black swan’s costume controversy
Up until this week, I wasn’t aware of the controversy surrounding the Black Swan costumes; I just kept reading how they were being heralded as the genius work of the Rodarte sisters. I will also admit that, after all the press the Mulleavys have gotten, I thought they designed the entire movie, a belief that couldn’t be further from the truth. As it turns out, Kate and Laura only worked on seven costumes, and those pieces were in collaboration with the film’s true designer, Amy Westcott.
As someone who has straddled both the worlds of fashion and costume (at the same time, no less), I have always made it a point to showcase both disciplines on this site. Though they certainly have intersected over the years (usually when fashion folks decide they want to try Hollywood on for size, like Jean-Paul Gaultier so playfully did in The Fifth Element), they are two entirely different art forms. From the planning stage to the execution, a fashion line and a collection of costumes have very few things in common, save for they are both built to be worn. Amy explains it in much more detail in an in-depth interview over at Clothes on Film where she puts to rest the rumors of exactly what went on in the costume shop during the production of Black Swan.
Fashion designers are very media savvy people in general, especially those at the top of their profession, which is one of the main reasons Rodarte has seen so much press for their connection to the movie. Take for instance, this video about the Swan costumes over st Stylecaster where readers are encouraged to watch “This behind the scenes video with Rodarte and other designers”. Amy, one of the so-called “other designers”, does most of the talking in the clip and is clearly the creative force in charge of the whole shebang. Below are some of her elegant costume sketches which I want to frame and hang on my living room wall.
Costumers rarely get press (and most couldn’t care less) and yet they are often more influential than their fashion counterparts. Annie Hall greatly changed the way many women dressed when Diane Keaton’s oversized khaki pants and ties were adopted by the masses, but few know the name Ruth Morley, the film’s costume designer. Theadora van Runkle’s clothing for Bonnie and Clyde started a Depression Era-style revival in the early 1970′s, a trend that fashion designers then picked up and ran away with. And over in the music world, everyone knows that the aforementioned Gaultier designed Madonna‘s famous cone-topped bustiers and bras of the early 90′s but how many people can rattle off the name behind Michael Jackson‘s much more iconic and copied bedazzled glove? (answer- Bill Whitten). The fashion coterie is much better acquainted with Balmain, a label that became one of the most covetable in the industry after its designer (Christophe Decarin) cribbed some of MJ’s signature design elements several years ago.
My suggestion is that if you like the clothing from a particular film, new or classic, head over to IMDB and look up the name of the costume designer. Make sure to check out Clothes on Film and Frocktalk and then flip through the pages of The Costume Designer, a digital magazine created by the Costume Designers Guild (the local who represents the designers of film and television). It won’t hurt you in the least and you may be amazed at what you learn. In the meantime, maybe Amy Westcott will consider selling some prints of those glorious drawings…
(special thanks to Clothes on Film for letting us post the Black Swan sketches)