Oscar Horrors: Redressing Dracula
Monday, October 24, 2011 at 4:17PM
JA in Costume Design, Eiko Ishioka, Francis Coppola, Gary Oldman, Oscar Horrors, Winona Ryder, vampires

HERE LIES … Eiko Ishioka’s costume work for Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), which smothered the rest of the nominees with reams upon reams of flamboyant fabric to slither away with the statue that year. And it damn well deserved it, too.

JA from MNPP here. In the fall of 1992 I was fifteen years old and had found myself in the first blushes of cinemania, and as a budding horror enthusiast I was obsessed with Francis Ford Coppola’s film before it had even come out. It was more difficult way back then before the internet so we relied on things called “magazines” to keep us in the know, but I went one step further where this movie was concerned – I bought the “pictorial moviebook,” as it calls itself on the cover, and I studied it like the bible. And with its heavy focus on Ishioko’s work it was the first time I’d ever given much thought to a film’s costuming.

As Coppola had said, he wanted the costumes to be the set…

And are they ever. Ishioka was a visual artist and had done some memorable work for the stage version of M. Butterfly and Paul Schrader’s 1985 film Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters before this, and she brought with her an eccentric batch of influences, to put it mildly. From the human musculature that influenced Dracula’s armor in the opening scenes…

Visual splendor and bizarre influences after the jump...

… to John Lennon and Gustav Klimt…

… to the Australian fringed lizard that was the template for Lucy’s instantly iconic wedding / funeral gown…

… her costumes were like watching a Hammer film while on acid.

Nowadays with television programming like Project Runway where we see people told on a weekly basis to make a dress that looks like a Tupperware full of spaghetti it might seem quaint, but at the time for a kid in a small town this sort of symbolic expression through costuming seemed revolutionary.

It wouldn’t be until years later that I’d see similarly hallucinogenic outfits in the films of Kenneth Anger and Alejandro Jodorowsky, obvious precursors to this sort of thing, so there will always be a scorch-mark inside my head that looks like that billowing orange gown that Lucy meets her wolf-man lover in. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.


Do you recall your first encounter with Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)?

previously on Oscar Horrors

Article originally appeared on The Film Experience (http://thefilmexperience.net/).
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