Things You Probably Didn't Know About Film and TV Costumes

Published on in Advice / Tips & Tricks

Costumes play one of the most important roles in portraying the film character. That is why we cannot even imagine some of the most prominent actors playing a certain role in a costume other than he / she actually wore. Choosing attire for film or TV sets is a task done by the costume departments. More than once have they gone out of their ways to make pieces of clothes that are effective and iconic. Even though there are some facts known to the general public, in this article, we will share some things you probably didn't know about film and TV costumes.

The same costumes are often used in different films.

Designing a costume takes a lot of time and effort. Sometimes the directors opt to use the previously used garments from other movie sets. This can be rather practical when a movie covers the same historical events or times. For instance, why would a director bother to order a new costume for Charity Wakefield in Sense and Sensibility in 2008 when he could simply borrow the one already worn by Keira Knightley three years before? Sometimes, it is about the budget, while on other occasions, it is just that the costume is an excellent representation of the epoche and is so good at bringing someone's character to life that making a new one would be a waste. Here are some more examples:

  • Dangerous Liaisons - a costume made for Michelle Pfeiffer in 1988 was reused in 1993 when Vinessa Shaw played Alice in Hocus Pocus
  • Charlize Theron's dress from Head in the Clouds (2004) waited for 12 years to be worn again by Carice van Houten in Race (2016)
  • The same costume was shared by Peggy Olson in Mad Men (2009) and Anna Camp in The Help (2011)
  • The first time we see Jennifer Aniston in the most famous and, many would say, the most-loved TV sitcom ever (Friends, 1994), she is wearing the same wedding gown which will serve as a costume for Sinead Persaud 22 years later in Edgar Allan Poe’s Murder Mystery Dinner Party (2016)

Speaking of borrowing costumes, theatres are often the best sources of film costumes, and vice versa - specific attire from movies continues to live on stage!

Some iconic film and TV costumes were chosen by and paid for by the actors themselves.

Not every film is made thanks to an eight or nine-figure budget. Some of the most memorable ones were filmed due to a lot of love and extraordinary efforts from the actors and the crew. When it comes to costumes, John Travolta is one of the best examples. He had to choose and pay for his own clothes he'd be wearing on the set of Saturday Night Fever! The iconic white suit that Tony Manero wore on the dancefloor was actually bought off-the-rack in a store in Brooklyn. He struggled to find those platform shoes, but obviously, he did an excellent job in the end.

The movie was such a success that even the dancefloor was sold for a ridiculous amount of money years later, let alone the costume that was auctioned and sold for £93,000. There was a seventeen-year-long period throughout which nobody was able to see the outfit, but once it was revealed again, it looked just as new as ever! That is proof that storage can be beneficial if properly used and maintained. The same attire would probably be damaged beyond repair had it been kept in a regular closet all those years. Clearly, the disco music fan who is lucky enough to possess this original costume knew how to store such a precious item.

Do you know the story behind the legendary mask of Michael Myers?

Can you imagine a Halloween party without at least one person wearing the Micheal Myers mask? We cannot, and that is why we think you should know more about it. This is by far the most popular Halloween costume ever! This Halloween movie's budget was an amount many actors would not even bother to get out of their bed for, but the crew found their way to deal with it. Tommy Lee Wallace, in charge of costumes, went to a costume shop and bought a William Shatner mask from Star Trek for less than two dollars. To adapt it to the character of Michael Myers, he removed the eyebrows and sideburns, made bigger holes for the eyes, and painted the whole thing white.

What are the most expensive costumes ever used on set?
While some costumes were rather costly to make, others earned their fame after being on set. Some of the latter were sold for astounding amounts of money.

Marilyn Monroe's white dress
Who can forget the legendary scene from The Seven Year Itch when Marilyn Monroe is standing over the subway grate while the train passes, raising her iconic white dress to reveal her perfectly shaped legs and a little bit more? Well, that particular dress was sold less than a decade ago for $4.6 million!

Audry Hepburn's many dresses

The queen of style turned every outfit she wore on film into an unforgettable attire. Cecil Beaton designed an amazing white dress that Audrey wore in My Fair Lady. The gown made of lace, decorated by giant bows, and accessorized with a same-style hat and an umbrella became so famous that its value reached $3.7 million nine years ago when it was sold.

Another one of Audrey's dresses we will never forget is her little black dress from Breakfast at Tiffany's. It was designed by Givenchy, and it had changed the world of fashion forever - no wonder it was sold for almost a million dollars!

Catwoman costume
Catwoman's costume has been with us for 80 years and has evolved drastically from its first days. Here are some fun facts about one particular outfit made for Michelle Pfeiffer in 1992 (Batman Returns). The actress needed to be powdered down to be able to put on the costume, which she wasn't able to do without help from a few people. When the suit was on, the crew had to add a layer of silicone on top of it for some extra shine. The actress said that wearing such a costume was one of the most difficult things she had to do in her career.

The Wizard of Oz
The movie was released more than eighty years ago, so you can only imagine how difficult it was for the costume department to do their job back then. Besides being one of the most complicated items to make, the Cowardly Lion's costume was also extremely heavy to wear. Since it was made from real lion leather (of two lions actually), it weighed almost 100 pounds. After filming, the costume was left and forgotten about. When found, it was sold for 3 million dollars.

While at it, let's mention that Buddy Ebsen was the original Tin Man in The Wizard of Oz until he developed an allergy caused by aluminum in his mask and costume. Due to that, he was replaced by Jack Haley, who is the only Tin Man we see in the movie.

Let's conclude with yet another fun fact about this movie. Some of the most famous shoes of all time were Dorothy's ruby slippers, one pair of which was sold for $666,000!

Have you got some old videotapes with these films? Now that you know these film and TV costumes, maybe it would be nice to watch them again.

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About the Author

Catherine Miles
Catherine Miles is an avid film fan. She rarely misses the opportunity to watch a new movie with her friends either at the cinema or at her home. She is also a make-up artist who dreams to become a member of a film crew one day.

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