Film costumes give subtle clues to a character’s personality, circumstances and development through the runtime of a picture. This is one reason why the contribution of costume designers is often unsung, but cannot be overstated. Because of the close connection between character and costume, designers sometimes develop a close working relationship with the leading women who wear their designs on screen.

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During Hollywood’s Golden Age, both designers and actresses were contract employees of a particular studio. This meant they often found themselves working together on repeat projects. This allowed for a certain trust and rapport to develop between the actress and the costume designer. Today, this is no longer the case in our modern era of cinema. Still, there are several examples of costume designers and actresses who have managed to establish good working relationships and even friendships.

Today’s list features collaborations between costume designers and actresses of both the classic and modern era. They are in no particular order. But I hope it whets your appetite to learn more about the field of costume design because it’s a fascinating field.

12 SPECIAL COLLABORATIONS BETWEEN COSTUME DESIGNERS AND ACTRESSES


1. Travis Banton & Carole Lombard

Costume Designer Collaboration List

Carole Lombard in Nothing Sacred
Photo Credit: United Artists

Films: I Take This Woman, Rhumba, Love Before Breakfast, Nothing Sacred, True Confession, Made for Each Other, My Man Godfrey

“You could throw a bolt of material at Carole and whichever way it landed, she looked smart.” – Travis Banton (1)

2.  Adrian & Joan Crawford

Joan Crawford in Possessed (1931)
Photo Credit: MGM

Films: Thirty plus films including: Our Modern Maidens, Possessed, Letty Lynton, Sadie McKee, The Last of Mrs. Cheyney, The Women

“Dear Adrian, he was the greatest costume designer of them all. There will never be a greater one.” – Joan Crawford (3)

“She expresses a great deal of freedom in her dress. Young people copy her because she is youth. She is serious, nervous, terrifically active. She is constantly in motion. When she is in the fitting room, she is always walking around and swinging her arms above her head to be sure she has freedom. I rarely think of her in repose. In visualizing a costume for Joan, I think of something in movement. If I miss that quality, I miss the real Joan.” – Adrian (3) pg 142

3.  Edith Head & Grace Kelly

Costume Designer Collaboration List

Grace Kelly & Jesse Royce Landis in To Catch a Thief
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Films: The Bridges at Toko-Ri, The Country Girl, Rear Window, To Catch a Thief

“I’ve dressed thousands of actors, actresses and animals, but whenever I am asked which star is my personal favorite, I answer, “Grace Kelly.” She is a charming lady, a most gifted actress and, to me, a valued friend.”  – Edith Head (4)

4.  Jacqueline Durran & Keira Knightley 

Costume Designer Collaboration List

Aaron Taylor Johnson & Keira Knightley in Anna Karenina. Photo Credit: Focus Features

Films: Pride and Prejudice, Atonement, Anna Karenina

“Keira is such a great actress and it’s so rewarding to work with her. It also helps that she is so stylish as she makes things work that wouldn’t necessarily work with other actresses… She really is a timeless beauty and that helps significantly when working on a character from different time periods.” – Jacqueline Durran (5)

5.  Givenchy & Audrey Hepburn

Costume Designer Collaboration List

Audrey Hepburn in Funny Face. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

Films: Sabrina, Funny Face, Love in the Afternoon, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Charade, Paris When it Sizzles, How To Steal a Million

“His are the only clothes in which I am myself. He is far more than a couturier, he is a creator of personality.”  Audrey Hepburn (6)

“She had an elegance, she knew how to walk, she knew what she wanted, she knew the faults in her face, she knew herself perfectly. She was true, honest…And she was kind. When the telephone would ring in the studio, I knew when it was her. I would answer and she’d say, “I know you are busy, but I want to send you a big kiss,” and she’d hang up. That was Audrey.” – Givenchy (7)

6. Jean Louis & Rita Hayworth

Costume Designer Collaboration List

Stewart Granger & Rita Hayworth in Salome
Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

Films: Tonight and Every Night, Gilda, Down to Earth, The Loves of Carmen, Affair in Trinidad, Salome, Pal Joey, 

“Rita Hayworth was the most fun and so beautiful. There was nothing common about her.”  – Jean-Louis (2) pg 248

7. Theadora Van Runkle & Faye Dunaway

Costume Designer Collaboration List

Gene Hackman, Warren Beatty & Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde. Photo Credit: Warner Bros.

Films: Bonnie & Clyde, The Thomas Crown Affair, The Arrangement, Dunaway’s 1968 Oscar Gown

“Soon after I met Theadora, who was to affect my own sense of style and become a good friend during these fast times. Until I met Theadora, clothes, and getting to a certain look, creating an effect had just been part of the job. She taught me just how much fun it can be. I like Theadora immediately. She was smart, funny, a very independent spirit, and a genius when it came to clothing design.” – Faye Dunaway (9)

8. Orry-Kelly & Bette Davis

Costume Designer Collaboration List

Bette Davis in Jezebel

Films: 46 in total including Marked Woman, The Petrified Forest, Jezebel, Dark Victory, The Private Lives of Elizabeth & Essex, The Old Maid, The Letter, The Little Foxes, Now Voyager 

