My full name is Marina Azores Lillo, I’m a 25-year-old fine arts graduate from Alicante, a small town in southeast Spain. I have worked on small projects here and there as a freelance artist, mostly in drawing and illustration. My mom is a makeup artist and I’ve worked as a makeup artist myself too (learned the family business). When I was a kid my mom used to take me with her to work, and I used to watch and try to help in fashion shows, photoshoots, etc. So I’ve always been in an artistic and visual-oriented environment, which I guess fueled my own interest in art and fashion. So costume design came into my interest during my teenage years, as I became more interested in visual media like movies and tv shows. After I finished my fine arts degree I was absolutely convinced I still needed to learn a lot and I wanted to keep studying. After researching for a bit what my options were, I decided to choose CGMA because I really looked up to the teachers that taught there and I loved their work. Also, a computer-based course was really attractive, so I could learn from professionals in the industry without having to actually move all the way to the US, and also I could work and manage my time in other ways while taking the course, which was really convenient for me at the time.
Reference and Research
For the first week, we were asked to find a character that was recognizable from pop culture, either tv or movies, and analyze and dissect their design, then try to redesign them. I usually tend towards either very high fashion characters, who wear really fancy clothes, or very historically-inspired, more fantasy-like characters. So with this one I really tried to get out of my comfort zone by choosing a character that is anything but polished. I chose Dr.Frank n’ Furter from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. And it really was a challenge, I don’t think I expected it to be that hard! It’s a character with a very strong personality and individuality and keeping that intact while adding something of my own was challenging in a very fun way. Also, I learned that even though characters look chaotic and all over the place, and they just threw on whatever they found in their closets, nothing is further away from the truth! I had to think about every detail and accessory in a way that worked with the silhouette, the references, the personality, and style of the character, but still looked cool and not too thought out. It was so tricky.
Finding a Character & Rough Line Drawing
For my design, I had a concept in mind that I had been thinking about for a long time. Something like a futuristic Versailles society of noblemen and women (it’s the only way I can think of putting it in few words). So the aesthetic references were sci-fi and contemporary fashion and late 17th and 18th century France. I wanted to create silhouettes and use colors and details that would mash up both currents in a way that looked good and interesting. So for that, I went with bell-shaped silhouettes, lots of volume and ruffles on the upper body, and skinny tights underneath. I wanted to give them a very stoic stance, with a whimsical, delicate look to them. Like they don’t have to run around working or doing absolutely anything, so their clothes don’t need to be practical at all. They are simply a display of wealth and status, and their only concern is to look pretty and beautiful as a decorative object.
Finally, I decided to name my noblewoman “Olivie” just a name I thought of. So, according to the theme, she belongs in this futuristic Versailles-esque society where she lives unknowing of the struggles of the outside world (just like the real-life Versailles was its own small world of vanity and frivolity while the common people starved right at the gates of their paradise). She needed to look beautiful but in a very cold, inhumane way. She doesn’t have any facial expression. The costume I finally chose for her is this piece with humongous balloon sleeves inspired from the late 17th century and some embroidered details. While some elements of the costume (The balloon sleeves, the velvet boots, the embroidery, etc.) are very reminiscent of rococo fashion, the way it’s put together (the sort pants, the floating halo, etc.) comes off as very modern.
Introducing Texture and Color Swatches
When the time came to choose our textures/fabrics to use in our design, I knew right away I needed to look up a lot of historical references for the fabrics that were used back in the baroque and rococo era, and also lots of modern fashion references more on the high fashion side. I looked up many types of embroidery and embellishments, appliques, silks, and similar shiny materials, velvets, etc. I really wanted this costume to look very rich and expensive like a noble person would wear.
When it came to the color I really had no idea what to do. I was open to many possibilities because I really had many options. Usually, when it comes to a very advanced sci-fi society, we usually do a very simple use of color. White is abundant. I wanted to keep that very clean and stoic image but really go crazy and explore colors. Because during the rococo era, there were many trends involving color. Very strong striking colors like red, deep blue, gold, etc. were popular, but there were some decades where more pastel and soft looking colors were commonplace. And the combination of both and everything in between. So I really tried many different combinations of strong and pastel colors and tried to play with them. Also with the hair color, since I thought it would give a very futuristic and modern look if it was an unnatural color, but knowing well that during the rococo period it was very fashionable to powder your hair in a pastel color, like baby blue or pastel green, and of course white powder was mandatory.
At first, I thought I would go with a pastel palette, but then I tried to do a color combination that would usually hurt the eye, like a very intense red and powdery pink, and for some reason I really liked it. So it stuck.
Identify the Color Palette
I feel the powder pink was a perfect choice in the end. It’s a color that has strong connotations. It’s such an innocent and pure color that we associate with purity, femininity, and maybe even childhood and playfulness. So I wanted to use it with her because I felt I wanted to give her that deceiving pure look. And the contrast with the blood-red accentuates this. The pink fluffy silky piece represents this ideal of moral superiority and false innocence while the rich striking red velvet peeking through in the gloves and boots shows the true nature of this tyrannical, conceited aristocratic society.
Overall I’m pretty satisfied with how the design came out. It’s an idea that I would like to continue working on in the future (I imagine Olivie would have a very wide wardrobe). During this process, I learned so many things it’s hard to list them all, but if I had to name them I would say most of all I learned to check myself and know when to choose. It’s good to be passionate about your work but you also need to keep your distance from it and not be too emotionally invested, otherwise you won’t be able to make choices and think objectively about what is best for the project. Also, I learned that designing a costume thought for a specific character is completely different from just designing clothes or drawing characters out of your head. There are many necessities that need to be met and your job is to do that well while also being creative, which is a very delicate balance to keep.
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