Annual Exhibit Brings Hollywood to Downtown

Category: Phantom of the Opera News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: February 5, 2005 | Publication: LA Downtown News | Author: Kristin Friedrich
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It was busy last Tuesday afternoon at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising (FIDM) museum in South Park: A dress from The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King was getting steamed, Peter Parker's Spider-Man outfit was waiting on a pedestal and word was spreading that the Finding Neverland costumes wouldn't arrive until the end of the week.


One of Alexandra Byrne's creations for The Phantom of the Opera.

The bustle was offset, however, by a collective sigh of relief: That morning, the Academy Award nominations had been announced, and for the 13th consecutive year, the team that curates the annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design show guessed right. FIDM would have wares from all the films nominated for best costume design: The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Ray and Troy.

The annual exhibit has grown from a barely noticed blip to a can't-miss event that brings Hollywood types Downtown. The first show in 1992 had costumes from eight films, displayed in what was then the schools' show space - a tiny room with a workshop in back. The workshop amounted to little more than a sink and a paintbrush, said Robert Nelson, director of FIDM Museum and Galleries.

Three years ago, the college opened a new, 11,000-square-foot space. The current Art of Motion Picture, which runs through April 23, contains more than 100 costumes from 25 films. The show also spotlights the film that won the last Oscar - Lord of the Rings in this case.

Proof of the exhibit's growing respect comes from the increased amount of costumes that studios send: FIDM now receives more outfits than it can display, and props to go along with them (a Swarovski crystal chandelier from The Phantom of the Opera, for example, and gold statues from Troy). New Line Cinema went a step further: It offered, and paid for, a representative from New Zealand's Weta Workshop, which created costume accessories and props for The Lord of the Rings trilogy, to come to L.A. to make sure the movies' outfits were assembled and presented correctly.

"There's a cult following," says Nelson, as the New Zealander and a FIDM employee lace a boot on an armored mannequin. "Those fans know what they're looking at."

The designers themselves also turn up. Colleen Atwood, who won an Oscar for her work in Chicago and was nominated for Sleepy Hollow, Beloved and Little Women, arrived last week to make sure the garb from Lemony Snicket looked right. She requested a different mannequin for one design.

The text panels that accompany the collections reveal the quirks and challenges of each job. Karen Patch worked at one-third the size of anything she had ever made before for Team America: World Police; she had to provide the marionettes' costumes extra give around their joints, and easy access to their backsides so the batteries controlling their facial features could be replaced. Bob Ringwood admitted the most historically accurate costumes in Troy are the court clothes, because they were based on bas-relief sculptures from the British Museum.

For The Lord of the Rings, Ngila Dickson used all organic fabrics. Her colleague Richard Taylor, and his Weta Workshop, made prosthetic limbs, swords, weapons, hobbit feet, orc masks and giant fiberglass "Ringwraiths and steeds" (which is to say, dark-robed phantom guys and their horses). One of the life-size wraiths is on display in the FIDM rotunda, and with no plaque up yet last week, it looked a bit like the grim reaper had arrived, perhaps looking to take some fashion classes.

Art of Motion Picture Costume Design is at the Museum Galleries at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Jan. 31-April 23, 919 S. Grand Ave., (213) 624-1200 ext. 2224 or fidm.org.fashionmuseum.org.