“I think of Bette Davis as a period piece. She belongs in costume clothing. Working with Bette isn’t easy, but she’s worth it. She is honest and outspoken. She’s one of the very few actresses I know who can look in the mirror and tell herself the truth. When I’m ready to give up and throw out a dress, she’ll give it a hitch or a twist  and turn it into something great” – Orry-Kelly (2) pg 171

“Warner Brothers for me, without Orry-Kelly was if I had last my right arm. His contribution to my career was an enormous one. He never featured his clothes to such a degree that the performance was overshadowed.” – Bette Davis (2) pg 171

9. Ann Roth & Meryl Streep

Costume Designer Collaboration List

Meryl Streep in The Post
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

Films: Silkwood, Heartburn, Postcards from the Edge, The Hours, Evening, Julie & Julia, Mamma Mia!, Doubt, Hope Springs, The Post 

“You never see it in a movie, really … the moment of creation, really coming alive. To be in the room with Ann, and to share that mutual, oh gosh, it’s just a happy surprise… It is a little tiny miracle every time it happens.” – Meryl Streep (10)

10. William Travilla & Marilyn Monroe

Costume Designer Collaboration List

Marilyn Monroe, Betty Grable & Lauren Bacall in How To Marry a Millionaire
Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox

Films: Monkey Business, Don’t Bother to Knock, Gentleman Prefer Blondes, How to Marry a Millionaire, There’s No Business Like Show Business, River of No Return, Seven Year Itch, Bus Stop

“Designing for Marilyn was a joy be­cause she was so beautiful and because she needed me—she needed the pro­tection of what I could do for her. She wouldn’t go to a gallery sitting without me. The studio would have to bring me in for the day, and I’d take a piece of biased satin, wrap it over her naked body, and they would shoot her. There were no more clothes left in wardrobe to put on her for all the photographs needed by the world.  I was almost always disappointed when I saw her on the screen, because she was never as beautiful as she was in person.” – William Travilla (11)

11.  Walter Plunkett & Katharine Hepburn

Paul Lukas and Katharine Hepburn as Prof. Bhaer and Jo in Little Women 1933. Photo: RKO Radio Pictures.

Films: Christopher Strong, Morning Glory, Spitfire, Little Women, The Little Minister, Mary of Scotland, A Woman Rebels, Alice Adams, Quality Street, Adam’s Rib, The Sea of Grass, Song of Love

“Walter did a marvelous job on that (Adam’s Rib) and he hadn’t done modern clothes for years because all the things he did at Metro were costume. . . . and he made me some absolutely marvelous dresses that were quite unlike anything that I’d ever worn. . . . [We] just got on splendidly. He could use me and I could use him and that’s the great combination. . . . This is what’s important, so that the chances you take are fun.”  – Katharine Hepburn (12)

12.  Helen Rose & Elizabeth Taylor

Elizabeth Taylor in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof
Photo Credit: MGM

Films: A Date with Judy, The Big Hangover, Father of the Bride, Love is Better Than Ever, Father’s Little Dividend, The Girl Who Had Everything, Rhapsody, The Last Time I Saw Paris, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Butterfield 8, Taylor’s first Wedding Gown

“If you have a magnificent jewel, you put it in a simple setting—you don’t distract from it with a lot of detail.” – Helen-Rose (13)

Do you enjoy film costumes? What are some of your favorite costume films? 


Featured Photo Credit: To Catch a Thief by Paramount Pictures

 

Sources:

  1. From the Archives: ‘Tomboy’ Carole Lombard Earned $2,000,000, LA Times, January 18, 1942
  2. Creating the Illusion: A Fashionable History of Hollywood Costume Designers by Jay Jorgensen & Donald l. Scoggins (2015)
  3. Not the Girl Next Door: Joan Crawford: A Personal Biography by Charlotte Chandler (2008)
  4. Why costume designer Edith Head should never be Forgotten by Bibby Sowray for Telegraph.co.uk, August 14, 2014
  5. Meet the Woman Behind Keira Knightly’s Anna Karenina Costumes: Jacqueline Durran by Jennifer Davidson for The Fashion Spot; Nov. 14, 2012
  6. A Moment in Time | Hubert de Givenchy & Audrey Hepburn: A Love Story by  Roséline for This is Glamorous; March 15, 2018
  7. Hubert de Givenchy Interview by Dana Thomas for the New York Times; March 13, 2018
  8. Obituary: Jean Louis by Tom Vallance for The Independent; April 25, 1997
  9.  Faye Dunaway. Looking for Gatsby: My Life. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1995. (128-129)
  10.  Meryl Streep Wanted to Be a Costume Designer Before She Became an Actress by Olivia Bahou for InStyle; Feb. 22, 2017
  11. Marilyn Monroe’s Magician–the One and Only Travilla by Kimberly Truhler for GlamAmor; December 3, 2013
  12. The Clothes That Helped Make Kate Great: Hepburn Costume Exhibit Is an Eyeful in Ohio by Judy Samelson for Playbill; Dec. 30, 2010
  13. Designing Woman: Helen Rose by Ronald Bergan for Slant Magazine; March 31, 2011

 

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