December 12, 2015

FAQ #1: Where did you get the idea?

ROSEMARIE: Wait, so who’s asking these questions again?

VINCE: Just go with it. You start, because these books are all your fault.

R: I was interested in writing an article for the Film Noir Foundation’s magazine, Noir City

V: Which I edit.

R: Yes, I’d heard that. I thought it would be fun to write about the style of film noir, specifically the costumes. The costume designers who helped define the film noir look.

V: That’s a critical part of film noir to you, the costumes.

R: The way noir looks in general, obviously, but for me the costumes are definitely a huge part of the appeal and such an important contribution. Noir is so aspirational. People are doing wrong and committing crimes because they desperately want something. They want to change, to escape, to become someone else. That means we have to see how they look before, and what they’re looking toward. You can do that with clothes.

V: Even if they sometimes look cheap.

R: Exactly, but cheap can still be a step up, and you can understand why the characters want it. So yes, noir for me is all about the clothes. The women in particular are always wearing these wonderful outfits, and on the big screen you can get a really good look at them. It’s fantastic. In researching that idea, Edith Head’s name obviously came up.

Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indemnity

V: She did all the classic noirs at Paramount. Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard with Billy Wilder, the Alan Ladd/Veronica Lake films –

R: So many others. And I read about her life, her amazingly long career, all the Academy Awards she won, the sheer number of people she knew. And I thought, wouldn’t it be something if she came across a mystery that needed to be solved?

V: Why did you think a costume designer would make a good window into Hollywood and the basis of a mystery series?

R: A costume designer is someone who knows all the secrets, right? She knows everyone’s true measurements, not what they say in the gossip magazines. She hears the actresses’ fears about their figure flaws, how they’d like to be portrayed in the movie. But she also must be true to the characters in the script, so she has to tread carefully. And she then has to conceal those flaws from the camera. So a costume designer is someone who learns secrets, acts with discretion, and knows how to hide things.

V: In other words, the perfect detective.

R: That’s how I saw it.

V: Me, too, once you told me the idea. And Renee did end up writing that article for Noir City.

R: Which you can get by signing up for our newsletter.

V: She said, making a blatant plug.

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