Ahead of the incredible night of glitz and glamour comes the opening of FIDM Museum’s exhibit, the 28th Annual presentation of the “Art of Motion Costume Design”. Celebrating the extraordinary creativity of costume designers for their work in films from last year. The FIDM exhibit features over 100 costumes from 30 films including all 5 of this year’s Academy Award nominees. Open to the public for free, beginning Tuesday February 4th until March 21st 2020.
The exhibition, which is the only one of its kind in the world, that pays tribute every year to the genius costume designers for film, dedicating the FIDM museum from the months of February until March, to the outstanding costumes and Oscar® Nominated designs. The exhibition illustrates the undeniably integral part that costuming plays in creating the movies we’ve been watching all year and enlightens movie fans on some of the process, as they allow visitors of the exhibit to get up close to the breathtaking costumes.
I had the honour of being able to preview the exhibit on Saturday 1st February at FIDM Museum as they once again celebrated the important role of costuming in movies, transforming actors into the characters we see on screen, from fictional characters brought to life, to re-creating real life figures such as Rudy Ray Moor and Dolemite, the fictional character Moor created, for both his standup and movie of the same name.
I had the opportunity to interview Ruth Carter, the amazing costume designer for Dolemite Is My Name, at the event. Carter made history when she became the first African American to win an Academy Award for Best Costume Designer (for Black Panther). Here we discuss how she created the incredible looks for Dolemite Is My Name, touch upon her work on Black Panther and pushing for diverse talent in the industry.
Stacy Fan: Costuming is always such an important part of any movie, but they really were integral to this movie as we see Eddie Murphy transforming into Dolemite at the beginning of the movie.
Rudy Ray Moore created Dolemite to be so extravagant with his costuming to match his huge persona. How did you manage to keep both the character of Rudy Ray Moore and Dolemite grounded, whilst still pushing the costuming to that exaggerated level?
Ruth Carter: I think when you know these kinds of people, they create these kind of personas for themselves and it’s manifested in the way they present themselves and what they wear and you know they like it and that they are serious about it and they are entertainers and they are creative.
It takes a lot of creativity to put these looks together and they usually do it themselves and I kind of just wanted to honor that spirit of creativity and proclaiming who you are, so different than the rest. And it was important that we didn’t laugh at it but that we cheered it on. Because it was about believing in yourself 1000 percent against all odds. So that was the challenge, because you can easily go way too far when the actors take on their characters so I just wanted to like the clothes; whether they were broad and big and pimp style, I like to call it urban dandy, I just really wanted to like the clothes.
SF: Eddie Murphy spends a lot of time on stage performing as the character of Dolemite.
How did you balance keeping the clothes and particularly the shoes comfortable for Eddie Murphy to perform in whilst still staying true to his larger than life looks?
RC: Yes, that was a challenge, you know having a man in platform shoes everyday! I really felt bad honestly, because some of the shoes were amazing, but he had to wear them, he was trying. Finally I made a pair of platform shoes out of tennis shoes. I just put the heel on a pair of tennis shoes and he was so comfortable. He was so happy! That didn’t happen till way down the line! It was a process to get there!
RC: Yes, we prepped in 6 weeks so it was fast and there were about 75 made to order looks for Eddie. Just in that amount of time you had to go right to the source and if the fabric had the texture you were looking for, but not the color, we dyed it. We didn’t have time to look for another fabric, especially with that double-knit polyester, it’s actually like a relic, it’s hard to find and so we did a lot of dying and putting things on people’s tables all over Los Angeles. We had almost every tailor in LA that I know of working on our stuff.
SF: It’s incredible that this movie was your 5th time working with Eddie Murphy, and that you have your sixth movie together, Coming 2 Americaout later this year, how has your creative relationship evolved with him over time?
RC: You know I just really like him as a person and so I think that helps our creativity because we are very comfortable around each other. I can go into his personal areas like his dressing trailer and you know he is comfortable and for a person like Eddie who prepares, prepares, prepares he likes to have his private space, it’s nice to be invited in because you can get a lot done. I think that has really strengthened our relationship because I’m allowed to do what I’ve got to do. I’m not waiting forever for someone to say you have the privilege to go in.
RC: He is not involved with costumes as much as he knows the feeling that he wants to present, so he’ll talk about the story in a way that you know what he’s talking about visually and you can get right to it. But I always share everything with him even though he doesn’t dictate what things should be, I show him sketches, I show him research. I talk about trends of the 70s that we both remember because we’re both about the same age. So that was fun, I’d like that to go on forever! So that’s how we connect.
SF: Another iconic character in this movie is Lady Nancy Reed, Queen Bee, being one of the only women in this movie and an incredible woman at that, who goes from struggling single mother to successful actress. Such an inspiring real-life character. How did you go about creating her costumes that were so powerful and so sexy at the same time and what was it like working with the gorgeous Da’Vine Joy Randolph in this process?
RC: Da’Vine Joy Randolph is like a powerhouse character. She is a powerhouse, so you bring it. When you’re ready to get her done up, you bring it. If you don’t bring it, it’s going to be obvious because she isa powerhouse so you’ve got to dress the powerhouse. You make her bold, you make her big, you make her sexy.
RC: Super intimidating! But I am a good listener. And you only get that information when you listen. And once you get it, you get them, you get what they want, you get how they roll and you can flourish, because you’re going to do your part and bring what you know they don’t know you got! So that’s why I felt I was intimidated, I was super scared, I gave it 200 percent of my being and myself because I knew it was a big project, people were waiting to see it, so I was like, ‘Don’t mess this up. It’s life or death!’
Finally I have to ask you about The Black Design Collective, I interviewed Angela Dean, Kevan Hall and TJ walker about the incredible work with the foundation and your well- deserved tribute here at FIDM last year. I know you also gave the scholarship from the Black Design Collective to Devert Monet Hickman last year. How important is it to you to see that push for emerging designers, especially minorities in the industry?
RC: I think the more trends change, the more we have to embrace who created them, and who is creating them are diverse groups who are doing it in very ingenious and unusual ways, so we can’t stay the same. It’s not going to down like that.
SF: Have you seen a growth since the beginning of your career when it comes to embracing that diversity?
RC: Yes, it’s slow though. My whole career we’re still talking about the same thing. So it’s still happening but we have to be a little more assertive too. We have a responsibility to the change as much as the change has a responsibility.
Dolemite Is My Name is available to watch on Netflix now. The costumes featured in the movie are currently on display at the FIDM Museum exhibit as well as costumes from Black Panther.
Academy Award Nominated movies featured in the exhibition:
Other movies featured at the Exhibition:
Photos by Alex J. Berliner/ABImages
For more information on the exhibit visit:
FIDM Museum Address: 919 South Grand Avenue, Suite 250, Los Angeles, California, 90015, United States
With thanks to FIDM Museum