November 2nd, 2017
What is the role of a costume designer? How is the costume design process for a film, stage production or television? Why is a costume important? I spoke with four Costume Designers to get their story.
Sonia was an atypical child, especially since she had not been to kindergarten and she spent all her time around her grandparents until she was six years old. Sonia had been influenced by her grandmother’s style. She remembers that back then, she avoided bold colors, and her style was a combination between COS and Kenzo. She believes everyone in her family had a passion for clothing.
“The ritual of clothing was in my family a form of expression and respect through a harmonious presence. My grandmothers were chic and my mother is still extravagant. None of them spent too much time choosing their clothes. It was spontaneous, like a way to start the day, a way of being.”
Sonia learned all about costumes without even realizing it. Her grandmother was a film fan, and in Ceausescu’s time, if you enjoyed movies you had to go to the cinema. She accompanied her grandmother, Mrs. Giurisici, sometimes even three times a week. That’s how she learned about people and their routine – how they dressed and behaved differently depending on the context.
“People dressed differently not only from one period to another, but also according to the language they were speaking. I was a lucky child, by the time I was l six years old I had seen movies that even teenagers had not seen. Thanks to this routine I became self-confident, I was not afraid to dress a certain way. I knew who I was, what I liked, and my clothes were an extension of my feelings and existence.”
The costume is a story and Sonia thinks we live in a wonderful time now, when we can wear whatever we want. Should we wish to borrow the atmosphere of some era we haven’t lived in, we now have the clothes and the options for buying them. “If the costume were a contemporary character, it would be like a friend with multiples personalities.”
Sonia slowly progressed towards the Costume Designer’s job. In 2005, her sister worked as a stage designer for a theater. Sonia found this exciting, but she needed something more dynamic. From one job to another, she became interested in styling and Set Design. She felt creative and from that moment on she only looked for full-time projects as Costume Designer. “You have to make people trust your skills, because most of them believe it’s easy to match clothes.”
People who don’t work in the field say it’s like a beautiful dream, working with gorgeous clothes and interesting people on a daily basis. But at the end of a day, after a difficult project, Sonia and Anca, her business partner, are terrified by the level of stress they’re going through.
To understand a costume you need to study a lot about things that apparently have nothing to do with clothes. It may be useful knowing this season’s collections, but it’s useless if you fail to spot the many social, historical and cultural references that inspired the development of a costume. To succeed at a job like this, you need to invest in reading and researching related fields like history, anthropology, etc. It’s a job for which you need to understand human nature and the experiences one has accumulated in a lifetime. If you understand the era a person lived in, you understand his costume.
“One important thing I learned through costumes was how much feeling good in your own skin matters. I don’t usually like to feel constrained so I prefer wearing clothes that I find comfortable. I am lucky that high heels fit the description.”
Photo credit: Bogdan Ioniță