Art of Television Costume Design

By FIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

FIDM Museum and Library, Inc.

The 10th Art of
Television Costume Design celebrates outstanding TV costuming from 2015 and
2016 in a variety of genres, including Primetime Emmy ®Award nominees in
Costume Design.  

Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design Exhibition (2016/2016)FIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

CREATING CHARACTERS

There were only about 10,000 television sets in the United States in the mid-1940s. Ten years later, half of American households owned one! Why the huge increase? Rising post-World War II income levels coupled with technological advancements meant many people could afford a TV. But there was more to it than just the economy. Children watched programs after school; families and friends gathered in front of the set in the evening; everyone talked about the latest episode around the water cooler at work. What was the draw? Viewers connected to the characters on their screens. 

Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design Exhibition (2016/2016)FIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

Favorite characters

Today, over 115 million homes in the US have a digital television (or stream TV shows on their computers). We still look forward to tuning in to see what our favorite characters are up to. “Lucy” from I Love Lucy, “Samantha” from Bewitched, “J.R Ewing” from Dallas, or “Don Draper” from Mad Men have iconic personalities expressed in part through their appearances.

And it’s costume designers and their teams who are responsible for creating character traits that complement the storyline, settings, eras, and emotional states of each loved or hated character. The Art of Television Costume Design celebrates outstanding TV costuming from 2015 and 2016 in a variety of genres, including Primetime Emmy ® Award nominees.

"Outlander" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Terry DresbachFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

PERIOD

Costume designers are time travelers. Before dressing a period television series, they must immerse themselves in the historic era; they research vintage magazines and antique fashion plates and peruse old photographs.

"Roots" "Roots"FIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

But it’s not just about the clothing—they need to understand the proper social class and deportment of each character and ensure ensembles match the show’s historic scenic design.

"Roots" (2016/2016) by Costume Designers: Ruth Carter, Diana CilliersFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

"Roots" (2016/2016) by Costume Designers: Ruth Carter, Diana CilliersFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

"Sherlock: The Abominable Bride" "Sherlock: The Abominable Bride"FIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

A mix of custom-made clothing and accessories, deadstock (unsold vintage merchandise), and rented costumes are combined for historic shows. Sometimes, vintage patterns are used with contemporary fabrics to create clothing that is more durable than fragile originals.

"11.22.63" "11.22.63"FIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

"11.22.63" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Roland SanchezFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

"Mercy Street" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Amy Andrews HarrellFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

Generally, stars are clad in specially-designed ensembles, often featuring antique elements of lace and embroidery. Background characters and extras make do with items from rental warehouses.

"Vinyl" "Vinyl"FIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

Stars’ costumes are usually added to rental stock after filming, so look for your favorite actresses’ costumes in the background scenes of next year’s shows!

CONTEMPORARY

Costuming contemporary characters seems easy—just go to a department store and buy some clothing! 

"Transparent" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Marie SchleyFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

But it’s not that simple. Costume designers still need to establish a unique style for each role, including a specific color palette and silhouette.

"Black-ish" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Michelle ColeFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

Considerations should be made for settings and seasons: does the storyline take place in Los Angeles in the summertime or London in the winter?

"Scream Queens" "Scream Queens"FIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

Extreme fads quickly look dated in shows that have long production times. And then there’s the fitting process: complex alterations are often necessary on pre-purchased, ready-to-wear clothing to better fit actors.

"Scream Queens" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Lou EyrichFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

"Empire" "Empire"FIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

Buying clothing and accessories in multiple sizes can make it easier to quickly dress extras for crowd scenes, but designers and their crews must stay organized, as even small productions can require thousands of garments. Some contemporary costumes are created from scratch to ensure absolute uniqueness of design.

"The Good Wife" "The Good Wife"FIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

If an expensive designer outfit is perfect for a character, but way out of budget, designers can utilize their patterning skills to re-create the look with less expensive fabrics and trimmings.

"The Good Wife" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Daniel LawsonFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

FANTASY

Regular men and women are transformed into other-worldly beings, monsters, and super heroes thanks to talented costume designers and their teams.

"American Horror Story: Hotel" "American Horror Story: Hotel"FIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

Because these ensembles are worn by characters inhabiting supernatural or futuristic settings, the designs need to be new and innovative. Budget and imagination are the only constraints to Fantasy costuming.

"American Horror Story: Hotel" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Lou EyrichFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

"American Horror Story: Hotel" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Lou EyrichFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

"Game of Thrones" "Game of Thrones"FIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

Body prosthetics, wigs, and makeup aid in creating imaginary appearances. Costume designers work with 3D printing, custom-molded PVC garments, and CGI (computer generated imagery) to create technologically advanced ensembles that transport us out of everyday life.

"Game of Thrones" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Michele ClaptonFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

"Game of Thrones" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Michele ClaptonFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

"The Walking Dead" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Eulyn WombleFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

Many shows in this genre are derived from comic books or graphic novels—it’s important to reference original visuals so fans can immediately identify and connect with beloved characters.

"Marvel's Agent Carter" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Giovanna Ottobre-MeltonFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

And these shows often feature thrilling, action-packed scenes. Duplicate costumes must be made to accommodate the harnesses, braces, and wires used in complex stunts.

COMEDY

A comedic costume is effective if it makes people laugh!

"Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Melina RootFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

These ensembles often feature oversized silhouettes, bright colors, and bold patterning or trim. Unexpected, over-the-top details become unspoken jokes.

"Baskets" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Amanda NeedhamFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

Sometimes costumes have built-in trick components—they might fall apart, squirt water, or even expand on cue. Wacky accessories and overdone hair and makeup add whimsy.

"Jane the Virgin" "Jane the Virgin"FIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

Costumes can be wildly inappropriate as to time, occasion, or social group.They might fit in a comical way—too tight or too big. In short, they always help a character stand out, and “make a scene.”

"Jane the Virgin" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Rachel Sage KuninFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

"Jane the Virgin" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Rachel Sage KuninFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

"Veep" "Veep"FIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

Yet designers must be aware that these ensembles don’t overwhelm their actors—they still need to be able to act!

"Veep" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Kathleen Felix-HagerFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

"Veep" (2016/2016) by Costume Designer: Kathleen Felix-HagerFIDM MUSEUM & GALLERIES

Credits: Story

FIDM MUSEUM STAFF WISHES TO THANK

FIDM MUSEUM BOARD OF DIRECTORS
Tonian Hohberg
Barbara Bundy
Annie Johnson
Vivien Lowy

OUTSTANDING ART OF TELEVISION COSTUME DESIGN JURY PANEL
Meghan Hansen
Salvador Perez
Celia Rogus
Mary Rose

SPECIAL LENDERS
ABC/ Marvel
Amazon Studios
Broken Record Productions
Carnival Films/ PBS
CW/ CBS Studios
Eye Productions, Inc.
Fire and Blood Productions
FTP Productions, LLC
FX
Hartswood Films Ltd.
HBO
HISTORY
LPB Outlander Ltd./ Starz
Mansion House Productions
Mao PR
NBC Universal
Picrow Inc.
Second in Command Productions
Stalwart Films, LLC
Twentieth Century Fox
Warner Bros.

INTERNS AND VOLUNTEERS
Lucy Carey
Christina Castro
Sabrina Estrada
Kevin Fernando
Daniela Hernandez
Linda Knoth
Julia Long
Joyce Lopez
Hema Panesar
Lori Santamaura
Kasia Stempniak

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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