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How The Artist used costume to bring the 20s alive

It’s no secret that I’m a big silent movie fan. Give me Chaplin over a modern romantic comedy any day!

So, imagine my delight when film of the year, The Artist, won 5 of the biggies at The Oscars! This modern day silent movie took everyone by surprise, even more so when it began to win big time at each award. It seems there is hope for the audience of the 21st century, so used to talkies, big effects and Hollywood drama; the silence has proven that it is not a completely alien concept.

I could go on and on about silent films, but I’ll spare you, and focus on the part that has got all the fashionistas’ attention: Costume.

One of the 5 awards it took away on Oscar night was costume design, and there is no wonder why!

Channelling the golden era, costume designer Mark Bridges obviously did his research. Picking and choosing elements from popular styles and silver screen sirens, there must have been a whole host of inspiring designs from the 1920s. Just look at this amazing backless dress worn by Clara Bow:

When looking through the fabulous costumes worn by silent film stars, there is a definite theme running through the pieces: texture. Before the advent of glorious Technicolour, costume designers had to find another way of springing their actors out from the screen, ensuring they didn’t blend into the background. This, too, was the struggle for Bridges; although The Artist was originally filmed in colour, he had to use patterns, crystals, fur, feathers and more to ensure the characters remained the focus when desaturated.

It wasn’t only texture that the team used to really bring out their characters, but they also had some clever tricks up their sleeves for using costume to add narrative. As the rise of talkies begins to dampen George Valentin’s star-studded career, so we see a change in his looks. The actor that played him, the gorgeous Jean Dujardin, suggested to costume designer Mark Bridges that the costumes should just be “a little bigger to reflect that somehow George is less of a man than he was.” They did just that, tailoring the size and style of his suits; from a well fitted tuxedo portraying wealth, grace and success, to a dishevelled loose-fitting suit.

With this attention to detail, the costume worked alongside the narrative, acting talent and cinematography to make a success of a film which could have so easily missed the mark, had any of these things had been less than perfect.  

We also can’t help loving Uggie the dog’s Oscar outfit.