The Force Awakens at FIDM 24th Annual Costume Design Exhibit

In downtown Los Angeles, the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising exhibits costume designs from many well-known movies each year. For the 24th Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design Shawn “Obi-Shawn” Crosby, and his wife Colleen “Kaylee” Crosby, bring us this report.

My husband and I recently had the opportunity to FIDM Galleries’ popular spring exhibit. We’ve been going to this exhibit annually since 1999, and this year was among my favorites.

The first costume display that commands your attention is the titular character’s ballgown from Disney’s live-action Cinderella, with dashing Prince Charming at her side. Giant powder-blue skirts and an exaggerated bodice meet at a tiny 22” circumference hourglass waist – and yes, actress Lily James really is that small! The gown is just as magical close-up as it is on screen, sparkly and fluffy with little butterflies perched on her bodice; encompassing 270 yards of fabric and 10,000 Swarovski crystals. It’s exactly the storybook dress you imagined when you were a child. Also in attendance are evil Step-mama and the sisters in their delightfully garish day wear.

The next costumes that really drew my eye were from Crimson Peak, which I must admit to not seeing (largely because I can’t handle horror movies). There are two pairs of beautiful black and gold boots sequestered in a case at eye level to allow you to study the magnificent design. There was a striking red gown with loops, ribbons, and a train that must have been three-feet long, backed up with a gold dress in an 1890s style. As compelling as the red and gold dresses were, the one that was almost shocking was a simpler copper skirt paired with an embroidered cream blouse. It was accessorized with a wooden-bead belt, and buckled with a pair of nearly-life-sized clasped hands that looked like they were carved from ivory. Creepy!

Star Wars: The Force Awakens dominated the entry of the next gallery with Captain Phasma’s gleaming chrome armor, the black wrappings of Kylo Ren, Finn’s FN-2187 Stormtrooper uniform, the Jakku scavenger clothing of Rey, and two beautifully detailed background characters, one each from the Resistance Base on D’Qar and Maz’ Takodana stronghold. I would have loved to have seen Rey’s Resistance Base costume, but have yet to see that on display outside of the movie. Finn’s Stormtrooper armor was cool but unintentionally amusing; while it wasn’t dirty from the attack on the Jakku village, it did have the bloody handprint left by his dying squad-mate, so must have been lifted directly from that moment! Shawn calls that costume “the ‘Wilson’ armor,” after Tom Hank’s blood-stained volleyball companion from the film Castaway.

The long gallery is divided into historical costumes along one wall and the middle of the room with more modern and fantasy costumes along the other side. Mad Max: Fury Road, with Furiosa’s mechanical prosthetic arm, was the most fantastical offering on a side that was populated with more mundane examples from Jem and the Holograms, Pitch Perfect 2, and Straight Outta Compton. Time period films included Suffragette, Brooklyn, and Bridge of Spies. This is by no means a complete list of the movies represented… 23 films in all are here for the viewing, including last year’s Oscar winner for costuming, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

What stood out the most for me in the second gallery were the 1950s costumes from Carol and from 1920s-era The Danish Girl. This may simply be because I saw both movies, or more likely that they are such fine examples of their periods and characters. Carol had two costumes from each of the main characters, and you could easily identify the character types from their 1950s looks. Carol was a cool, middle aged sophisticate from upstate NY, and her friend, Therese, was a young woman just starting to find her way in the city. I absolutely loved Carol’s gray suit with a tangerine scarf that threaded through the side of her collar, and was tickled by the costumer’s story of how the vintage fur coat on display in the exhibit had to be repaired during lunch time every day of shooting to keep it looking perfect for the camera. I certainly couldn’t tell!

When you’ve completed the “Oscars” exhibit, don’t miss the small historical gallery showing “A Graceful Gift: Fans from the Mona Lee Nasseth Collection”. Even if you don’t think you’ll appreciate the fans, they have several historical gowns, including an 1897 afternoon gown that makes me seriously think about taking up FIDM on their offer to the non-profit Costumer’s Guild West (of which I’ve long been a member) to study any of the gowns in their own collection – by appointment, of course.

All Films on Display:
Beasts of No Nation
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Carol
Cinderella
Crimson Peak
The Danish Girl*
Far from the Madding Crowd
The Grand Budapest Hotel**
The Hateful Eight
Jem and the Holograms
Kingsman: The Secret Service
The Longest Ride
Macbeth
Mad Max: Fury Road*
Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation
Pitch Perfect 2
The Revenant*
Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens
Straight Outta Compton
Suffragette
Trumbo
Victor Frankenstein
*Nominee, 2015
**Winner, 2014

The exhibit is free, and runs from February 9 until April 30, 2016, Tuesday-Saturday (closed Mondays), 10am-5pm. Paid parking is often available under the building, and there is metered street parking. If you are heading there, don’t miss the Scholarship Store for great bargains on fabrics and ready-made clothing. Contrary to popular belief, there are many great places to eat downtown, including the fabulous Bottega Louis nearby or Panini Café, just across the street, and the garment district is a few block’s walk to the east.

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About Shawn "Obi-Shawn" Crosby

Shawn “Obi-Shawn” Crosby portrays Obi-Wan Kenobi for scores of charity events each year, owns two Star Wars custom cars, and is the host of the hit Krypton Radio live program, “Docking Bay 94”.

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