And It’s That Time Again- Lily Absinthe Goes To The FIDM Museum, Part 2

12th Annual Art of Television Costume Design

And to wrap things up, here’s some more commentary on our latest trip to view the 12th “Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design Exhibit” at the FIDM Museum in Los Angeles. After viewing the wardrobe from The Alienist, we then moved on to viewing the latest wardrobe installment from Game of Thrones:

FIDM Museum

First up is one of Daenary’s winter looks…not your typical medieval fur coat look.

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FIDM Museum

Power dressing for Sansa…

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FIDM Museum

Cersei’s latest look…

And then we saw some interesting outfits from Season 3 of Westworld:





We have to admit that although we pretty much lost interest in the show after the first season, we did find these costumes compelling from an aesthetic perspective. 🙂 Well, that pretty much concludes our trip to this year’s Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design Exhibit at the FIDM Museum. We are looking forward to next year’s exhibit.


And It’s That Time Again- Lily Absinthe Goes To The FIDM Museum, Part 1

12th Annual Art of Television Costume Design

Today we decided to avail ourselves of a last opportunity to view the 12th “Outstanding Art of Television Costume Design Exhibit” at the FIDM Museum in Los Angeles and while we had to deal with some large crowds, it was definitely worth the time. As a general thing, we like the costume exhibits that are put on at the FIDM Museum because the location is convenient, parking is relatively easy to find, and the admission is free. Yes, free! 🙂


Getting in a quick picture between mods of visitors…

Although we tend to focus on shows set in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, we’re not oblivious to other eras and genres and upon entering we were greeted by some artfully designed outfits from the show The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel:




While 1950s fashions may seem to be light years apart from the late 19th Century, they both share the characteristic of carefully sculpted silhouettes (helped along by proper foundation garments) and as such represent the design ethos of careful, deliberate design effects, something that was not to re-emerge until the 1980s (albeit in a somewhat re-worked form).

Next, were the costumes from The Alienist. We’ll start with the men’s outfits:

FIDM Museum

The above is a fairly functional sack suit and it pretty much fits for 1896 although there’s a couple of details that we find questionable. First, the use of bright colored and/or patterned silks, wools, and cottons for vest fronts was more of an 1860s style and by the 1890s, fabrics tended towards more conservative patterns and colors, often matching the rest of the sack suit (but not always). Second, the use of insets on the collar/lapels is somewhat questionable- from the extant period examples we’ve examined, this seemed to have been a style element reserved for more formal frock and tail coats. Perhaps this was an attempt to emphasize the character John Moore’s upper class status.

Next, we see a frock coat suit worn by Dr. Lazlo Kriezler:



The use of a bottle green wool is interesting in that it’s a little outside of the norm but not implausibly so and the silhouette holds up well. The button holes on the collar is an odd embellishment but it’s hard to notice on screen.

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Daniel Brühl, Dakota Fanning and Luke Evans in *The Alienist*

And now for the women’s costumes, at least those worn by Dakota Fanning as Sara Howard. First up is a day dress:



In terms of silhouette, this dress follows a fairly conventional 1890s day dress style and the silk brocade fashion fabric suggests a better sort of afternoon/visiting dress. However, the sleeves seem to be lacking for a dress that’s supposed to date from 1896. The mid-1890s saw the gigot, or leg-of-mutton, sleeve in full boom and for the most part, had far more fullness than what’s on this dress. Granted, some gigot sleeve styles could get seriously over the top but nevertheless, for a dress worn by someone of means, this is not an area that would have been skimped on; these just appear perfunctory. Finally, in its defense, the plum and magenta color combination is an excellent one and the hats further enhances this although the hat doesn’t appear to have been worn, at least to the best of our recollection (somehow, when it comes to film and TV, hats are usually the first thing to be discarded).

Final note: When we first viewed this costume at the FIDM Museum, we noticed that the bottom of the bodice was unbuttoned. We thought this was some attempt to model the bodice details but when we found the above picture, we saw that it had been worn that was in the production. The only reaction we can summon is NO. These dresses were meant to be work with all the fasteners closed; it simply doesn’t read correctly. Perhaps there was a fit issue that prevented full closure and there was no time to fix it but still, it’s simply sloppy.

Next, we seen an evening dress:


Due to the crowds, I was unable to get a good frontal view so here are a few additional ones that we found online:

Alienist_Evening Dress1 1896

The concept illustration.

