x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Dramatic costumes

From Broadway to the Silver screen, costumes can help make the part the actor's own.

Andrew Garfield’s costume in the new Spider-Man film is somewhat darker than those of his predecessors.
Andrew Garfield’s costume in the new Spider-Man film is somewhat darker than those of his predecessors.

Spider-Man fans have had a rough ride recently, what with the troubled Broadway musical recently pushing back its official opening date once again. Great timing, then, for Sony to release the first official photo of the British actor, Andrew Garfield, in the latest film version of New York's spidery superhero. If ever there was any niggling doubt about the fourth Spider-Man film, which will serve as a reboot of the franchise after the departure of Sam Raimi, the director of the previous three films, then it has been duly swept away by the still of Garfield in his new and improved body suit. Unlike the outfits worn by Tobey Maguire, who played Peter Parker in the original trilogy - the last of which came out in 2007 - the new Spidey costume has a darker, edgier look to it; the macabre spider emblazoned over the chest area further proof that this Spider-Man means business. Throw in Garfield looking suitably peeved (having to defend a city of millions from an endless supply of theatrical villains will do that to you), with a nasty-looking scratch on his left cheek, and with the merest hint of a school-bag strap across one shoulder, and it's safe to say that Sony has created an intriguing film character.

In between lauding the talents of a director or actor or screenplay writer, it can be easy to forget the importance a great costume plays in helping make a movie. Would Breakfast at Tiffany's, the 1961 romantic comedy starring Audrey Hepburn, still have been as popular had Holly Golightly emerged from her yellow cab in a pair of flat shoes, with her hair tied back in a scraggly knot? Probably not. In any event, the little black dress created for the character of Golighty, by the designer Hubert de Givenchy, has become one of the most iconic costumes in film history. And while Givenchy may not have been considered for a Best Costume Design nomination at the subsequent Academy Awards ceremony, it should please him to know that his famous little black dress was voted the best female screen outfit of all time in a poll conducted by the British movie rental company, Lovefilm, last year.

Other costumes that made the poll include the emerald green dress made specifically for Keira Knightley for her role in Atonement, and the barely-there bikini worn by Ursula Andress in the James Bond movie, Dr No.

Hepburn's screen costumes may have ruled during the 1960s, but roll back to the previous decade and it was the outfits worn by the inimitable actress Grace Kelly that caught people's attention. In fact, so popular were the star's outfits that London's Victoria and Albert Museum displayed several of the dresses she wore in films such as High Society and Rear Window in the 2010 exhibit Grace Kelly: Style Icon. Wearing several glamorous outfits for her role as Lisa, in Hitchcock's Rear Window, Kelly is probably best remembered for the monochrome dress worn in her first scene.

Chosen by the American costume designer, Edith Head, it is no wonder the outfit made such an impact. Nominated for 35 Oscars during her career (of which she won eight) Head, who died in 1981, is perhaps the most famous costume designer in movie history.

Beginning her career as a designer on the 1925 silent movie, The Wanderer, Head quickly established herself in Hollywood. In her lifetime, Head designed Oscar-winning costumes for the likes of Bette Davis (All About Eve) and Elizabeth Taylor (A Place in the Sun). Her last win, for the Paul Newman and Robert Redford vehicle, The Sting, came in 1974.

Other Hollywood classics include Marilyn Monroe's iconic white dress in The Seven Year Itch and Princess Leia's white robe and side-bun hairdo in the original Star Wars trilogy.

Which brings us back to sci-fi - or, at least, superheroes. These characters' looks range from the sublimely designer (Blade and The Matrix: whoever thought a pair of shades and a long black trench coat could be so effective?), through classics such as Batman (especially in the most recent batch of films starring Christian Bale) to the ridiculous - although the highly anticipated comic adaptation, Captain America: The First Avenger, has not been released, the promo photos of Chris Evans, in the title role, should keep fans of the character happy. Sometimes it's the cape that makes the man.