Exhibition Opens at FIDM

Photos by Susan JAMES
Visitors welcomed to FIDM fashion event.

By Susan JAMES

The 13th annual exhibition of Emmy-nominated costumes by designers for television has opened at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) and will run through Oct. 26. Free to the public, the exhibition is located at 919 S. Grand Ave. and includes over 100 costumes from 23 television shows including 10 of those nominated for the Emmy Awards, which will be held on Sept. 22. In the last few years, costume design has become one of the rock star categories of filmmaking whether it’s on the big screen or the small. In 2015 there were two categories for costumes for an Emmy with five nominees each. Today there are four categories with 22 nominations. Costume design has become an acknowledged art.

Emmy categories run from period costumes to fantasy/sci fi to contemporary to variety/reality shows. Appropriately enough for those going for the gold, in the FIDM exhibition gold is a standout theme. The spectacular golden lion costume by Marina Toybina for “The Masked Singer” on Fox would make Louis XIV envious.

Cynthia Summers and her costumes for ‘A Series of Unfortunate Events.’

Draped in swaths of golden fabric over glittering armor plate and topped by a faux-jeweled lion’s mask, it would be a crowd pleaser at any Versailles royal ball. Matching the drama is the wing-sleeved, slinky gold ball gown with jeweled bodice designed for FX’s “Pose” by Lou Eyrich and Analucia McGorty. As a statement piece for the gender-bending show it looks as if it’s about to take off on golden wings.

And speaking of wings, Cynthia Summers’ wildly imaginative looks for the wildly imaginative Netflix series, “A Series of Unfortunate Events” is a carnival all on its own. For some of the more elaborate costumes not only was a design specialist needed but a mechanics specialist as well. When actress Lucy Punch was fitted in her Esmé Squalor, many-tentacled octopus dress, cut from curve-clinging purple latex, Summers said she was prepared.

Michelle R. Cole and her ‘Black-ish’ costumes.

“We had wrenches, screwdrivers and glue guns at the ready,” said Summers. Also plenty of air since all the tentacles had to be inflated with a bicycle pump.

The dragonfly dress worn in the show by Morena Baccarin for the character of Beatrice Baudelaire also required engineering as the delicate wings rising up from the backless bodice had to actually work on camera. Made from laser-cut aluminum, coated with iridescence and bolted at the back of the corset to thin metal sheets that run underneath the covering fabric, the result is fairytale magic. The gown itself, with its light overlay of gauze appliquéd with multi-colored flower patterns, is an airy complement to the delicacy of the wings.

Another excursion into the world of the supernatural is the costume design by Claire Anderson for the Amazon series “Good Omens.” The chic appeal of Satan’s emissary, Crowley, wearing a rocker’s wardrobe in Rolling Stones black, competes with the retro but urbane 19th century look of God’s angel Aziraphale. On the female side of the equation the full flow of Anathema Device’s subtle plaid costume belted in drab turquoise looks cutting-edge contemporary compared to the ’60s style of Madame Tracy’s Welsh tapestry coat and knee-high boots. As “Good Omens” author Neil Gaiman might say, the devil is in the details.

A Series of Unfortunate Events (detail)

A flourish of patterns and colors define both Michelle R. Cole’s contemporary costumes for ABC’s “Black-ish” and Donna Zakowska’s period pieces for Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel.” Stripes, sequins and ruffles play riffs on Cole’s costumes while checks, stripes and floating florals define Zakowska’s 1960s looks. Like all good art, everywhere you look in this exhibition there are incredible bits of detail. The wacked-out motorcycle jacket designed by Beth Birkett for HBO’s “Native Son,” the pastiche of ethnic fabrics used by Terry Dresbach and Nina Ayres for the American frontier and First Nations looks in STARZ’s “Outlander,” the exoskeleton dress by Melina Root for The CW’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend” and the monotones of fur, metal and leather of Michele Clapton’s costumes for the final season of perennial favorite, HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

Game of Thrones

Costumes are special. They have to evoke a time, a mood, a place, a season of the year while projecting and commenting on the personality of the character who wears them together with the events that they’re experiencing.  Costume designers are special and go to extraordinary lengths to get it right. 

Three-dimensional art, up close and personal, on display now at FIDM, 919 S. Grand Ave., Los Angeles, (800) 624-1200.

A Series of Unfortunate Events
Good Omens
Native Son
Outlander (detail)
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
The Masked Singer (detail)