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Movie Tech. Disc. 6 - Building Middle-earth: Costumes

OhioHobbit
Gondor

Feb 15 2008, 9:51am


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Ngila Dickson grew up with a passion for clothing. When she was growing up it was the tradition in New Zealand for everyone to make her own clothes, and her mother was a fabulous seamstress. She also developed a passion for photography, words and books, and writing. In my opinion, she is also a terrific artist. At one period, sometime in the eighties, she ran her own fashion magazine called Cha-Cha, which combined clothing with photography, and at the same time was making clothes. She also used to sell clothes.

In 1989 she was offered a job working on the movie User Friendly and she found that working in the movie industry was what she really wanted to do. One of the movies she later worked on was Heavenly Creatures, directed by Peter Jackson. She was working on Xena and Hercules when she was told by Richard Taylor that Peter Jackson would really like her to come and work on The Lord of the Rings.

To design a costume for any particular character, Dickson would first look at all the different images that were available for that character and talk with Peter Jackson about the character. Next she would do a costume drawing.

"A costume drawing may appear to be the same kind of drawing as any other illustrator’s, but, in fact, if you are a good costume designer, you are telling a pattern maker how to make the costume through that drawing. They should be able to tell how to make the costume through that drawing. They should be able to tell how you want it constructed by that drawing." (1)

"Generally, I believe that when you go wrong with a costume, it is because you strayed from your drawing. If your drawing is right, and you feel really good about it, and it is what everyone agreed on, you will often find that the costume only goes wrong when you stop looking at that drawing. You’ll be looking at the fitting and saying, ‘Something is wrong with this.’ I will ask to see the drawing, and we’ll have it up on the board, and we’ll all look at it and go, ‘That’s what is wrong!’ It will be some element that hasn’t been done strictly according to the drawing. Sometimes, an actor is so completely different from what you envisioned that character to be that you really do have to rethink things. But, usually, I don’t like to design a costume until I know who the actor is. My drawings are very much like portraits of the actors." (2)

The costume drawing would then go to the wardrobe supervisor who would construct a calico of the costume. A calico is a costume made of just a very plain piece of fabric so that you can look at it on a costume dummy and see how the construction comes together. If everything looks O.K., the costume is made up in the proper fabric. If that looks O.K., it is then sent off to be dyed. The costume might go through a lengthy process of over-dying in order to get just the right quality of color. Over-dying is also part of the aging process. Afterwards, more physical aging might be required, such as scuffing hemlines, adding stains, darkening some parts, or fading out others. In the middle of all of this, with any luck, you get to have the actor put the costume on, and you might have to adjust the costume to the actor. This whole process might take up to six weeks, depending on the costume.

"Dickson used natural fabrics such as velvet, cotton, wool and linen so the costumes would wear incredibly well. ‘As soon as you get something that’s man made, you’re never going to get that look," she explains. "We worked those fabrics hard. No piece of fabric went on to a sewing machine that hadn’t been washed as many times as we could possibly put it through. And we dyed almost everything. The dye-house worked night and day. That’s another group of people who worked so amazingly hard, you can’t imagine. Dying is such an organic process and it’s so hard to be consistent with colours. You know, we’d go to them, We need another Frodo coat, exactly the same colour as the one from four months ago . . . It’s enough to bring tears to anyone’s eyes." (3)

"I think the reality is that both Richard [Taylor] and I are aware that you don’t know what the hell Peter’s going to do next. So the answer to that is be prepared for everything. And part of that is to be prepared for someone to say all of a sudden – Peter will say, ‘Wells, no, take that armor off’ or ‘Take that top off and we’ll do something where you look a lot more relaxed.’ If you haven’t made that whole under-part of the costume work, then you’re standing there going ‘Um . . . ’ One thing that none of us ever wanted to do was say no to Peter." (4)



Some interesting links:
http://www.theonering.net/scrapbook/view/9434
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ngila_Dickson
http://alleycatscratch.com/lotr/

As you probably know, Arwen’s Daughter has been doing a series of terrific discussions on some of the individual costumes that I have been enjoying a lot. It is absolutely fascinating to see the detail and workmanship that has gone into each and every one of them. Thank you, Arwen’s Daughter, for a close-up look at these beautiful costumes. I am looking forward to the next one.

I think everyone has an idea of how the costumes for the Hobbits, Elves, Dwarfs, and Orcs should look in the Hobbit movie. That leaves the men of Lake Town. What should their costumes be like?

