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Sunday, March 24, 2013

Marilyn Sotto - The Art of Costume Design




When I wasn't plotting how to get to Sadlers Wells (no small feat in my case as I lived at the other end of the world), my childhood ambition was to be a costume designer.  I must have been fairly vocal about my aspirations as my mother bought me this book - The Art of Costume Design - with content by the Hollywood designer Marilyn Sotto, edited by Fabian Dean and published by Walter T Foster.




I spent many hours studying this book, copying both Marilyn Sotto's designs and techniques and trying to emulate her style.  My original copy is long gone and must have been so worn with use that it was eventually tossed out.  Last year I searched fror a replacement for quite a long time.  They are always available on Amazon but I felt most on offer were way too overpriced.  Eventually I was able to purchase this book on eBay and when it arrived I was thrilled to find it is in absolutely mint condition.  I bought if from a seller called Stoolshed and was very impressed with the whole transaction.   .




The two designs I spent the most time trying to emulate were the Tudor Woman and the Louis XV1 Woman.  I loved way in which the book provided a step by step guide and can remember being particularly impressed with the concept of 8 heads providing the height dimensions for the figure.  In the case of the taller, sleeker 'modern' woman (the illustration I chose to introduce the post), the number of heads used to produce her silhouette is increased to 10.




Don't you just love the opulence and sumptuous material of this dress.  The design is actually quite simple so the rich effect is quite clever.






Of course as a child I loved the gaudy, slightly kitschy images.  I still enjoy them today.  I think these showgirls are lovely as they perfectly convey the glitz and glamour of vintage Hollywood musical productions.
  



And I can still thrill to the pantomime excitement of the Kismet designs.  I've always loved the warm, sunny colours of the figure on the left, made more effective by the simple kaftan style design.

 


As an adult some of my favourite designs in the book are the monochrome sketches - I love the lightness of her technique and the fact that the colours and some of the detail are left to the imagination.




Two pages of dance costumes for children (both in black and white) are included in the book.  They are deliberately intended to be simple designs that are both easy to produce and move in.  All use a leotard as the base of the garment with different embellishments producing a variety of effects.
 



Marilyn Sotto was born in 1931.  that makes her a year younger than my own mother and in some photographs where her hair is highlighted blonde she reminds me quite a lot of her.  At the time this book was published she was a Hollywood designer and had worked on a number of high profile productions - there is a design signed by Yul Brynner from the King and I for example, along with a number of other well known stars from the time.  She later moved to Disney and for a time was based at Disneyland Paris, working on the costume designs for the parades.  The last reference I could find online for her is an interview she gave in 2001.  At the time she was still as enthusiastic about her work as ever and had no intention of quitting.
      

Marilyn Sotto at work in 1957

This book is one in a series of 'how to' books published by Walter T Foster.  I can remember owning or looking at a few others on different topics, but none of them resonated with me in quite the way this one did.
  




11 comments:

GardenofDaisies said...

What a wonderful book! And a wonderful reference for people interested in paperdoll design!!

Miss Missy said...

I love books like this, especially for vintage costume reference.

Victoria Stitch said...

LOVE LOVE the lady in the purple dress with the white hair! very sumptuous!

Donna Yates said...

You would have been a great fashion designer. Loved looking at all of them.

DeadSpiderEye said...

She has a great talent for rendering fabrics with just a few well chosen lines. The way the weight of the fabric is conveyed in the Tudor Woman is sublime. Look at the way she's indicated the stage lighting in Kismit so effectively just by the simple shading on the faces.

Barbara said...

I love everything about this post. The first two illustrations really appeal to me. I wish I was tall and slim and could wear things like that. Had I owned this book as a child, I would have been tempted to cut out the pictures and make them into paper dolls and outfits (terrible way to treat a book – but something I used to do).

CraveCute said...

What a fabulous post, I see the influence she had in your own designs. I think the first illustration is my favorite, so elegant. Thanks for another great post Sharon!

Stephanie@Fairday's Blog said...

These pictures are beautiful! Drawing has never been a skill of mine- but I could get lost in these designs. I can see why you wanted to spend time trying to draw them! Wow! I love the purple dress, pink dress, and the Tutor dress. Thanks for sharing and for giving the history of the designer. :)

earthenmagic said...

...what an awesome post! ~ thankyoU! ~ sO much for this blissful share!...
...'tis sO wonderful to have yoU back in blogland! ~ blessed be! ~ dear kindred heart!...(0:

Nita Jo said...

I recently found my copy of this book in a storage box. On the Yul Brynner costume there appears to be an autograph, but it may be printed as part of the book. Can you tell me if your copy has an inscription beside his costume from The King and I?

I found your blog while searching for information on this particular book, but I'm now following, as I know I'm going to enjoy reading through your other posts!

kimberly said...

I found your post by searching Marilyn Sotto's name. An Estate Sale of her items is this weekend here in Southern, CA.
http://orangecounty.craigslist.org/gms/4363581592.html

What beautiful designs she created and along with her family they are very talented.....

Learned something new today!

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