OROn its hanger, the sheepskin coat wasn’t much to look at. It was made from “hideous, cheap cutouts,” and costume designer Phoebe de Gaye remembers buying it on sale at the “scuzzy end” of Oxford Street in 1980.
Used by Del Boy on Just fools and horses, he remembered the coats worn by the used car dealers he had observed. This, she says, gave the character verisimilitude. “When he put it over a Gabicci shirt, a red one with black suede pockets, it worked, but we didn’t really think about it anymore.”
The coat would become as iconic as its wearer, a model for the clothing of television characters that contrasted with the bells and whistles of costume drama. “Some things just strike a chord, but you can’t predict what,” says De Gaye. “When you create a costume for a character on television, your goal is to build something realistic. For some reason, the coat did that while, I suppose, also capturing the spirit of the times. “
If there were few winners in 2020, surely television was one of them. Of the amazing I can destroy you to The crownBy Steve McQueen Small ax to fancy costume dramas like The Queen’s Gambit and Lady america, television has dominated the year by default, with other forms of entertainment hit by the pandemic. These shows offered some relief from a grueling year, but also provided a connection to novelty, culture, and the outside world, away from the never-ending pull of doomscrolling and leggings. Great stories were told on the small screen and new historical, current and real realities were represented. Television costumes have been a vital part of this. If the clothes that the characters wear are not correct, these worlds will collapse.
“It’s always the costume dramas that win, but for me the best costumes are the ones that don’t even get registered because they look so real,” says Lynsey Moore, costume designer at BBC I can destroy you, Michaela Coel’s dark and sharp consent drama based on her own sexual assault five years ago. “[Contemporary costume design] It is also the most difficult because the viewer is an expert on it. You have to believe they took the clothes out of her closet that morning. “
Coel’s character, Arabella, is a writer and social influencer, and her clothes change rapidly between identities. One minute she’s in baggy jeans and long-sleeved shirts. Next up, freshly refreshed Champion sportswear “and Kim Kardashian hair.” But he’s also a detective and sometimes an agent of chaos.
“People wanted to see themselves reflected in her, or even just recognize her as one of those people who seems safe, despite horrible things happening to her,” says Moore, who used her wardrobe to subvert all stereotypes, dressing her in an Ikat of big size. High-waisted jacket and jeans for the assault itself, or an apron and a clean-shaven head for a self-help meeting.
“In popular culture, the woman who has been raped is always scantily dressed or appears physically vulnerable. But that was not Arabella’s experience, and neither were most of the women, and we had to show it, ”she says. “The script said pink hair, but the rest was up for discussion.”
“You are using the psychology of clothing to create a character, but primarily you are using clothing as a plot device,” says De Gaye, who put Killing EvaVillanelle in Molly Goddard tulle for therapy and a Dries Van Noten murder suit.
“Obviously, we are not immune to what happens on the catwalk, it comes from the same toolbox, but the catwalk is a fantasy. Villanelle is a magpie, not a fashionista. But somehow Killing Eva it became a shopping spectacle. “
Moore, who is currently working on a period drama about Anne Boleyn scheduled for 2021, agrees: “I love fashion in my personal life, and it’s tempting to let the runway inform, but the whole point is the storytelling.”
The appeal of TV blocking isn’t simply about watching other people dress up. It’s about watching people get dressed. If you dress them up in Killing EvaAll three seasons were fun and charming, an escape from life locked in, then Arabella’s wardrobe for the pandemic in I can destroy you it’s more like Del Boy in caring for something that feels real on the streets of London. For a show as universally praised as Coel’s, the style manages to be curiously normal, an absolute tonic in these freak times.
“Of course, reality requires royal clothes and a more depressing appearance, but we’ve also been desperate to lose ourselves in the glamor of the past,” says Tom Loxley, editor of Radio times. In the absence of dressing not just for work, but for someone else to see, and the quirk of social events that generally require flair or sequins rather than taking place outside in boots and coats, we’ve indirectly dressed through these. characters.
“The Queen’s Gambit, Netflix’s success, took full advantage of the meticulous recreation of period details, much like that of Cate Blanchett Lady america, specifically around mid-century modern costumes, a phenomenon that began with Crazy men and possibly peaked this year, ”says Loxley.
That said, anyone who thinks reality has to be drab should rummage through the rails of Marianne’s wardrobe at Normal people.“
The television adaptation of Sally Rooney’s novel was an early success, in part because it was prophetically sentimental about the student experience. If Connell’s much-discussed gold chain said much more about his class politics than Connell himself, the success (and objectification) of Marianne’s Tuscan wardrobe became a substitute for our own canceled vacations.
Television is often seen as something akin to the modern opium of the masses, and this year it only intensified it. Sometimes, not being able to leave the house, the screen has been our only escape. Nostalgia thrives in uncertain times like ours, and a series of shows have allowed us to escape to other times and other places, their costumes being an enjoyable part of the fun.
But with more and more information about different times and places available on the Internet, and more and more conflicting opinions about what is and is not correct, the role the costume designer plays in creating something that looks and feels Feel authentic has never been more vital. .
Of course, this doesn’t always have to amount to getting out of the real world. In Mangrove, the first of the Small ax series, the racism of the London Met and post-war British society is conveyed most effectively due to the perfect costume design – black hats, tracksuits, and what costumbrist Lisa Duncan describes as Polyester “spicy color”. That costume design blends with the sights and sounds of Notting Hill’s black community to create a believable, beautiful, and sometimes devastating image of a time and place.
“I never wanted it to feel like a costume drama,” says Bina Daigler, costume designer at Lady america, who mixed tailored blouses and jeans with the real Yves Saint Laurent and Diane Von Furstenberg. “There was a certain glamor about Gloria Steinem and even Phyllis Schlafly, but I didn’t want people to watch the show and say, oh, that was the 1970s. I want people to look at the issues of racism and inequality and see that it still we are there “.
Digsmak is a news publisher with over 12 years of reporting experiance; and have published in many industry leading publications and news sites.