They say that clothes maketh the man. And they’re right. But in my experience, clothes can also killeth the character.
Trust me. I’ve got form here. I’m not a man who takes his garments lightly. Just ask anyone who’s ever worked with me overseas. They’ll tell you I pack like a diva. If the luggage allowance says two cases, I’m taking two cases. Why be a sartorial martyr?
Clothes are important. From a change in mood, to a change in weather – you’ve gotta be prepared. There’s nothing worse than standing there at 4.A.M, longing for that knit jumper you didn’t pack with a 12 hour shoot ahead of you. Been there, don’t want to go back.
But enough about my wardrobe, let’s discuss our industry’s. What happened to the costume? My wife was a stylist, so I’ve seen what great styling can achieve. She worked with Coleen Atwood – the mind behind Charlize Theron’s recent incredible beetle get-up. Genius!
So with talent like this out there in film, it’s frustrating that everyone in commercials seems to blend into one. Is it a talent gap? Or have ‘fashion uniforms’ taken over the world? I think the latter. I picked my daughter up from school the other day and couldn’t move for fawn brogues, blue pea-coats and turned-up jeans. And that was just the grand-parents.
I think it’s also a sign of these cost-cutting times. The stylist has become an area that can be cut in the budget. Now it all seems a bit: ‘Can’t a PA just grab a few things from H&M?’ Costume designers are under threat.
OK, this might not be the case in the higher end of UK commercial production. But hang on. Does that still exist? Or has it become a by-word for ‘let’s stay at Mount Nelson, baby!’ Don’t get me wrong, there are some great stylists in Cape Town, but they’d freely admit that they’re often caught between the devil and the Southern Right with what’s available. You want swimming shorts? Easy. A pea coat? Ah.
The thing is: costume and attire are a vital part of the character. The V&A’s latest exhibition illustrates this. I mean, where would Dorothy be without her sparkly slippers? What about Indiana without his hat? Darth without his mask? Captain Sparrow without his beads? Or The Driver without his scorpion embroidered bomber jacket? I could go on.
I won’t though. I’ll turn to Christmas ads instead. Costume is vital here too. The John Lewis snowman goes to the ends of the Earth to find his snowwoman hers. Yep, the hat and scarf that warm her heart – but not enough to melt her. (I know, I know, you don’t melt things with insulation – it’s a blog post, not a research paper). Then there’s this classic from M&S. It was all about the ‘clothes, clothes, clothes’. And it worked. Twiggy’s blouse became the best-selling product in the company’s long history. Wow.
However, the costumes in this year’s festive ads are almost interchangeable. The ‘fashion uniform’ strikes again. Certainly, none of them have anything on the chic, all-white outfits sported in this festive gem.
Now we can’t talk about Christmas and costumes without discussing the big man himself: ol’ St. Nick and his red ‘n’ white Coca-Cola uniform. What a corporate stooge! Right? Wrong! The popular image of Father Christmas was actually created by the ‘Father of American Cartoon’, Thomas Nast. So if you happen to think that a crushed-velvet red and white dangly hat is a little much, blame Nast, not those purveyors of sweet, brown nectar. Anyway, as the cartoon above shows, it could’ve been a lot worse.
In fact, I’ve seen a lot worse. My go-to festive costume story (yes, I’ve got one) occurred at a star-studded panto in Ladbroke Grove. Being home to the stars, each year the local ‘slebs would perform a Christmas carol. One year, the designated Santa went on a bender and didn’t show. My mate gallantly stepped in and was Santa-d up by my wife. He ended up looking fantastic. So much so that after the performance a West Indian grandmother congratulated him. She remarked that he was so much better than last year’s celebrity because he’d worn ‘da boots’. Apparently last year the man had left on ‘im trainer’, shattering the illusion for Grandmother Tobago.
So there you go. Even when it comes to Father Christmas, clothes maketh the man.
Happy Holidays everyone, thanks for the work and fun times this year. New films online for the new year, but in the meantime here's a festive "making of". See you all on the flipside.