Film & TV

Costume Design

Martin Scorsese

Lesson time 15:13 min

Learn how to let character dictate costume and how to collaborate with actors to find the perfect clothing for roles.

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Martin Scorsese
Teaches Filmmaking
In 30 lessons, learn the art of film from the director of Goodfellas, The Departed, and Taxi Driver.
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When you talk about costume design-- all right, let's say the block of classical cinema from Hollywood or from England from Italy, whatever. That's custom design. You're talking about about Piero Tosi, you're talking about The House of Tirelli in Rome, Visconti's films, and extraordinary things. But they're of a time and place. In other words, they are depicting period, and there's an aspect of accuracy, to say the least, and some-- what's the word-- a flourish to that accuracy. A touch of the artist, so to speak, beyond that. In the case of Minnelli directing Madame Bovary. They changed the period costuming, I believe to be around the 1870s or so in Paris, because they felt it was more interesting than the actual period the book was written about. I believe could be the 1840s. And so these things are-- once you make that kind of decision, you do have drawings from the 1840s, you do have drawings from the 1870s, you do have pictures from the 1920s. One of the key things I found, like in the Age of Innocence, for example costumes-- where it was an upper strata of society-- was I always wanted the costumes to feel lived in. That they shouldn't look like costumes. That was the idea, particularly the people in the street. The extras, or what they call now the atmosphere. In the case of Gangs of New York it's different. In the Gangs of New York we had license to go as far as we wanted with costumes. We got the Daybreak boys and the Swamp Angels. They work the River Luton ships. The Frog Haulers shanghai sailors down the bloody angle. The Shorttails was rough for a while, but they become a bunch of jack-rolling dandies, lolling around Murderer's Alley looking like Chinaman. The gangs did dress differently. Gangs dress differently today. Each one, so they know each other. They could see that person's wearing that. They could see it a block away. All right, be careful. There's this group coming and this person wears suspenders a certain way. They call them gallusus. The Bowery Boys behaved a certain way. They all had their own uniforms. There's the Plug Uglies. They're from somewhere deep in the old country. Got their own language. No one understands what they're saying. They love to fight the cops. And the Nightwalkers and Ratpickers were on. They work on their backs and kill with their hands. They're so scurvy only the Plug Uglies will talk to them, but who knows what they're saying? We could take license with that. In the case of the very few characters in the film of the upper classes, were more conventional. But everything else, you could let your mind go. [MUSIC PLAYING] Of course, films like Mean Streets or Taxi Driver or going up to After Hours, things like that, it's a different kind of costume design. In other words, it shouldn't be confused, I think, with the costume designers o...


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Martin Scorsese drew his first storyboard when he was eight. Today he’s a legendary director whose films from Mean Streets to The Wolf of Wall Street have shaped movie history. In his first-ever online film class, the Oscar winner teaches his approach, from storytelling to editing to working with actors. He deconstructs films and breaks down his craft, changing how you make and watch movies.



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Comments

Andrea R.

When a director allows an actor/actress to get involved in the external process of character development/construction it really pays off, not only it makes the actor feel comfortable but it also allows them to express their perception of the character.

EK T.

There isn't a film he's mentioned here that I haven't seen many times. I really enjoyed this lesson. A great walk down memory lane.

EK T.

I love period pieces from the early 1920s -1950s. Unfortunately, the designers don't get the kind of recognition a designer of a film like Dangerous Liasons would get. The less it looks like a costume, the harder it is to appreciate it contribution to developing the character's realism.

George C.

thereabouts and roundabouts and New York specific and fancy pants and fame glitz and terrible lesson.

Dinar D.

Costumes truly are a part of characterization so much so that it gives the fourth dimension to the role and the scene. This chapter has made things more clear about involving the artists in the discussion of their character's costume to involve them in the characterization process.

Lee

CUSTOMS ARE ESSENTIALLY IN INSPIRING THE CHARACTER YO BECOME ALIVE IN THE TIME FRAME OF THE FEEL OF THE CHARACTER ACTOR IS GROWING INTO BECOMING

Lee

Custom evolves from character identification in the period and economic stature.

Jo E.

Great Lesson…! What a character wears says a lot about the person in films...it leaves an impression.

Avery D.

What a wonderful lesson! As someone who constantly points out items that remind me of a character or of a friend, I find that the style of a character reveals more than perhaps their dialogue.

Robert A.

Yes I am glad we touched this subject!!!. Ive always wanted to know more about costumes and all those important things. Thank you Martin!!!. Onward!!!.