Hollywood Sketchbook: A Century of Costume Illustration

Hollywood SketchbookWhile many movie fans may admire the costumes they see characters wearing in their favorite films, not as many of them may know much about the costume design process.  Renowned costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis seeks to remedy that with her new book Hollywood Sketchbook: A Century of Costume Illustration.

Nadoolman Landis does a wonderful job outlining the vital, yet under-appreciated, role costume sketches play in the process of producing a film.  Most importantly, she gives credit to some truly unsung people in the costume design process, the costume illustrators.  While some costume designers do their own sketches, not all of them do and that’s where the illustrator comes in.  The costume illustrator takes the designer’s vision and interprets it as a drawing that is shown to producers, directors, actors, and is given to the cutter-fitters, who turn it into a real garment.

Not only does she offer a lot of insight to the importance of costume design, she’s found some incredible anecdotes from designers.  My personal favorite story was about a time when Adrian was showing a sketch to Garbo, going into great detail about his reasoning for each of his design choices, while Garbo listened in absolute silence.  Her silence was making him very nervous and when he was finished, she simply said, “Yes.”  A moment later, she smiled, said, “Garbo talks!” and broke into a fit of laughter.

Hollywood Sketchbook isn’t merely eye candy, it’s a decadent feast for the eyes.  Lavishly illustrated with several hundred pages of costume sketches by sixty-one designers and illustrators, anyone with an interest in movie costumes could easily spend hours marveling at all the spectacular sketches.

Although it features sketches of very famous costumes from movies such as Gone With the Wind, My Fair Lady, and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, Hollywood Sketchbook is far from being a compilation of Hollywood’s greatest fashion hits.  No film was deemed too unimportant to be represented in this book.  In the section on Theadora Van Runkle, you can see sketches from The Godfather: Part 2 on one page and sketches from Myra Breckinridge on the next. I loved that Hollywood Sketchbook also avoids focusing only on glamorous gowns. There is no shortage of glamorous gowns to be seen here, but you also get a look at sketches for things such as togas from Animal House, hippie costumes from Hair, a suit of armor from Camelot, and a trooper costume from Spaceballs.

While the sketches of recognizable costumes are fascinating to see, the most intriguing part of Hollywood Sketchbook is the unidentified sketches.  Many times, costume sketches are created for designs that, for various reasons, never make it to the screen and several of those sketches are included in this book.  Looking at those unknown sketches, it’s fun to imagine which movie they might have been created for or who they could have been designed for.

Disclosure: I was given a complimentary review copy by Harper Design.