2004 Review & Pic

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Elves, Pirates and Samurai, Plus Pink!

A Review of The Art of Motion Picture Costume Design, 2004

Here's an ultra quick review for the exhibit, but the costumes speak for themselves.

==by Cat Devereaux

The Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) puts on such a wonderful display with  "The Art of Motion Picture Costume Design".  Their 2004 exhibit of the costumes of the films from 2003 is always a treat.  It it worth seeing even more than once.

This marks the 12th year that the costumes have been displayed by the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising.  They filled the three rooms of their 10,000 square foot  Museum Galleries on the Park.  Exhibit dates are Monday, February 2 - Thursday, April 8, 2004

Costumes from  movies from 2003 will be on display. This is a not to be missed event.

There were over 100 costumes from the movies of 2003.  These will represent over 25 films, including Academy Award nominated films. 


There were no docent tours any of the times that I was there this year, so I have no review in the information presented this year.  It would be nice if printed plaques had a bit more info about the costumes.  Everyone has their special info and movie, but it would be nice to learn more details about these wonderful creations.

To start... imagine coming off the elevator and running into a scale model of The Black Pearl Pirate Ship... not your average, every day experience. It measures over 21 feet long and14 feet tall.  Totally amazing detail.

The layout had changed from the previous year but it worked quite well, except for seating missing in the main room.  (Hey, folks like to sketch and detailed sketches take a while.)

The Academy  Award Costume Nominee's

Almost all the academy award nominee's had wonderful displays. Right by the front door, we see the "Girl with a Pearl Earring".  The detailing on these costumes goes down to hand stitching on the hem of the aprons... everything above the hems are just as amazingly complete.  Dien van Stalen picked up wonderful historical details.

The Last Samurai

"The Last Samurai" displays on an island with wood and rice paper panels separating the "room".  The intricate armor was the work of teams of people.  The movie required approximately one million links for the armor.

Tom Cruise's (Nathan Algren) Red & Black Samurai Armor, The back of the Lady in Waiting at Court can be seen on the side Back of Tom Cruise's armor.  Just the arm of Kyuki Kato's (Taka) kimono. Ken Watanabe (Katsumoto) Black Samurai Armor

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World.  This movie's costumes revolve around the uniforms uniforms and many, many buttons tailored in wool.  Only 4 costumes are in the display of 1805 Napoleonic Era English costumes.  The detail is wonderful.  While the uniform purists will complain that they often wear too formal a uniform for a given event and that the uniforms were just introduced in 1805, so would these men, on "the far side of the world" really have the most up to date uniforms... they still impress.  Wendy Stites has made sure that even the buttons are matched and proper.  (Hushco Buttons is the place to help match uniforms with the right time period.)

Paul Bettany (Dr. Stephen Maturin) Ship's Surgeon is the civilian on board.  Further back is Russell Crow (Captain Jack Aubrey) English Royal Marines Officer.  White and Blue wool uniform. Next to him is Bill Boyd (Barrett Bonden) Coxswain (wearing far less buttons.)  And closest, Chris Larkins (Captain Howard) English Royal Marines Officer uniform

"Seabiscuit" was a dark horse throughout the Academy race.  Personally, I expected them to once again sneak around the outside edge and steal the win.  The costumes cover 30 years of history.  Principals and extras are dressed so that time passes naturally, not in chunks.  You never think of it as a costumed picture.  You just submerged totally within Judianna Makovsky's clothing.  The Jockey silks are even made by the same folks who made the originals.   The four costumes that are displayed just can't bring this to life.  They are perfect, but it's always a challenge for costumes from the last century to compete against historic epics or musicals.

The Academy Award for Costumes winner: LOTR: Return of the King

"The Lord of the Rings the Return of the King" display was laid out against a dioramic display of the walls of Gondor, complete with more guards in the background.  The costumes ran the gambit from the elven white glow of Galadriel though the coronation costumers to real baddies at the far side.  Ngila Dickson, Richard Thomas and the whole team outdid themselves though the entire trilogy.

The most amazing thing about this entire movie is that the costumes create a universe of their own.  You could almost believe that these races exist.  Each race has their own rules for dress and even among the groups of men, we see regional differences.  We see history that builds on history.  A great additional feature is that the costumes hold up to close examination.  You want to bring a magnifying glass even though you can get within 6 inches of so many. 

Much of the armor is metal.  yet, it's hard to tell the plastic from the real.  The painting, texturing and detailing just bring them to life. 

The fabrics get as much attention as the armor.  The dye jobs give a translucent look to the velvets.  Galadriel "glow" comes partially from the light green wash over her gown.  Arwen's spring toned gown is almost impossible to define because of the dyeing and over dyeing.  Embroideries cover many edges and add depth. Other times it is glorious antique bullion trim.

Galadriel is an elven queen in glowing silk satin embroidered cloak worn over a silk beaded dress - Grey Heavens Cloak and Prolog Gown. Pippin in Gondorian livery. Merry in some of the armor of Rohan.  Amazing baldric and armor details.
Aragorn, the Returned King and Arwen, who will abandon her elven life. are together now at his coronation.  Both outfits have layers of velvet and amazing crowns Eowyn wears yards of brocade.  The "trim" is really just embroidered directly on the fabric.  However, this allows for the scale to be adjusted by computer and created on a different scale
Pippin serves Gondor Gondorian armor in the background
Moria Orc King of the Dead with patchwork chain mail and "heavily distressed" consuming.

For more images of these costumes, you may head on over to our companion website, LOTR Costume and check them out in the Character section.

The rest of the wonderful movie costumes...

