Once-upon-a-time, cinema was king and a TV costume designer’s influence on fashion was minimal. Think back to the 90s and 00s – the big screen’s impact on the real world could be seen across the world, with Summer blockbusters and box office smashes making young men and women idolise the ‘look’ of the leading superstars they saw on the silver screen. But with the advent of streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and ‘binge’ watching culture, TV in the form of serial drama is now the average person’s exposure to the work of TV costume designers, and their creations can be seen setting trends on the high-streets of New York and London, and the catwalks of Paris and Milan.
Clothing’s impact on the success of a TV show is so crucial now that when prominent costume designer Mandi Line was interviewed for her role on American teen drama ‘Pretty Little Liars’, she revealed to the NYTimes that she told the production team “If you let me make fashion the fifth character on this show, people will watch it just for the clothes”.
It turns out she was absolutely correct. At the height of the show’s popularity blogs and websites sprang-up, dedicated to discussing the characters’ outfits in each episode. Mandi would even often receive tweets from girls showing their own clothes next to images of the characters’.
With costume design for blockbuster movies becoming increasingly superhero and fantasy focused (Which has spawned its own cosplay sub-culture), it is down to TV to depict the lives of realistic people, putting TV costume designers front and centre in influencing current fashion trends. Think Janie Bryant of Madmen and the mid-century fashions that flooded the catwalks at the hight of the show’s success.
In recent times it’s not been unusual for designers to release a fashion line alongside the show they are working on, further increasing the TV costume designers’ influence on fashion. With much-loved characters entering viewers homes each week it’s easy to see why they – and the designers behind their look – become today’s trendsetters. Sites like Shop Your TV now lead the way in pairing consumers with their favourite character’s style.
Stephanie Collie’s designs for the BBC’s post first World War Brummy drama Peaky Blinders has had such an impact on male fashion that Esquire published ‘The Definitive Peaky Blinders Style Guide’ last year.
With TV costume designers now becoming stars in their own right, a once under-rated and little talked about role within the Television world is changing the way we all look, whilst redefining the job itself.