FIDM Art of Motion Picture Costume Design Exhibition

By Kristin Koga - February 10, 2014

A sunny day with a slight chill in the air, an average winter day in Los Angeles, and the perfect weather to celebrate the opening of the 22nd Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibit at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Museum. Each year this exhibit celebrates the best of film costume design from the previous year. Tyranny of Style was given the privilege of viewing the exhibit early and with excitement in the air I entered an impressive presentation of costumes.  

Pacific Rim, costume design by Kate Hawley

The museum selection process starts with a panel that chooses a group of movies that have been critically acclaimed or stand out in some remarkable way. Though they always hope to be able to display costumes from all five of the Oscar nominated films, this process begins long before the Academy Award nominees are announced. With their finger on the pulse, the committee was successful in selecting an expert range of costumes this year. The exhibit is comprised of a versatile group of designs, showcasing the exciting spectrum of costume design in film. The exhibition is laid out with similarities in mind.

Star Trek Into Darkness, costume design by Michael Kaplan, assistant costume designer Ann Foley

The view from the entrance is quite sensational, set against a deep blue; the room is filled with science fiction and fantasy costumes, instantly recognizable from some of the year’s biggest blockbusters. From Star Trek Into Darkness, designed by Michael Kaplan, to After Earth designed by Amy Westcott and Hunger Games: Catching Fire designed by Trish Summerville, the first room showcases the many different directions and inspirations out of which these costumes are born.

After Earth, costume design by Amy Westcott

Hunger Games: Catching Fire, costume design by Trish Summerville

FIDM museum director Barbara Bundy and her team wanted to feature the heightened use of technology in many of these pieces, showcasing a vast array of techniques. Designed by James Acheson and Michael Wilkinson, Superman’s suit for Man of Steel (Henry Cavill) was created using digital body scanning and digital fabric printing technology that results in this exquisite high tech creation.

Man of Steel, costume design by James Acheson and Michael Wilkinson

Man of Steel, costume design by James Acheson and Michael Wilkinson

Moving through the first gallery, viewers get a chance to scrutinize the fine details created through advanced carving, molding, printing, and painting techniques. Add to that the fascinating inter-weaving of historic costume elements, and the result is one very inspirational display.

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, costume design by Marlene Stewart, asst. costume designer Ann Foley

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, costume design by Marlene Stewart, asst. costume designer Ann Foley

Notable are the costumes from Thor: The Dark World designed by Wendy Partridge, which are a mixture of Grecian drape and medieval chainmail, perfectly combined to create an otherworldly sense. 

Thor: The Dark World, costume design by Wendy Partridge

The backdrop for gallery two is a cheery yellow and focuses on excellence in historic costume design. Most noticeable upon entrance are the costumes of American Hustle designed by Michael Wilkinson, an Academy Award nominee for Best Costume Design, which shine with intelligence and beauty. Sydney’s (Amy Adams) sliver sequined dress is stunning, and the fabric appears surprisingly lighter in person, wispy and almost frail.

American Hustle, costume design by Michael Wilkinson

American Hustle, costume design by Michael Wilkinson

American Hustle is the first stop on a journey through the Academy Award nominees, which follows with The Great Gatsby designed by Catherine Martin, 12 Years a Slave designed by Patricia Norris, The Invisible Woman designed by Michael O'Connor and lastly an unexpected pair of costumes from The Grandmaster designed by William Chang Suk Ping, a great addition to this year’s nominees.

The Great Gatsby, costume design by Catherine Martin

12 Years A Slave, costume design by Patricia Norris

The Invisible Woman, costume design by Michael O'Connor

The Invisible Woman, costume design by Michael O'Connor

The Grandmaster, costume design by William Chang Suk Ping

Gong Er’s (Ziyi Zhang) costume [above] is beautiful, to put it mildly. Made of a magnificent silk, this costume is profoundly understated, with just a peak of extremely fine lace at the bottom, wonderfully detailed- reason enough to see this exhibition.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler, costume design by Ruth E. Carter

Encircling The Grandmaster are many other phenomenal historic designs, incredibly impressive and overflowing with detail. Exhibiting a generous range of costumes, the FIDM museum gives viewers an education in costume design and the power of clothing in storytelling. 

Romeo and Juliet, costume design by Carlo Poggioli

The 22nd Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design runs from February 11, 2014 to April 26, 2014, Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at FIDM Museum & Galleries 919 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90015.