Fashion at the Oscars

Mad Max: Fury Road

Mad Max: Fury Road

Bear with me. I know we’ve turned the calendar to March, but I’ve got February on the brain. February, film, and fashion that is. Blame it on the Academy Awards.

Elegantly styled, cool blue and soft yellow dresses blanketed the red carpet at this year’s Oscars, but what caught my attention was contrary to the glamour and gold. It was Mad Max: Fury Road, winner of this year’s award for Best Costume Design. The distressed clothing in the film, intended for survival in a dystopian society, is proof positive that not everything about apparel design needs to focus on beauty.

Welcome to the world of Costume Design! Fashion Design’s first cousin doesn’t respond to the needs or whims of each passing season. Rather, it answers to a production house, director, or actor. Costume designers are imagination specialists. Instead of focusing on style and looking to set future trends, they typically reflect the past – or a fictitious future in the case of Mad Max – and gain inspiration from a specific time or place.

Both are storytellers, using fabrics and soft materials to express their point of view. Yet they each target a different audience. Fashion designers integrate their knowledge of textiles and clothing with what’s happening in the world around them, using current events and trends as their inspiration. Their intent is to generate sales and clothe the public.

University of Florida

University of Florida School of Theatre & Dance

Costume designers communicate the story of one individual at a time, informing us of a character’s lifestyle, wealth, and social status by the clothes on his back.

Most colleges and universities teach Costume Design as part of the Drama department, giving students full exposure to the world of theatre. If your teen has a passion for fashion, but also loves the stage – or history – make sure you include Costume Design as part of your college research. Each of the colleges listed below offers a BFA in Costume Design.

Break a leg!

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The Battle of Versailles: A Fashion Evolution

Let’s see if you know your history. Does the 1973 battle of Versailles sound familiar? It won’t appear in most history books, but it was the year of an epic confrontation or contest, between the French and the Americans. And it changed the face of fashion, forever.

The battle – or faceoff as it was called – was witnessed by an exclusive list of 700 guests at Versailles Palace outside of Paris. But it was felt across the globe. A fundraiser to help restore the palace, it took the form of a groundbreaking runway show pitting five up-and-coming American designers against five top Parisian couture houses. Imagine a throw-down with Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, Christian Dior, and Givenchy competing against Oscar de la Renta, Halston, Bill Blass, Anne Klein, and Stephen Burrows. High style met new style.

The result was a tectonic shift in the fashion world: as the leading influence of fashion design moved from that which was strictly dictated by top designers and design houses to one that also absorbed and incorporated how women actually lived their lives.

Before then, Paris was fashion. Period.

Battle of versailles - fashionsizzle_dot_comRobin Givhan, Pulitzer Prize-winning fashion critic explains in her book The Battle of Versailles that Americans upended the traditional rules of fashion with a style and esthetic of color, jersey fabric, and movement. And, they broke racial barriers with an unprecedented 11 African American models. Clearly, it was an “aha” moment for the time. Fashion and culture evolved in that one historic event.

What’s the relevance today? Besides the value of knowing history is the awareness of how much fashion is influenced by the world around us. It evolves with us. That’s evident with each year’s New York, Paris, and subsequent fashion shows. And it’s apparent in the changing of the guard leading today’s top fashion houses.

Fashionista.com likes to keep its pulse on the fashion world, including fashion programs around the globe. If you think you may have a teenage trendsetter of your own at home make time to peruse their list of top schools. You’ll find some unexpected programs. Need further help deciphering the differences between schools, or how to organize your college search? Let me know. I’m happy to help.

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