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Academy Award nominees for costume design on display

February 7, 2011 |  1:01 pm


At Saturday's preview of "The Art of Motion Picture Costume Design," two-time Academy Award-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood said Johnny Depp wanted his Mad Hatter costume to capture the flavor of a mood ring. So she layered his topcoat with multiple colors of silk.

Standing beside his costume from "Alice in Wonderland," she said the challenges of designing for Depp, Anne Hathaway, Mia Wasikowska and Helena Bonham Carter included the changing sizes of the characters. "Alice shrinks and grows, and Helena's big head made her neck look as thick as a thigh," Atwood said, adding that she solved that problem by creating a collar to narrow Bonham Carter's neck.

An estimated 1,400 guests, mainly members of the Costume Designers Guild, turned up to view the more than 100 costumes from 21 films at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising's museum in Los Angeles. Four of the five nominees for this year's Academy Award for costume design were represented. In addition to “Alice in Wonderland,” they were “True Grit," "The Tempest” and “The King’s Speech.” (The only one missing was “I Am Love.”)

"In the best pictures, the costumes are subtle," said Nick Verreos, a FIDM instructor and "Project Runway" personality. "The goal of costume design is to create real people, but when it's a fantastic movie like 'Alice,' the costumes have to be fantastic."

In choosing films for the exhibit, museum director Barbara Bundy said, "We use our crystal ball and try to guess what will be nominated (for Academy Awards). Our curatorial staff sees everything, and we've been lucky."

Bundy said most of the costumes are loaned by the studios, but there are exceptions. "Johnny Depp keeps everything he wears in movies, so we had to borrow his costume from him," she said.

Also in the crowd, "True Grit" designer Mary Zophres said in making costumes for Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, Josh Brolin and Hailee Steinfeld, aging the clothes was an important part of the process. “None of these characters would have had new clothes,” she said. "Once they were made, we had to start beating them up."

And while the characters didn't change clothes often, she said she had to make several versions of Steinfeld's coat: wet, dry and dirty from falling into a cave.  Zophres said she also needed the same costumes for Steinfeld's doubles, with hats and shoes in their own sizes. 

"I did a lot of research before I got to the point where I felt I could design this movie," she said. The result: her first Oscar nomination.  

After perusing the exhibition, guests strolled into a clear tent, elegantly draped and lighted for the evening by chandeliers. There, they indulged in quesadillas, salads and mashed potato “martinis” topped with strips of beef, caramelized onions, cheese and other goodies. The free exhibition, which opens to the public Tuesday, runs through April 30.

-- Ellen Olivier

Photo: Costumes from the film "Alice in Wonderland" in a display at the 19th Annual “Art of Motion Picture Costume Design” exhibition at FIDM Museum. Credit: Alex J. Berliner / ABImages