Whether historical or futuristic, realistic or fantastical, great costumes come alive on the silver screen. While often overlooked, costume designers play a vital role in creating characters and establishing a film’s visual impact. The right wardrobe is critical to a character’s development and should seamlessly evoke setting, mood, and atmosphere. These experts and their teams see an idea through from sketches, to fabrication, to fittings in order to bring their designs to life. Throughout the history of cinema, these creative minds have left their mark on our imaginations. Let’s celebrate some acclaimed costume designers and four of their fabulous films.
Les Girls (1957), costume designer Orry-Kelly
Acclaimed Australian costume designer Orry-Kelly took home his second of three Academy Awards for his work on George Cukor’s musical comedy Les Girls, which includes a dazzling array of costumes for each of the film’s three showgirls and dapper looks for male lead Gene Kelly. The designer’s versatility and talent shine in this film, as he draws upon his Broadway background to create a lavish, cinematic vision for this spectacular, often overlooked musical.
Barry Lyndon (1975), costume designer Milena Canonero
Milena Canonero’s career spans several decades and includes three Academy Awards for Best Costume Design, the first of which she received for Barry Lyndon. Canonero’s sumptuous 18th-century costumes brilliantly capture both the era and the attitude of the characters who wear them. From the suits donned by Ryan O’Neal to the magnificently beautiful gowns worn by Marisa Berenson, Canonero’s designs are a brilliant contribution to an already visually arresting film.
Mars Attacks! (1996), costume designer Colleen Atwood
Powerhouse, award-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood has been the creative vision behind some of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters during her impressive career, and her collaborations with director Tim Burton represent some of her most spectacular work. Atwood’s colorful costumes in Mars Attacks! superbly signify the outlandishness of their characters and do wonders in creating a sense of the hyperreal. Of particular note is the iconic, spookily sexy Martian Girl costume worn by actress Lisa Marie.
The Cell (2000), costume designer Eiko Ishioka
The Cell is the first of four collaborations between director Tarsem Singh and Academy Award-winning costume designer Eiko Ishioka, who passed away in early 2012. This truly visionary artist and designer’s work was often laced with sensuality, dark fantasy, and touches of her Japanese heritage. All of these qualities are apparent in her exquisite and exciting costumes for The Cell, through which the twisted dreamworld of a serial killer comes to life. Ishioka creates an unforgettable, striking visual feast that is not to be missed.