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Creating The Illusion: A fashionable history of Hollywood Costume Designers.

Who would ever have thought the world of costume design could be so political, dangerous, fascinating and sumptuous all at the same time, but it was very much so at the dawning of the film era, an era that has gone from the silent screen and costumes designed to provoke, tantalise and enthral, let alone set the standards for glamorous fashion throughout the ages.

Complied by Jay Jorgensen in a desire to share his fascination with the often unsung heroes behind the glamour of the silver screen, the costume designers beginning in 1909, when William Selig began to make films in Los Angeles, now have their day and are able, in so many ways, to tell their stories.

1909 was the beginning of the movie industry we know today but costume mattered little to these early pioneers and it was not until DW Griffith realised that wearing the same outfit, usually owned by the star, and in every scene was compromising the integrity of the film being made.

He was the first filmmaker to reinvest in his costuming but also hiring a designer to create the costumes for the production. As you turn the pages of this fascinating look at the other side of Hollywood you will enjoy not only the stories of the designers but little known  facts about the stars whom wore the costumes, the life and times of a budding industry.

Beginning at the Silent Era of film these designers pushed all the boundaries prevalent in society during the post war years, right through until the Wall Street crash, which not only saw a change of societies attitudes but a craving to move on from the excess of the “Jazz Age’ into something that was more fitting of the times and the traditional values.

The Golden Era of Hollywood saw the birth of Haute Couture designers making a name for themselves, not just on the runways of Paris but also on the Hollywood screens. Designers such as Coco Chanel were enticed to design for producer Samuel Goldwyn, a coupling of talent that was sadly destined not to last. But the simple, well cut styles created by Chanel did have a long lasting effect on the ladies of Hollywood as they struggled to learn and understand that simple, yet elegant style so beloved of Chanel.

Cecil Beaton dressed Audrey Hepburn in her unforgettable role of Eliza Doolittle in ‘My Fair Lady’. As a designer for Hollywood blockbusters he was already well known as he was already designing for a variety of theatre presentations from Revues, to ballet and West End Theatre productions.

The Modern era heralded in change once again and a new range of designs to suite the era; those such as Norma Koch, Theodora Van Runkle and Bob Mackie designed and created, not just for the screen, with their style and flair moving into the fashion scene readily. Outfits such as those worn by Faye Dunaway in the Thomas Crown Affair’ became the accepted norm for women’s fashion.

The final chapters are more in the nature of a Question and Answer with the various designers of the more current movies which show a fascination with their craft, the actors they dress and the movies. This also gives a greater understanding of what creates the art of excellent costuming and costume design, as well as an insight to the actors who wore the various outfits which helped create memorable characters such as Capitan Jack Sparrow, Willy Wonka,  Danny  Zuko and Sandy Olsson of ‘Grease’ fame, and Meryl Streep’s character Sophie in ‘Sophie’s Choice’.

If you are into fashion, movies, glamour, and design or simply love to read about the old days of Hollywood, glamour, a lifestyle long gone, and the people who remained, in many cases the unsung heroes of the silver screen, this is a book that you will enjoy for many, many years.

From the early beginnings of the outrageous years of the ‘twenties’ to modern day creativity, the evolution of Hollywood, fashion and film makes far more fascination reading than any tales created for the silver screen.

From the magnificent to the mundane there is something on every page to keep you interested, intrigued and fascinated.


Author Jay Jorgensen, Donald L. Scoggins, foreword by Ali MacGraw
Publisher Runnning Press
ISBN 9780762456611
Distributor New South Books