Sunday, June 15, 2014

FIDM Fashion: Sketches from the Christian Esquevin Collection will run through Nov.1st

Photos & story by Karen Ostlund
Curator Christian Esquevin

Designing Hollywood: Sketches from the Christian Esquevin Collection is now open at the FIDM Museum at 919 S. Grand Avenue, downtown Los Angeles, and will run through November 1, 2014.
The exhibition is free and features a  rare Hollywood costume sketches from the collection of Christian Esquevin: the work of Walter Plunkett, Irene, Travilla, and many other costume designers and costume illustrators.                                                    Designing Hollywood offers a glimpse into the Golden Age of Hollywood costume design, the silent era through the 60s.
 Christian Esquevin  is the guest curator and author of Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Label.  
Fan magazines.PhotoPlay & Silverscreen,1933-41

Christian started over 25 years ago after inherited some costume sketches from an aunt who had worked in wardrobe at the RKO, MGM, FOX and Walter Plunkett:
“I began a research that got me more interested in costume designs from the 1920s and 30s. Later I became friends with the late Satch LaValley who was another serious collector, who collected costumes, sketches, photos, and magazines”.  I collect costumes sketches from the classic era through the 1960s – with a few later ones. There are several excellent costume designers working today, but I have to limit myself at some point”, he said.
Marlene Dietrich's jacket 1938-40,designers Howard Greer & Travis Banton
The Gone with the Wind sketches are in institutional hands for the most part. Sketches by Adrian and his leading actresses: Garbo, Crawford, Harlow, Lamarr; Greer, Hepburn, Garland are rare since almost all of them were destroyed.
Travis Banton’s costume sketches for Marlene Dietrich are mostly at the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts & Sciences’ Herrick Library.

There is the costume sketch of Rudolph Valentino done by Adrian for Valentino’s last film, Son of the Sheik in 1926. The Valentino films were Adrian’s first launch into Hollywood, and his designs for men’s costumes virtually stopped after Valentino. 
Costume from movie "Diane", 1956, designer Walter Plunkett

The movie The Oscar 1966,designer Edith Head.Water-color, marker, & pencil on paper.

 Then there is the costume sketch of Cyd Charisse designed by Walter Plunkett for Singing in the Rain, used in the Broadway Melody ballet scene. It has Plunkett’s dedication note to Cyd Charisse at the bottom, and the sketch came from her own estate. Another favorite is a sketch done for the first Ben Hur in 1925, a design by Harold Grieve for Ramon Navarro. It is very rare: a tall sketch of Navarro in Roman battle dress, which he wears in the film’s long finale. And there’s the sketch by Travilla for Sharon Tate in Valley of the Dolls.
Costume Production Workbook 1936-37,RKO Radio Pictures, designer Walter Plunkett
The beautiful sketch of Elizabeth Taylor in Raintree County was a Civil War era movie that Plunkett considered even more ambitious than Gone with the Wind. And then again there’s a collection of sketches from the daughter of costume designer Mary Wills – which includes groups of sketches from films as The Virgin Queen, The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Andersen, and Carousel.

Esquevin spent 7 years writing and researching his book, Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Label, which was published by the Monacelli Press in 2008.
He is currently working on his next book: Designing Lives: Irene, Walter Plunkett and Helen Rose. This book focuses on the 3 influential Hollywood designers. 
FIDM Museum, 919 S. Grand Ave. is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10am-5pm, and free to the public.