Drawing on new and established approaches to film costume, this article examines the creative work of the costume designer, contextualizing it as a gendered profession. It takes the career of the British film costume designer Julie Harris as its illustrative case study, tracing her working practice and sense of creative agency through interviews and press coverage as well as the BFI's extensive collection of her annotated costume sketches. Special emphasis is placed on Harris's negotiation of changing modes of postwar British film production, and her management of the professional tensions between costuming in the service of narrative or costuming as spectacle—in Stella Bruzzi's words, the dilemma of whether to look at or through the clothes on-screen. It culminates in a detailed analysis of Harris's Oscar-winning costume work for Darling (1965) and her ambivalence toward the youth-oriented off-the-rack fashions of the 1960s. In conclusion, it emphasizes the significance and complexity of the costume designer's creative labor, and the need for that work to be granted greater visibility.
The Girl You Don't See: Julie Harris and the Costume Designer in British Cinema
Melanie Williams is a reader in film and television studies at the University of East Anglia. Her research focuses on British cinema, with published work including the monographs David Lean (Manchester University Press, 2014) and Prisoners of Gender: Women in the Films of J. Lee Thompson (VDM Verlag Dr. Müller, 2009) and the coedited collections Shane Meadows: Critical Essays (Edinburgh University Press, 2013), Ealing Revisited (British Film Institute, 2012), Mamma Mia! The Movie: Exploring a Cultural Phenomenon (I. B. Tauris, 2012), and British Women's Cinema (Routledge, 2009).
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Melanie Williams; The Girl You Don't See: Julie Harris and the Costume Designer in British Cinema. Feminist Media Histories 1 April 2016; 2 (2): 71–106. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/fmh.2016.2.2.71
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