It's often said that cartoonists aren't simply artists, but must also function as cinematographers, set and costume designers, prop masters, etc.
With this in mind, this past Saturday, I visited the 18th Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) in downtown L.A. with my family. (The show runs through April 17 and is free to the public.) Though I am hardly a clothes horse (or, as Steve Martin described it at this past weekend's Academic Awards ceremony, "clothes whore")—and it's my wife who usually takes the initiative to make sure we see the show each year—it's an exhibition I always enjoy taking in, and find instructive for my work as a cartoonist.
We actually have taken in the exhibition for many years now, which features the actual movie costumes and clothing created and worn in films from the preceding year, including most if not all of the costume designs nominated for an Academy Award. This year's exhibition featured costumes from, among many, Aliens in the Attic, Broken Embraces, Coraline, An Education, G.I. Joe, The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus, Inglourious Basterds, Julie & Julia, My One and Only, Night in the Museum: Battle for the Smithsonian, Nine, Pirate Radio, Sherlock Holmes, Star Trek, Watchmen, and Where the Wild Things Are.
The show is fun because you get to see the actual movie costumes up close, and a sense of the actual size of the actors who wore the costume (for example, how tall Nicole Kidman must be in real life!).
However, it's also instructive because of my work as a cartoonist—getting the "costumes" right for a character—or at least making it interesting—is one of many challenges a cartoonist faces when working on a story. The exhibition understandably does not allow visitors to take photos (the photo accompanying this blog was taken from an Internet report of a past show), but one often sees numerous visitors at the exhibition—presumably aspiring fashion designers—making sketches. (Inspired myself by a few of the costumes, I borrowed a sketchpad from my wife to make some sketches for my own reference for the future!)
But even if you're not into fashion and just a movie fan, it's a fun, relaxing and enjoyable show to take in, located at the FIDM's gallery on its main floor in a quiet non-descript street L.A. just a few blocks from the new Staples Center where it's easy to find street parking on a Saturday, as we did (and do every year). While some people might find the exhibition itself to be a fairly quick walk-through, I would suggest using the visit to downtown as an opportunity to explore downtown by visiting the re-gentrified Staples Center or visiting the new trendy restaurants in the area, or perhaps some other landmarks like Japantown, the Disney Performance Hall, or the Museum of Contemporary Art. There's also a charming little park area right on the grounds, and the gallery features a small but funky museum store.
FIDM is located at 919 S. Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90015.
Note: The photos accompanying this article are from past FIDM motion picture costume design exhibitions taken from other blog reports. Featured top right is a costume from the Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and the Dark Knight Returns.