I’m obsessed with Ann Roth.

4 Apr

Costume designer of the new HBO series, Mildred Pierce, costume designer of all things awesome…  Ann Roth is my new hero.  This isn’t only because of her body of work that includes movies such as The Talented Mr. Ripley, The English Patient, Midnight Cowboy and 109 other films(!), but also because she’s 80, works 16 hour days and is still completely enthralled in her career.  When I did my movie-a-day project last year and profiled each costume designer, I found her name coming up again and again to movies I loved.  I’ve since grown a small obsession with her and try to see everything she does.

Harper’s Bazaar interviews her this month because of her work for Mildred Pierce.  She makes a lot of great points that I couldn’t agree with her more on.  She talks about how little her job has to do with fashion.  She creates looks for characters, not the runway, which is a common misconception of the costume designer’s role.  The costumes are only intended to serve the narrative.  For a wardrobe stylist in advertising, the same is true.  You’re representing a character, a demographic, and telling a story of how he or she would experience the product.  It has little to do with what everyone thinks is fashionable (unless it applies directly to the product), rather, whether it fits the narrative of what we’re trying to imply for the product.

Here’s some highlights from the interview, which you can read in its entireity here.

““I would never look at movies for my work. I would look at real clothes from the period and photographs from the period. One doesn’t look at other people’s work.” Instead, Roth takes an almost forensic approach to costuming her characters, assessing them from the inside out.  For Mildred Pierce, she decided that based on Mildred’s means, she would have shopped at Bullock’s department store, rather than at the tonier shops in Beverly Hills. She does this for all her characters, she says. “I think about how much money they spent, where they go, does she have a drawer for silk slips…”

You can also see her in action in this HBO behind the scenes video on the making of Mildred Pierce.  I recommend watching the entire video, but if you’re only interested in learning more about Roth, she’s highlighted about 13 minutes in.

If only I could hold her coffee cup on a project.  I would sell my soul to do the honor.

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