Costume Design in Filmmaking.

The importance of costume design cannot be overstated, as it is an integral part of cinematic storytelling. It helps to represent our civilization and also helps to define the director's vision in bringing a story to life.


The way we dress is one of the major ways we express ourselves; it communicates who we are to the world, whether we're stylish or not, modest or flamboyant. It sometimes even alludes to our character, religion and much more. This is the same in cinema: the way a character dresses, flashy, muted, or anywhere in between, affects how the audience perceives them. Think of Eniola Salami’s headgear in King of Boys, Papa Ajasco’s attire in the popular sitcom Papa Ajasco and company, or Black Panther’s famous black suit. These characters' clothing help to establish the kind of characters they would be or grow to be before they even utter a word or the narrative gradually unfurls them.


Just like costumes in themselves, costume design is another subtle element that adds dimension to a film. It helps in immersing the viewers completely into the fictional world created in a film. Costume designers with the help of the director, the cinematographer, and the production designer help to properly establish the set of a movie, whether it was told in the present, the past, in a distant location, or in an imaginary place.


Every garment worn in a movie is considered a costume. These costumes help communicate the details of a character’s personality to the audience and help actors transform into new and believable people on screen. There is often confusion between costume design and fashion design; however, these two fields and their objectives are very different. While fashion designers simply design high-fashion clothing for sale, costume designers are more focused on putting together an authentic closet that helps accentuate the characters in a story. For instance, costume designers create beautiful gowns for a glamorous entrance and everyday clothes when required by the script.


A story must make the audience believe that every character has a life before the movie begins. Studying the screenplay is the first step in the costume design process. Each scene is described in a script by the action (what happens in the scene), the period (when the action occurs), the location (where the action occurs), and the characters. After reading the script, the costume designer meets with the director to discuss the overall vision for the film. Two different directors will make different movies from the same script as a director's vision varies from the other. At the first meeting with the director, the costume designer may learn about the casting choices and specifics about characterization, the overall colour palette, and the mood of the film. After speaking with the director, the costume designer begins the research portion of the design process. This may include research on the Internet and at archives, museums and libraries; reviewing periodicals, school yearbooks, and family albums; and studying historical and contemporary visual references.


Research may also include trips to several locations depending on the setting of the story. For example, if a scene takes place in a restaurant, a costume designer will visit a restaurant to get a visual reference on how to style the person depending on the type of restaurant production finally settles on. The screenplay will also dictate the specific location of the story and the designer will be careful to be very specific in his or her research. The designer will compile an album, called a “research bible,” containing portraits of staff, visitors, and the structure of the restaurant, more research will be done into the taste and style of the character who is visiting the restaurant.


Unlike historical films, modern films can be more challenging to costume. Having costumes that are unrealistic for a scene, too expensive for a character, or inappropriate for a dramatic situation distracts the audience. For the designer, the costumes must blend seamlessly into the story and engage the audience completely.


In film, the choices we make each day provide an opportunity for creative expression. Clothing establishes individuality and provides some clues to our cultural identities almost instantly. A police uniform, a fast-food worker’s polo shirt, khakis, a herbalist, or a farmer’s clothing allows us to instantly identify a person’s profession or position.


Unfortunately, the impact of costume design in filmmaking remains one of the most underappreciated motion picture arts, especially in an industry like Nollywood. Despite this, costume designers have made convincing efforts in the field of character creation through costumes. Costumes seem to be in abundance in the industry, so experimentation can take place with ease. However, it is worthy to note here that this positive attribute of the Nigerian Video film costume designers is mostly noticed when the film is an epic or traditionally set film as the director's desire to communicate his message can be expressed through even the most rudimentary item of clothing.


The importance of costume design cannot be overstated, as it is an integral part of cinematic storytelling. It helps to represent our civilization and also helps to define the director's vision in bringing a story to life.



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