By Booth Moore
Los Angeles Times Fashion Critic
December 16, 2012
Gorgeous, full-color illustrations of costumes from "My Fair Lady," "Cabaret," "Cleopatra," "Bonnie and Clyde" and "Vertigo" are just a few of the goodies in Deborah Nadoolman Landis' new book, "Hollywood Sketchbook: A Century of Costume Illustration" (Harper Design, $75), which shines a light on the under-appreciated field of costume illustration.
"These are the products of talented individuals who are part of our business. It's truly the art of Hollywood," Landis says.
The book features the work of 100 Hollywood artists, including costume designers who did their own sketches and illustrators who sketched for and collaborated with designers.
Among those represented are costume designer/illustrator Theadora Van Runkle ("Bonnie and Clyde"), whose hippie-inspired drawings from "I Love You, Alice B. Toklas!" (1968) have the exuberant color and line of Impressionist paintings. Van Runkle, who is quoted in the book, says she used drawings for "working out any problems and manufacturing of the clothes. If it didn't work in the drawing, it sure as hell wouldn't work on the figure."
Costume designer Adrian was also a prolific drawer. His childhood doodles famously became reference material for his work on "The Wizard of Oz," Landis writes.
Then there is Pauline Annon, a fashion and costume illustrator who was trained at Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and worked with numerous designers on artwork for films such as "Shampoo" and "Fight Club." Costume designer and producer Anthea Sylbert recalls that she could "give her a photo of the actor, every piece of fabric I had chosen, all the croquis [rough sketches], and tell her who the character was. I would tell her what the scene was in the screenplay so that she would get the whole attitude into the sketch." Annon's sketches are part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.
Gathering the images and giving them proper attribution required a lot of research, because precious few sketches were signed. And even those that were sometimes had a complicated provenance.
Take Edith Head, for example, one of the most famous costume designers in history. Head employed a team of sketch artists to turn her ideas into polished illustrations, which she nontheless signed with her own name.
So despite her best efforts, Landis says there may be some mislabeling. But the book's 500 illustrations — most of which have never before been published — are a wonderful treat.
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