Natalie Portman in Black Swan, wearing a pink double-breasted coat from an original design by Amy Westcott, the film's costume designer.
Doing research on the Rodarte exhibit in L.A, I came across a fascinating and eye-opening interview with Black Swan costume designer Amy Westcott. I found it on the wonderful Clothes on Film, which features articles on costumes in movies. Recent offerings on the site include analysis of subjects that make a costume design fan like me swoon: Grace Kelly’s blue chiffon dress in To Catch a Thief, and Sharon Stone’s white dress, with matching jacket and nude slingbacks from the notorious interrogation scene in Basic Instinct.
What I found especially interesting in the Clothes on Film interview with Amy Westcott was learning that she, not Kate and Laura Mulleavy of Rodarte, did the bulk of the costuming work in the film. Since I loved the looked of the clothes, especially the colors—pale pale pink, dove gray, the shades of white, the use of black—it was hard to know, as a filmgoer, if the Mulleavy sisters were responsible for this or the idea belonged to another costume designer. There was a lot more press about what the Mulleavy sisters did for the film than on Ms. Westcott’s more important role as overseer of every single stitch that made it into the movie. Ms. Westcott clears up the mystery on what costume designers do, comments on the Mulleavy sisters’ contribution to the film, and shares her feelings on being shut out of an Oscar nomination for Black Swan.
Mila Kunis (Lily) and Natalie Portman (Nina) in Black Swan. I loved the use of black and gray on Lily, Nina's dark doppelgänger.
The controversy between her and the Mulleavy sisters reminds me so much of the tensions between legendary Hollywood costume designer Edith Head and famed couturier Hubert de Givenchy, in work done for looks Audrey Hepburn wore in several films, including Sabrina, for which Ms. Head won an Oscar in 1954, though there is debate over who designed the “Sabrina” dress; Funny Face, in which both she and Givenchy were nominated for an Academy Award for best costume design in 1957, but did not win; and 1961’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which received no nominations. Givenchy did the clothes Audrey wore in the film and Pauline Trigère dressed Patricia Neal in her role as Mrs. Failenson. Edith Head is listed in the credits as “costume supervisor.”
If you like costume design in film as much as I do, you will want to check out the Clothes on Film site. Not only is it an excellent resource, it’s just plain fun to read.