By Danielle Gillespie
Palisades News Contributor
Photos by ABImages
Everyone is talking about the musical La La Land. The film is nominated for 14 Academy Awards, and it captured seven Golden Globes, breaking the record for the most awards won by a movie.
Its costume designer Mary Zophres is up for an Oscar for her retro-inspired ensembles, and some of her pieces are now prominently featured at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising’s museum as part of its 25th annual “Art of Motion Picture Costume Design” exhibition.
“Happily, we were able to secure a seriously sensational grouping of costumes this year,” said FIDM curator Kevin Jones, noting that in addition to La La Land, the museum obtained more than 100 costumes from 23 feature films released in 2016.
The designers and studios generously loan the costumes to the museum each year, so the public has an opportunity to view them. The costumes will be on display through April 22.
On opening night, Feb. 4, many of the costume designers gathered at FIDM to celebrate their accom- plishments with drinks and dinner. Zophres wore a stunning green dress that she’s owned for 15 years and admitted that it was the inspiration behind one of the dresses that she designed for La La Land.
Leading actress Emma Stone wears that dress in a scene where her character, Mia, dances a mid-air waltz with her love interest, Sebastian (Ryan Gosling), at theGriffith Observatory’s planetarium show.
Why is Zophres’ dress so special? It’s simple: “I like the color,” she said, with a laugh. “I have always been a fan of color. If you watch my movies, it’s pretty rare for me to use black.”
Zophres’ love of color served her well in La La Land because the modern-day love story pays homage to Technicolor, a highly saturated color process widely used in the classic Hollywood movies.
The 52-year-old collaborated with director and writer Damien Chazelle, and they decided that the cast would wear specific colors that would repeat throughout the movie and that they would mostly be blocks of color rather than patterns.
“We knew that there were dance numbers that were going to be filmed from head to toe, so a whole column of color turning or moving makes a better visual impact,” said Zophres, who has worked as a costume designer for 23 years and designed costumes for movies such as Interstellar and No Country for Old Men.
In La La Land, Stone plays a struggling actress who falls in love with a down-on-his-luck jazz pianist (Gosling). The movie follows the pair’s struggles as they try to launch their respective careers, and it’s filmed in iconic locations across Los Angeles, including Grand Central Market, Angels Flight and Watts Tower. It even features a choreographed rush-hour dance scene to the song “Another Day of Sun,” in South Los Angeles on the Interstate 105 ramp that connects to Interstate 110.
When Zophres first met with Chazelle, she said he was at a loss for how to dress Sebastian, who had changed from the original script. Chazelle had initially cast actor Miles Teller to play him; however, that fell through. Stone suggested Gosling for the leading role, and because he’s seven years older, Chazelle revised the script. Chazelle had initially envisioned Sebastian as a young man just embarking on his career in L.A., but that would not make sense with Gosling as the leading man. He changed it so that Sebastian was starting over after losing his jazz club.
Since Gosling’s character is deeply passionate about preserving traditional jazz music, Zophres decided to give him a simple vintage wardrobe with an element of sophistication. She wanted him to look classically handsome like actor Marc Michel in the 1961 film Lola.
“I pitched it to Damien that he’ll have two sport coats and he’ll repeat them; he has one suit, two dress shirts and a couple of casual shirts and that’s it,” Zophres said. “It’s quality, not quantity. He takes care of his stuff. It’s meant to look like he has a taste for things that are from the past and a reverence for them.”
Since the movie required the actors to dance, Zophres also worked closely with choreographer Mandy Moore to make sure the actors could move freely in their costumes. Plus, she found inspiration from watching dance rehearsals.
“I watched one of the first rehearsals of the duet, the one [Stone and Gosling] do at sunset to a ‘Lovely Night,’ and they sit on that bench and go with their feet—boop, boop, boop, boop—and I turned to Damien and said ‘They have to be wearing the same color shoes.’ I don’t know why I thought that, but it was instinctual, as were most of my choices,” Zophres said.
Chazelle wanted to film that song-and-tap-dance number in one camera-take. At that point in the story, the characters were leaving a party, so Stone would not realistically be wearing tap shoes. That meant, Stone had to change out of her high heels during the routine.
Zophres rigged the high heels with Velcro straps, so Stone could easily remove them. She replaced the laces in the tap shoes with elastic and the buckle with Velcro. Stone had only eight counts to make the transition.
“They were under so much pressure, especially Emma because of that, but they were awesome,” Zophres said, adding that Stone never messed it up—not even in rehearsal.
If Zophres wins the Academy Award on Feb. 26, it will be her first. She was nominated for her work on the 2010 film True Grit. She’s competing against Palisadian Colleen Atwood for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, Consolata Boyle for Florence Foster Jenkins, Joanna Johnston for Allied, and Madeline Fontaine for Jackie.
The costumes of Atwood, Boyle and Johnston are also included in FIDM’s exhibit.
Other notable costumes on display are from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Star Trek Beyond, Suicide Squad, Fences, Hidden Figures, Doctor Strange and Kubo and the Two Strings.
The museum, located at 919 S. Grand Ave., is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.Tuesday-Saturday. Admission is free. For more information, call (213) 623-5821, Ext. 2224.