The Haunted Mansion's 10 costumes dominated the 2nd gallery.  Walt Disney Pictures sent quite a display.  Living beings on one side, and a grave yard full of painfully "period" ghost costumes.  The room was darkened and flashlights were provided to show how the costumes were set to change their look between black light and white.  However, even the darkness could not hide the kitchy, costumy nature of the ghost.  These were just broad strokes at approximating a period that felt more like a cartoon.  Great for kids, but no depth. The historical proper ghosts of Harry Potter "live' so much more than this graveyard.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

Disney's other presentation, "Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl" suffered from someone the same issue.  Fun background of props.  The principal's costumes was outstanding detail.  Johnny Depp's Jack Sparrow pirate is detailed down to the buckles on the  front fall breeches.  His outfit is wonderfully weathered, yet the energy isn't expended anywhere else.   Orlando's outfit is OK, but Barbossa's costume lacks detail and looks like just a costume, not clothing.  This is something seen on the screen, not just in person.  In notes it discuses "the pirates' costumes represent a hodge-podge of period garments that illustrates their unusually long careers at sea":  However, this seems little excuse for Keira Knightly's (Elizabeth Swann) gowns.  They are an indeterminate mix of periods.  While lovely workmanship, they would have benefited with the richness of some historical details.  (IMHO)

Johnny Depp (Jack Sparrow)  
Keira Knightly (Elizabeth Swann) Cream and Gold Brocade Reception dress Keira Knightly (Elizabeth Swann)  Pale yellow silk gown with couching details
Orlando Bloom (Will Turner) Geoffrey Rush (Barbossa) and just the edge of Keira's fun buccaneering outfit.

"Legally Blond 2: Red, White and Blond" is grand fun... and precisely tailored and executed.  It's just flat out fun with Pink and Olive and strappy shoes with an early 70's flare mixed with Jackie O.  This is definitely a movie about shoes.

"Cold Mountain" and "The Missing" blend as almost one exhibit... then again, one must know the difference between 1861 civil war torn North Carolina and 1885 southwest.  These costumes are all amazingly aged to show the poverty and despair that the characters go though.  The aging on some of these outfits is amazing... and I'm not even going to try and guess if some of the props were original garments or not.  The fabric were well chosen and the patterns very precise to the times.  The Indian costumes of "The Missing" show the force bending of the costumes at that time.

This time round, FIDM had a niche of super hero costumes positioned together.  "Matrix Revolutions" blacks and long coats showed amazing tailoring.  Keanu Reeve Neo  black wool cloak is great.  The tailoring lines cheat to give him a longer neck while keeping him sleek... the perfect  world savior.  There were actually 30 coats made, many were different materials and different cuts to give just the right look at the right time.  "Daredevil" and "X2: X-men United" has more finely tailored, form fitting leather and muscle suits.  Once it was though though we'd live in silver suits in the future, now it's leather and jump suites with no visible means of escape.

The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen

"The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" is a different kind of super hero movie.  It's a weird blend of Victorian and modern.  While these costumes did not all have the details of the leather suits, they have their own flare.

The Invisible man (nude) - see card on left.  On the right,  the Submarine Diver's rubber diving suit with great Victorian Sci-fi detailing.  More detail on the diver
Dorian Grey and Mina Harker.  The pictures do not do the coat justice.  Outfit is listed as "black corduroy redingote coat with red velvet scarf  
Mina gets a corset built of laced together tooled leather pieces.  The rest of the under layers are nothing but sheer lace and fluff.   

Just a few quick impressions of other costume displays that a jotted down in my notebook...

bullet"Charlie's Angels" is as much about clothing as Legally Blond.  Their wild and crazy dressing works better on screen than in person... but then again, that's the idea.
bullet"The Cat in the Hat's" lime and lavender pastels clashed with the primary red of the cat himself helping create a cartoon world from real life.
bullet"Down with Love".  I loved the wild 60's, but I'm not sure the costumes ever got that crazed... but it would have been fun.
bullet"Chicago", last year's Oscar winner,  was displayed in the center of the main gallery right across from LOTR.  Wish they hadn't been so close together.  Chicago costumes are mostly for "reading" on screen"... vs. LOTR's which also read as well with a microscope.  Still fun... to see them again, but... different placement????

As a wrap-up, again, there was no exhibit book... but that is the sad state of affairs since it's so hard to get permissions and get it published in any kind of timeline...  It would be great to preserve this gathering of costumes for history.


FIDM's exhibit website for 2004 is now up.  Check it out.  This year their web pictures are big enough to see the costumes well.  Pul-outs of some of the wonderful detail add to the richness of the site.

Exhibit Details: 

bulletMonday February February 2 - Thursday April 8, 2004
bulletMonday - Saturday, 10:00am to 4:00 pm
bulletGroup docent tour may be arranged.
bulletWhere: Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) - Museum Galleries on the Park
             919 South Grand Ave - 1st Level
             Los Angeles, CA 90015
             213-624-1200 x2221
bulletGallery information and map: http://www.fashionmuseum.org
bulletAdmission is Free! 
bulletParking under the building is $6,   Saturdays, $3.
bulletThe only way to get into the lot is on 9th street going east from the 110 freeway.  (Just passed Flower and Hope, on the right side.)

Full list of the costumes displayed for 2004: Big Fish, Charlie's Angels: full Throttle, Cold Mountain, Daredevil, Down with Love, Dr. Seuss' the Cat in the Hat, Elf, Girl with a Pearl Earring, Legally Blond 2: Red, White and Blond, Lost in Translation, Master and Commander: the far side of the World, Mona  Lisa Smile, Pirates of the Caribbean: the Curse of the Black Pearl, Seabiscuit, Sylva, The Company, The Haunted Mansion, The Last Samurai, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Lord of the Rings: The Return of a King, The Matrix Revolutions,  The Missing, The Notebook, View from the Top, X2:x-men United.

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 This page last updated 11/21/09


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