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One interesting thing we noticed with this evening dress was that the bodice included spaghetti straps in the production but this was lacking in the actual garments when it was on display. Style-wise this evening dress does give a very rough 1890s silhouette but that’s about all that’s 1890s about it. The worst element is the pleated bodice- the pleats are not only not historically correct, but they make the bodice look ill-fitting. The sleeve and neck treatment also don’t help- The strips of velvet swags are loosely tacked onto the bodice front and limply hang off the shoulders with no attempt to really follow the wearer’s silhouette. The overall effect just looks sloppy. Finally, no real attempt was made to properly create the gored skirts that were the basic element of any 1890s evening dress:


Here we see a loose gathering of fabric. Once again, sloppy. Just for comparison, let’s take a look at an original evening dress circa 1892 – 1896 that features a pleated bodice:

Evening Dress c. 1892 - 1896

M. Laferriere, Robes et Mantaux, Evening Dress, c. 1892 – 1896; Kent State University Museum (1983.001.0173)

Evening Dress c. 1892 - 1896

Evening Dress c. 1892 - 1896

Close-Up, Rear View

Evening Dress c. 1892 - 1896

While style elements may vary, the key is that the total dress is tidy with smooth lines. Nothing appears to have been added without purpose. Now, perhaps the rumpled bodice in the production was hiding a lack of corseting (can’t say for sure here but often leading actresses insist on not wearing corsets in productions and usually the director will go along with it, even though it ruins the bodice silhouette).

In contract to the ball down is this walking suit that unfortunately got almost no air time:

FIDM Museum


Overall, the silhouette reads mid-1890s and the construction is excellent, especially in lining up the stripes between the sleeves and cuffs. The jacket/skirt/waist combination was very characteristic of 1890s day wear and the costume designer definitely got it right. The only issue is, like the above day dress, is the sleeves- they could have been larger, extending out from the shoulder more.

The Alienist

Overall, it was a commendable attempt and definitely deserves recognitiion. Well, that’s it for now- we’ll have more soon.

(To be continued…)

Lily Absinthe Goes To The FIDM Museum, Part 3

Yesterday’s post was somewhat somber but that’s only because of the compelling subject matter of the Roots, one of the productions whose costumes are being displayed at the 10th Annual Art of Television Costume Design at the FIDM Museum, With that said, today’s post will be on a somewhat lighter note so please stick around. 🙂

Today’s post is more of a hodge-podge of commentary in that not everything at the exhibition was equally compelling to us (that’s just a nice way of saying that there was a lot of costumes we simply didn’t find interesting 🙂 ). To begin, we have some costumes from Mercy Streeta medical drama set during the Civil War :



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Mercy Street (2016)


And just because, here’s the dress with concept sketch and fabric swatch:

This is an interesting design although the fabric does appear to be somewhat late for the 1860s- perhaps more late 1870s or beyond. We like the fabric but it just doesn’t read “1860s.” However, the trim on the front of the bodice simply doesn’t make a lot of sense from an aesthetic perspective and especially when compared to originals from the 1860s (we’ll leave it to you to chase down specific examples 🙂 ).


While the above dresses appear fine from a “fit” perspective, this one simply does not reads well. While it may be just the display, the fit on the bodice looks unshaped and ill-fitting, certainly not the standard found in ballgowns of the 1860s. It’s simply too flat and could definitely use some darts. Also, this bodice style was considered more of a young girl’s. Ultimately, the costumes from Mercy Street were interesting but there was nothing really compelling and some of the style choices appeared to be questionable for the 1860s.

And finally we switch to complete fantasy with a few costumes from Game of Thrones:



Here’s a group shot that we borrowed since the exhibit hall was beginning to get crowded and we couldn’t get a clear shot of the group:

We have to honestly say that the Game of Thrones costumes on display were disappointing, especially when you see pictures of some of the others that have appeared on the show. This was definitely not their “A” game here…

Overall, the exhibit at the FIDM Museum was well done and especially for the Outlander and Roots costumes. Some of the selections for the other shows gave us the feeling that we were seeing the “second string” and were merely selected as placeholders. However, in spite of this we feel it’s definitely worthwhile viewing and that everyone will take away something positive. We hope you’ve enjoyed our somewhat biased review of the Art of Television Costume Design exhibit and look out for more of these reviews in the future. 🙂