In LOTR, the costuming of the Rivendell Elves was different from the Lothlorien Elves. How different do you think the Mirkwood Elves’ costumes should be from the Rivendell and Lothlorien Elves?

Is anyone into or does anyone have experience with costume-making in any capacity? Got any pictures? Got any good stories?

OhioHobbit wanted me (Alcarcalime) to include my costuming experience. I always made costumes for my children for Halloween. My favorite costume was a Roman soldier I made for my son when he was 9. The helmet is a WWII play helmet painted silver with a cardboard visor and chin straps and a red broom head glued to the top. His tunic is one of his father’s tee shirts with a red band sewed on. The red leather "skirt" is leather strips dyed red (I was doing leather work at this time and had pieces of cow hide around). The breast plate is a piece of cardboard that I cut to the shape I wanted. I made the design with white glue and painted the armor silver when the glue was dry. The cloak was a piece of red fabric. He had sandals on that I threaded with leather ties. The shield started out life as a piece of stove pipe. His dad cut it the right size and I painted it brown with a silver design. He was quite pleased with his costume. He always wanted his costumes to be realistic. When he was about 5, he wanted to be a hobo with an eye hanging out, so I put a bandage around his head covering one eye. I put red paint on it and pinned a ping-pong ball on a cut rubber band to the underside. I painted the ping-pong ball with a brown iris to look like his other eye. He loved it and didn’t want to take it off. Funny thing, at 35, he still hasn’t outgrown gory stuff.


Sources:
1. The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine, #3, ( pgs.58-67
)
2. The Lord of the Rings Fan Club Official Movie Magazine, #4, (pgs.54-63
)
3.
Http://lilithlotr.ejwsites.net/articles/pavement/ngila.htm
4
. The Frodo Franchise, Kristin Thompson, pg. 79

