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Sketch to screen: The history of Hollywood costume illustration (Photos)

by AirTalk®

Costume design sketch from "Fight Club."

When Deborah Nadoolman Landis was starting out in the costume shops of major Hollywood studios, she remembers finding “stacks and stacks” of old drawings - stuffed under tables, into walls for insulation, underfoot, being used as doormats.  At that time, no one considered the sketches made for costume designs to be art.  

They were just the first step in translating a designer’s ideas into costumes that would be worn by Judy Garland, Marilyn Monroe, Barbra Streisand and other bigger-than-life stars. Some were signed by famous designers — Edith Head, Cecil Beaton, Walter Plunkett — although they were often the work of lesser-known or anonymous artists.

Nadoolman Landis calls herself a costume archaeologist, the “Indiana Jones” of costume design. She spent years combing through archives and private collections, not to mention dumpsters, garages and attics, to unearth long-unseen illustrations of Hollywood costume designs.

The result is ‘Hollywood Sketchbook: A Century of Costume Illustrated,” the first book devoted to the art of the costume illustrator. Nadoolman Landis is a costume historian as well as a successful costume designer; her credits include Raiders of the Lost Ark, The Blues Brothers and Michael Jackson’s seminal music video/short film Thriller.  

In creating this book, she tells the story of an important chapter in film history. Its pages showcase a lush and loving history of Hollywood costume design, but more importantly, of the artists whose sketches combine the visions of writer, director and designer to create unforgettable, immortal characters.


Deborah Nadoolman Landis, author of Hollywood Sketchbook: A Century of Costume Illustrated (Harper Design), costume historian, UCLA professor and founding director of the David C. Copley Center for Costume Design at UCLA

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