Lily Absinthe Goes To The FIDM Museum, Part 2

In contrast to the romanticism and adventure of Outlander are the costumes from a more sober production, Roots. First produced in 1977 and remade in 2016, Roots broke new ground with its story of an African  man sold into slavery and shipped to America. It’s a tragic story and depicts a dark aspect of American history that has been downplayed for many years. It’s definitely a story that needs to be told and while the specific elements of the plot may be fictional, the institution of slavery is factual and needed (and still needs) to be told. Costume and fashion are often viewed as frivolous things bearing no impact on the “real world” but here that’s not the case and in fact, provoke discussion and consideration. With that said, let’s proceed…

  Roots remake

Today we continue with our visit to the “Art of Television Costume Design, 2015-2016” at the FIDM Museum last weekend and today we promise not to say anything more about Outlander. 🙂 In contrast to Outlander were costumes from the remake of the Roots miniseries. When it was first released in 1977, Roots was considered to be ground-breaking in that it dealt with slavery and its consequences.

Based on the book Roots: The Saga of an American Family by Alex Hailey, the show starts in 1760s and follows the life of Kunta Kinte, a Mandinka from West Africa, who is captured by slavers, shipped across the Atlantic to Virginia, and sold to a plantation master (although the book was originally marketed as non-fiction, there were subsequent allegations of historical inaccuracy and plagiarism). The story is then continued down through several generations ending in 1865 (a subsequent miniseries called Roots: The Next Generations carries the story further into the 1960s). In 2016, a remake of the original 1977 series was released that fairly faithfully follows the story with some of the story elements updated and/or reworked. However, no matter what the provenance might be, Roots is a testament to a dark part of American history whose legacy still affects us today.

Turning to the costumes themselves, we first see Kunta Kinte’s Mandinka outfit:


In comparison with the original 1977 version, it seems that more concerted effort was made to capture the distinct ethnic clothing worn by the peoples of Gambia rather than simply putting them in breech-cloths. It was a little disconcerting looking at these costumes the way they were staged for display so here are a few pictures from the production to give it life:

One of the more fascinating costumes was the coat worn by the character Fiddler, who acts as a mentor/father figure to Kunta when he first arrives in Virginia:


No, that’s not the picture pixilating- the coat is constructed of a brocade or lampas that has been severely distressed, reflecting Fiddler’s decline in the plantation hierarchy. We had to open and close our eyes several times- it was hard to focus on the material. Here are some more views:

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And the same coat in better days:

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And here we see a variety of the costumes. Slave clothing was either hand-me-downs from the master and his family or manufactured expressly for the slaves from cheap cloth of various types, typically osnaburg, fustian, linsey-woolsey, and cheap cotton. The indigo blue color and fabric of Kunta’s coat is very striking, especially combined with the traditional turban.

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And here are a few more of the costumes:



This one is interesting in that it’s clearly a hand-me-down from the master.


The distressing that was done on these dresses is amazing and is definitely a testament to the costumer’s art.

The costumes from the 2016 Roots were compelling and thought-provoking and we’re definitely going to view this show in the near future. Stay tuned for Part 3 of our trip to the FIDM Museum. 🙂

Lily Absinthe Goes To The FIDM Museum, Part 1

This didn’t start off as an almost-exclusive post about the costume of the TV series Outlander but here it is…basically, we attempted to view a special exhibit of Outlander that was being held elsewhere but due to some incredibly bad luck, we were unable to view the exhibit. Later, we had an opportunity to attend the 10th Annual “Art of Television Costume Design” at the FIDM Museum and what greets us at the door? Some of the wardrobe from Outlander! 🙂 While we don’t do much work in 18th Century fashion, it’s always been a fascinating period and some of the styles influenced styles in the 1870s and 1880s. We hope you enjoy this little excursion. 🙂


This past weekend, we decided to take a break and and take in the newly-opened “Art of Television Costume Design, 2015-2016” at the FIDM Museum in Los Angeles and we can say that it was definitely worth the time. As a general thing, we like the costume exhibits that are put on at the FIDM Museum because the location is convenient, parking is relatively easy to find, and the admission is free. Yes, free! 🙂

So where to start? Well, just to be completely honest, this review is somewhat selective in that while there were costumes from a variety of shows, there were only a few that piqued our interest. Also, there were a number of TV shows we’d never heard of before (we’re not avid TV-watchers) so it’s hard to comment on those.

