Thread By Thread: Costumes on Screen

Glitter In The Air

Renee Zellweger in a dazzling sequined costume as Roxie Hart in Chicago.

New Years has always been associated with glitz and glamour, and not to mention glitter confetti! So with the ringing in of 2012 I have decided to take a look at some of my favorite glittering movie costumes. Sparkling starlets on the silver screen have been around, well since the screens were silver. Lighting the ladies just right so as to not totally distract the views and allow them to realize that this moving disco ball is an actual woman, not to mention not have the costume become the scene is difficult. But when done just right the starlet is like the diamond in a tiara, captivating and dazzling in the right amount.

Joanna Wallace’s “Mod Space Age” Dress from Two For The Road

The space age feel of her dress represents the distance between her husband and herself in addition to her continuing effort to maintain a collected cold façade.

This 1967 film is a gem in Audrey Hepburn filmography, Audrey wears 60s fashions with ease and grace in addition to giving a knockout performance as half of a tangled romance. Worn at a climatic party in the film where Hepburn’s Joanna Wallace is celebrating her husband’s recent architectural achievement, the dress is designed to draw the eyes to Jo.  Like a bird attracted to shiny things amongst the tinkling laughter and party glasses Jo’s husband continues to steal glances at his estranged wife in the silver disked number with matching earrings. The dress was designed by Italian designer Paco Rabanne, who famously designed a collection of twelve “unwearable dresses” made mostly from non-fabric pieces such as chain, strips of leather etc. Rabbanne drew from this collection to make a dress for Audrey out of acrylic metal discs linked together by metal chains. The result is  space age like mini-dress that was considered scandalous at the time for it’s see-though quality and it’s short hem. The dress works in the end and like birds, everyone in the room is attracted to Jo.

Mrs. Coulter’s Dinner Party Dress from The Golden Compass

Costume designer Ruth Myers designed majority of Mrs. Coulter’s costumes to match Kidman’s champagne golden locks, it also harks to Mrs. Coulter daemon the wicked Golden Monkey.

Myers sketch of the dress, it was designed around a yard and a half of handmade gold lace she found in a vintage shop in London. The style of the dress harks back to one of Hollywood’s Golden Age biggest stars Carol Lombard.

The cutouts on the arms as seen in the sketch above are visible only in side profile and add a dramatic flair to the classic cut dress.

Fans of Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials will easily tell you that the movie did not live up to expectations. But while the plot of the film may have removed the heart of the story, it certainly managed to capture the look of it. Described in the books as a beautiful, cold calculating woman, Mrs. Coulter as played by Nicole Kidman is just that on screen.

Set in a parallel world to our own Lyra lives in an Oxford where inhabitants wear their souls in the form of animals near them. The entire film has a fantasy art deco feel to it, which lend perfectly to Mrs. Coulters glamorous look. Costume Designer Ruth Myers explained her choice the of overall design in the film “I wanted [Mrs. Coulter] to essentially give you the sense of being the most glamorous woman in the world but I didn’t want it to be loud glamour. So I had to go back and think what I thought the most beautiful looking women were.”  The dress ended up being Myers favorite costume and was used as a main promotional image for the film. The dress lends a false sense of warmth to Mrs. Coulter; it is easy to see why Lyra would want to be like Mrs. Coulter (Though how alike she is, as there are mother and daughter, ends up horrifying Lyra in the end.)

Lorelei Lee’s “Little Rock” Dress from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

The stunning red sequined gowns donned by Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell were paired with diamond bracelets and a ruby and diamond necklace set, to add even more sparkle!

Travilla managed to elude censorship of the costumes by adding a nude netting to the plunging neckline of the dresses, as visible above (along with Monroe’s great comedic skills.)

The dress on display in a Monroe museum, it was actually “lost” for some time as both Travilla and his partner developed Alzheimer’s and couldn’t recall the placement of things, but were thankfully found and then put up for auction.

