Tailor-made for television

Years ago,if costume designers were known at all,they worked in movies.

Written by New York Times | Published: October 13, 2013 12:26:24 am

When costume designer Mandi Line was interviewing for a job on the ABC Family show Pretty Little Liars,she had a case to make. “I said,“If you let me make fashion the fifth character on this show,people will watch it just for the clothes,’ ” she said.

Line was hired,and the characters’ signature looks — stripes,leather jackets,trench coats — have been the subject of much discussion ever since,with blogs devoted to what the characters wear. “Every single day I get tweets,messages and Instagrams from girls who line up their clothes next to photos of the characters,” said Line.”

Years ago,if costume designers were known at all,they worked in movies. Think of studio powerhouses like Adrian,who worked on MGM productions like The Wizard of Oz and The Philadelphia Story,or Edith Head,of Paramount and later Universal,who designed costumes for Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn.

Today,even successful movie costume designers like Catherine Martin,who did the designs for The Great Gatsby,and Trish Summerville who is doing the next Hunger Games movie,don’t exactly cut outsize figures.

But as television has gained more respect as a medium,there has been a coattail effect on some of its costume designers,who say it gives them greater opportunity than current cinema to influence culture at large.

“The movie genres popular right now have to do with designing vampires and superheroes,” said Rebecca Hofherr,the costume designer for Elementary on CBS. “TV deals with more realistic issues and more realistic clothing.”

When Janie Bryant of AMC’s Mad Men designed a suit for Brooks Brothers based on Don Draper’s look,it sold out of all stores and the Internet within 10 days.

Thanks to a new division at the Matchbook Company,an agency that is currently managing the careers of Bryant and Line,consumers may also soon be thinking of television costume designers differently.

“We want the public to recognise them as people,not just behind the scenes,” said Linda Kearns,the vice president for brand development at Matchbook,which also represents Dan Lawson (The Good Wife),Jenn Rogien (Girls,Orange Is the New Black) and Lyn Paolo (Shameless,Scandal). “We are focusing on TV designers because there’s a bigger attachment when the characters of the show enter your home and life each week.”

Television has certainly had its share of memorable fashion moments,but few of its designers are widely remembered,other than the late Nolan Miller,for Dynasty,and Patricia Field,for Sex and the City.

Field’s mix of designer and street wear,was new on screen,and Sex and the City was credited with starting crazes for nameplate necklaces,Manolo Blahnik shoes,flower corsages and visible bra straps.

Eric Daman,who did work for Sex and the City and went on to the CW show Gossip Girl,said that by the latter show’s sixth season,it was “getting one-of-a-kind couture from Paris.”

“They wanted their wares on Blake Lively,” he said.

“I work with the script,the director,the writer and the actor to figure out what the costume needs to do to help the actor inhabit that person,” said Audrey Fisher,the costume designer of True Blood on HBO.

MARISA MELTZER

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