To begin, the first set of costumes that caught our attention were a selection from the series Outlander. The series is initially set in 1743s, with some time travel back and forth between the 1940s and 1960, and follows the adventures of Claire Randall as she becomes enmeshed in the events leading up to the Jacobite rising of 1745 (aka The ’45). In Season 1 (2014-2015), the show focused on events in Scotland. However, in Season 2 (2015-2016), the action shifts to France when Claire, accompanied by her husband Jamie Fraser, travel to Paris in an attempt to derail Bonnie Prince Charlie’s attempt to gather support for his rebellion (which was end disastrously with the Battle of Culloden). The majority of the Outlander costumes are from Season 2.

To begin, here’s one of the dresses that Claire wears when she first arrives in France:


The dress consists of a medium brown bodice and overskirt and a gold/yellow underskirt. The floral designs appear to be embroidered but when viewed closely, it turns out that they are painted onto the fabric. The bodice is small and skirt silhouette is enhanced by the panniers- while not as extreme as some examples we’ve seen, they’re still evident and serve to spread the skirts out to the sides more than the front and back.


The gloves are especially striking in that they’re really bright yellow/gold gauntlets and the leather is heavier than one would expect. Perfect for riding but a bit too heavy for normal wear. You can also see the painted floral design.


Here’s a rear view of the dress that gives a good view of the floral design. The floral design is mostly in shades of red, ranging from a light pink/salmon to a deeper wine. One can also see yellow color pops.

Finally, here’s a better view of the underskirt:


And just because we can, we were able to locate the concept sketch online (we LOVE the internet 🙂  ):

Outlander Costume Sketch1

And finally, were are a few pictures of the dress in “action”:



Next, we turn to what is probably the most iconic of Claire’s dresses for Season 2, the Dior “New Look”/Bar Suit-inspired dress:


This is more of a mash-up of 18th Century and 1940s styles than anything that’s spot-on correct for the 1740s but it works (we’re talking about a television production here, not a documentary 🙂  ). We like the design and it seems to work. 🙂

And because we couldn’t resist, here’s the concept sketch:

Outlander Costume Sketch2

And here are some shots of the dress “in action”:


And just to be complete, here are a few pictures of the actual Dior “Bar Suit” or “New Look” dress (note that this dress was produced in both lapel and shawl collar versions):

Dior New Look 1947

Dior Bar Suit 1947

Live Model

Dior Bar Suit1

Dior “Bar” Suit, 1947; V&A Museum (T.376&A-1960)

There are those who have pointed out that Claire first makes her journey back to the 1740s in 1946, one year before Dior released this design and that somehow it’s wrong. Well, as the costume designer Terry Dresbach explains, she was originally inspired by 18th Century riding habits such as these:

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Ms. Dresbach notes that Dior looked backwards to the 18th Century and stripped the riding habit down its basic lines and that Claire would have been inspired to do the same:

It seemed logical to me that Claire would do in the 18th century the same thing that Christian Dior had done in the 20th century. He stripped the traditional 18th century riding habit of all of the embellishments and details and decorations all the bows the bells and whistles. He took it back to its basic Silhouette and that became the Bar Suit. I decided to have Claire look at the riding suit and do the same. She never saw the actual Bar suit obviously, but her reaction to the original riding suit of the 18th century, could plausibly be very similar to Dior’s, a man of her time. It was a suit after all, something she would have seen as the most familiar garment in the 18th century. It was a garment designed for a practical function, and Claire is a practical woman.

So we just put Claire in a recreation of the Bar Suit.

The reasoning behind the dress as detailed above is fascinating and we find little to disagree with- it’s effective and it works. 🙂

But it’s not all about the women…here’s one of Jamie Fraser’s many outfits from the show:


This outfit is also a bit a historical but it captures the essence of the Jamie Fraser character. The coat is made of leather (it looks heavy) and while it incorporates 18th Century details, is has an almost steampunk/biker look. What’s interesting are the bound buttonholes which match the coat leather- our theory is that they’re not even leather.

Here’s a rear view:


And now for something very different is a sleeved waistcoat that is worn by the apothecary Master Raymond, a strange somewhat otherworldly character that Claire deals with at several points in Season 2:


This is an incredible work of art that’s easy to miss when actually watching the show. The waistcoat is embroidered with all manner of supernatural designs inspired by alchemy and early medicine. The fabrics are fairly simple: linen for the sleeves and either linen or a brushed denim for the body. For some excellent close-up pictures and an explanation of the various designs by Terry Dresbach, the costume designer, go HERE.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed Part 1 of our excursion and stay tuned for Part 2. 🙂