Most people associate this film with Monroe’s iconic pink satin gown she wears for Diamonds Are Girls Best Friend, but this number is equally as dazzling.  It is the first thing we seen Monroe in the film beside a stunning Jane Russell, whilst singing a sultry version of Two Little Girls from Little Rock.  The sight of the two in sequined red dresses with thigh high slits it’s easy to see how the two could be so successful as a song and dance show in Paris.  The costume was designed by Travilla and was actually made of s silk crepe hand embroidered with thousands of red sequins sewn in a spiral the best catch the light. The thigh high slit features a large diamond brooch to draw the eye in.  It’s easy to see how the girls end up catching millionaires in these dazzling numbers, and the dress remains one of Monroe’s most iconic!

Roxie Hart’s  “Roxie” Dress from Chicago

The dress is akin to a much shortened flapper dress.

Notice the golden undertone to the dress in this photo compared to the bluish white look of the costume in the one above.

A close up of the costumes hand sewn sequins, bugle beads and strands of rhinestones along with larger rhinestones to really make it sparkle!

2003’s movie version of Chicago helped solidify the return of the movie musical and helped sky rocket the career of Renee Zellweger. With the majority of numbers taking place in murderess and aspiring stage star Roxie Hart, the costumes were able to take flight and display the luxury of 20s fashion. For Roxie’s titular number she dons a dazzling silver sequined unitard complete with 20s fringe and bejeweled gloves.  Dancing around a chorus of men singing her name Roxie’s costume seemingly changes color shot by shot, this is due to collaboration between costumes and lighting. The film’s costume designer Colleen Atwood explains “If you want someone to feel warm, you dress them in a warm color and put a warm light on them and you get the picture. Sometimes, all that needs pushing a little bit to help tell the story and to make it more beautiful. It’s a huge collaboration between lighting and design.” The costume is certainly fantastical and perfect for a dream sequence in which everyone is singing her name!

Satine’s “Black Diamonds” Dress from Moulin Rouge

Satine’s showgirls coat and tails are made from custom-made rhinestones and bugle beads.

Martin’s sketch of the costume. An earlier sketch called for a longer dress more dress like silhouette made from the sequined scallops on the bodice. Thankfully Martin changed her mind and went with a more danceable look.

This 2001 film revitalized the musical for the modern era and is chock full of fantastic costumes. Designed by Catherine Martin this costume is the first we see the desirable courtesan Satine in.  In a homage to Marilyn Monroe and Madonna the number combines the classic songs Diamonds Are A Girls Best Friend and Material Girl. To best show off the showman quality of the show Martin put her in a bedazzled version of a top hat and tails. Flown in on a robe swing Satine serves as the literal diamond of the Moulin Rouge to be possessed by the highest bidder. The corset is made from a black silk with varying sizes of rhinestones and bugle beads in a scalloped pattern with a fringe made from silver bugle beads.  The finished result is a showgirl number that harks back to the turn of the century.

This entry was published on January 6, 2012 at 10:47 pm. It’s filed under Entertainment, Jan. 2012 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

5 thoughts on “Glitter In The Air

  1. Truly amazing writing Riley,full of interesting content ! I adore your writing skill.
    Rhoda 😉

  2. Debra Morales on said:

    Beautiful work and designs…

  3. monroe62 on said:

    Wonderful article, but need to correct a couple of errors. The photo of the red dress is when it was displayed at the William Paley Center in Los Angeles before being auctioned last December, not in a Marilyn Museum (there are none.) And second, Travilla NEVER had Alzheimers, though Mr. Sarris does. The red dress sold at auction, (and the others) all belonged to Debbie Reynolds, not the Travilla Estate.

    • Thanks so much for the info, sorry about the mix up I knew the dress was in Ms. Reynolds collection at some point but mis interpreted the article about Travilla and his partner! Thanks for clearing that up!

  4. EmparmaBaisse on said:

    Qual è la frase corretta … Super, brillante idea

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