More Costume Designers Should Be Household Names

Illustration for article titled More Costume Designers Should Be Household Names

What do Mad Men, Hannah Montana, Sex And The City and Austin Powers have in common? They're all projects with highly recognizable costume design — and the clothes have made the jump to retail. Awesome… unless you're most costume designers.

According to a piece by Anna Stewart for Variety:

Brooks Brothers carries the Mad Men Edition suit, with costume designer Janie Bryant clearly credited.

But Bryant's fellow costume designers usually do not share in her good fortune. You will not find their names on those trendsetting dresses, those must-have leather jackets, those sought-after dolls — all those commercial goodies that came out of such films as Hannah Montana, The Matrix, Spider-Man, and Wall Street. Those creative minds didn't see a dime of your expenditure. And it's the same story for just about every costume designer in Hollywood.


In ye olde Hollywood, costume designers like Adrian (The Wizard Of Oz, Grand Hotel, The Philadelphia Story) and Edith Head (All About Eve, Roman Holiday, To Catch A Thief) were household names; and this list of iconic fashion statements in movies includes the designers — and costume designers' names. But you've probably never heard of Deena Appel. She designed the costumes for all three Austin Powers films, and tells Variety:

"When Austin Powers became dolls, Halloween costumes and board games, and it went on for years, not only am I not compensated for that in any way, shape or form, I am not even credited for it."

While Mad Men is on its way to making Janie Bryant a household name, what about the other costume designers working in film and TV? If we know the name Rachel Zoe, why not know Eric Daman and Meredith Markworth-Pollack — costume designers for Gossip Girl? As Hollywood style guru Cameron Silver says: "Because Janie Bryant is getting personal acclaim right now, other studios might see the opportunity to make money. Studios have forgotten that they could be developing household names for their costume designers."

Designers Push Recognizable Retail, Fashionistas Weigh In On Decades Of Style [Variety]

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I've got mixed feelings - on one hand, I think it would be amazing if costume designers could be compensated and recognized for the retail versions of their designs. On the other, I'd hate to see the art of costume design stifled by designers being pushed to create something retail friendly. There's also the complication of costume design being a mix of creating new pieces and pulling together off-the-rack stuff - should the jacket credit be given to the fashion designer who created it or the costume designer who made it iconic?

This also has me thinking of the oscars - the best costume design winner is almost always a period piece nowadays, and brilliant choices on contemporary clothing are overlooked. Would making the costume designer a big name change this?