Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Your New Favorite Movies

I just couldn't resist writing an extra post about Dmitry and his rickrack, but I promise this isn't going to turn into a Project Runway recap blog. This here is my real post for the week.

This week at work it was back to pushing boobs around and building beer guts. You know what I'm talking about--mannequin dressing.

When the new MOHAI opens in December, our first temporary exhibition will be about movie theaters and filmmaking in Seattle.  For the show, we are borrowing costumes from a local company that dressed a number of recent films that used Seattle as a location. The only problem is that most recent films set in Seattle actually use Vancouver for filming (something about taxes), and so actual films made in Seattle tend to be sort of obscure and little known. So, to get you all hyped up about the costumes I'm dressing for Celluloid Seattle, your assignment is to become obsessed with the following movies:

Stephen King's Rose Red

This was a 2002 made-for-TV movie which ended up being forgettable for everyone except those involved in Seattle-area historical societies. The story about a haunted Seattle mansion was totally fabricated, but the marketing campaign tried to get people thinking it was a true story--much like the Blair Witch Project had done a few years earlier. They set up a fake University website and had a faux documentary about the history of this non-existent building. The result was that lots of people were fooled and started contacting places like MOHAI try to find out more. When told it was just made up, some became angry and assumed that we were either misinformed or part of the cover-up. Historylink has a pretty hilarious run-down of all the inquiries it received, which includes comments like "If the story of Ellen Rimbauer is not true then where did the photos come from?" and "The unaccounted for bodies of those who visited the mansion should be proof enough...who are you to depict which are true and which are false?"

The movie is mostly set in the present day, but luckily the costumes we have were worn by ghosts from more fabulous historical eras.


Grassroots came out this year and is due on DVD soon. It actually looks kind of great.

On the long list of things I could never have guessed I would do in life:
#438: Scrutinize a movie trailer in order to better understand the body proportions of Jason Biggs

Ira Finkelstein's Christmas

Also looks kind of fun, right? It was filmed partially in West Seattle and in nearby Bavarian-themed town Leavenworth.  At about 40 seconds in you get a great view of Elliott Gould's grandpa costume which we have for the exhibit. Hardly haute couture, but the printed shirt is Tommy Bahama which is a local brand. I think it's a nice touch. 

With this movie and Grassroots, it's a reminder that most costume designers don't spend their time churning out Elizabethan gowns. Generally they work with ready-made pieces, and have to put outfits together that match the life and personality of each character. If you make the wrong choice with a period piece, only nerds like me will notice.  But if you dress a contemporary movie, you have to tap into people's present understanding of what certain styles and colors mean. If you put a dark toned, structured blazer on a retired Floridian, everyone is going to feel that it looks wrong. 

The movie was made in 2011 and was shown at the Seattle International Film Festival, but I think it has yet to have a general theatrical release. It might be coming soon to a theater near you!

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