Subject User Time
Movie Tech. Disc. 6 - Building Middle-earth: Costumes OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 15 2008, 9:51am
    Jewelry OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 15 2008, 10:04am
        80 elven brooches? weaver Send a private message to weaver Feb 15 2008, 11:48pm
            The Fellowship of the Films. OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 16 2008, 1:17am
        Thank Goodness for Xena and Hercules! grammaboodawg Send a private message to grammaboodawg Feb 16 2008, 3:23am
            You know… OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 16 2008, 2:28pm
                Oh... porcelain grammaboodawg Send a private message to grammaboodawg Feb 16 2008, 8:11pm
                    So many possibilities! OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 17 2008, 12:26am
                        LOL Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Feb 17 2008, 6:59am
                            We also have to do The Hobbit! // OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 17 2008, 3:23pm
                        *twitch* You know what I'd LOVE to have? grammaboodawg Send a private message to grammaboodawg Feb 17 2008, 2:28pm
                            Ohhhh...that WOULD be lovely! // OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 17 2008, 3:24pm
        The Elven brooch... Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Feb 16 2008, 3:28pm
            ah, a Jack Sparrow necklace... weaver Send a private message to weaver Feb 16 2008, 5:33pm
                or an Orlando Bloom necklace Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Feb 16 2008, 5:45pm
            I have a fondness for snails. OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 16 2008, 7:04pm
                spiders.. Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Feb 16 2008, 7:15pm
                    We don't kill spiders, either... Alcarcalime Send a private message to Alcarcalime Feb 16 2008, 7:20pm
                        well, I figure... Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Feb 16 2008, 8:43pm
                            Yep... Alcarcalime Send a private message to Alcarcalime Feb 16 2008, 9:19pm
        Wedding rings OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 17 2008, 8:24pm
            Beautiful! Lily Fairbairn Send a private message to Lily Fairbairn Feb 17 2008, 10:23pm
                I love your rings! OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 18 2008, 12:17am
            Great! Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Feb 18 2008, 7:11am
                Obsessed? OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 18 2008, 11:01am
                    Of course not Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Feb 18 2008, 11:48am
        Im late! Elven Send a private message to Elven Feb 19 2008, 2:57pm
            Wow! Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Feb 19 2008, 5:53pm
                Time ... Elven Send a private message to Elven Feb 20 2008, 10:32am
                    Very neat Elven Earl Send a private message to Earl Feb 21 2008, 5:27am
                        Have you been peeking? Elven Send a private message to Elven Feb 21 2008, 12:36pm
                            Seems he did :) Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Feb 21 2008, 1:35pm
                                LOL!! If you send that 'certain' King around ... Elven Send a private message to Elven Feb 21 2008, 5:10pm
                            Just a quickie in the palantir ;) Earl Send a private message to Earl Feb 21 2008, 2:13pm
                                You inspire me ... Elven Send a private message to Elven Feb 21 2008, 5:15pm
            Your jewelry is beautiful! Arwen's daughter Send a private message to Arwen's daughter Feb 19 2008, 8:49pm
            I have never… OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 20 2008, 12:11am
    Mirkwood Elves? ... Elven Send a private message to Elven Feb 15 2008, 12:25pm
        ROFL! Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Feb 15 2008, 12:36pm
        A bit more rustic than the Rivendell Elves. OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 15 2008, 5:19pm
            LOL! The sad thing is though .. Elven Send a private message to Elven Feb 16 2008, 1:59am
        Even better ... Idril Celebrindal Send a private message to Idril Celebrindal Feb 15 2008, 7:37pm
            pantless Lunamoth Send a private message to Lunamoth Feb 15 2008, 7:47pm
    Ngila and her costumes Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Feb 15 2008, 1:06pm
        Thank you, kindly! Alcarcalime Send a private message to Alcarcalime Feb 15 2008, 3:24pm
        Geekiness OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 16 2008, 12:02am
    Yah! Costumes! Arwen's daughter Send a private message to Arwen's daughter Feb 15 2008, 5:37pm
        Yes, I don't think... Alcarcalime Send a private message to Alcarcalime Feb 15 2008, 5:44pm
        Wow! Ataahua Send a private message to Ataahua Feb 15 2008, 6:25pm
            Thank you. Arwen's daughter Send a private message to Arwen's daughter Feb 15 2008, 6:50pm
        Your Eowyn gown is beautiful! weaver Send a private message to weaver Feb 16 2008, 12:01am
        Wow! OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 16 2008, 12:08am
            LOL Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Feb 16 2008, 7:56am
        Oh! *applause* Elven Send a private message to Elven Feb 16 2008, 2:21am
        *mouth gapes* Cripes! grammaboodawg Send a private message to grammaboodawg Feb 16 2008, 2:58am
        Your own work is great, too! Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Feb 16 2008, 9:30am
    Hobbit to Hobbit One Ringer Send a private message to One Ringer Feb 15 2008, 9:11pm
        As one Hobbit... OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 16 2008, 12:04am
    Now that's something I hadn't thought about before -- the poor dyers! weaver Send a private message to weaver Feb 15 2008, 11:59pm
        Unsung heroes OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 16 2008, 1:22am
            Well Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Feb 16 2008, 3:36pm
                GASP!!! OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 16 2008, 7:07pm
                    Me, neither Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Feb 16 2008, 7:23pm
                        Perhaps Ainu Laire Send a private message to Ainu Laire Feb 17 2008, 7:39pm
                            Rivendell Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Feb 17 2008, 7:42pm
                    Destroying costumes Earl Send a private message to Earl Feb 17 2008, 8:07am
                        Wholeheartedly agree with you! Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Feb 17 2008, 8:55am
                            To know it exists OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 17 2008, 3:28pm
                                I'd like to see a few museums Ataahua Send a private message to Ataahua Feb 17 2008, 5:45pm
                                    That would be terrific! OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 17 2008, 8:18pm
                                        Oh yes Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Feb 18 2008, 7:13am
                        I wish… OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 17 2008, 3:26pm
                She got the one grammaboodawg Send a private message to grammaboodawg Feb 16 2008, 8:22pm
                    Oh, thanks Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Feb 17 2008, 6:57am
        A calico is also called a muslin Arwen's daughter Send a private message to Arwen's daughter Feb 17 2008, 12:43am
    As I was reading Ngila's grammaboodawg Send a private message to grammaboodawg Feb 16 2008, 2:54am
        Thank you for the kind words. Alcarcalime Send a private message to Alcarcalime Feb 16 2008, 9:37am
        I never thought of that! OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 16 2008, 2:26pm
    re: costumes Magpie Send a private message to Magpie Feb 16 2008, 3:13pm
        Dripping paint OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 16 2008, 7:17pm
            Oh wow! Peredhil lover Send a private message to Peredhil lover Feb 16 2008, 7:32pm
                Oh, thank you. Alcarcalime Send a private message to Alcarcalime Feb 16 2008, 9:17pm
    Incredible! Loresilme Send a private message to Loresilme Feb 22 2008, 2:16pm
        My admiration ... OhioHobbit Send a private message to OhioHobbit Feb 23 2008, 12:25am

 
 
 

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