Oliver Garcia is no stranger to period pieces. The Spanish-born, U.K.-raised costume designer cut his teeth working on films such as 2012's Anna Karenina (which won Jacqueline Durran an Oscar for her Best Costume Design), 2015's Cinderella and 2018's The Favourite (both of which earned Sandy Powell Oscar nominations), to name but a few.
"When you go through the process of designing period movies, you develop skills that help you in the decision-making process. You gain an experience that is vital for dealing with the pressures and the joys of running a department, and that builds your confidence to effectively tackle any project," Garcia says. "Also, being familiar with costumes from different historical periods ingrains in you an eye detail, balance and proportions that is a bonus when designing."
Everything he learned over the years proved invaluable as the costume designer on Chevalier, which brings to the screen the story of 18th-century composer and renaissance man Joseph Bologne. That was honor enough for Garcia, but he also got to "design my own version of the iconic Marie Antoinette" — played in the movie by Lucy Boynton — "and costume three different Baroque Operas."
"It's a costume designer's dream to design for a period movie, and to have the creative license to do so makes it even more thrilling," he says. "My preferred genres are period drama, fantasy and sci-fi. In the future, I would love the opportunity to design costumes for stories across all of them."
Below, Garcia shares with A.frame five of the films that had a major impact on his approach to costume design. "I’ve chosen films that had an impact on me during my formative years, as I was discovering my creativity and passion for movies."
Directed by: Francis Ford Coppola | Costume Design by: Eiko Ishioka
This movie had a strong impact on me, and it's always a reminder of the storytelling power of costumes and their impact on the quality of a film. Coppola fully understood this and put the visual emphasis on the costumes. I really admire this decision, because it's a style of filmmaking that is rarely explored. This artistic approach paved the way for designs that are striking and truly original, proving the value of costume design as an art form and that's very inspiring. I enjoying rewatching this movie so as not to forget to be bold when designing.
Directed by: Ridley Scott | Costume Design by: Charles Knode and Michael Kaplan
I grew up in a household where the sci-fi genre was present, and Blade Runner was the movie that I enjoyed the most. In retrospect, it's because the aesthetic was very different to any other film I had seen within that genre, and the costumes gave the characters a relatability I connected with.
From a costume design point of view, this movie was a pioneer in the way that it reshaped how sci-fi can be designed. I love how it looked back in history to create a new vision of the future. No matter how many times I re-watch it, I'm always impressed and inspired by it. Simply genius!
Directed by: Luchino Visconti | Costume Design by: Piero Tosi
A lot of films designed by Piero Tosi are influential to most costume designers, but the work in The Leopard is the one that has influenced me. I appreciate the painstaking attention to details and the efforts to make the clothes look historically accurate. There's an immense amount of costumes in this movie — from crinolined ball gowns for the high class to military uniforms and peasants — and it all looks very authentic, considering it was all custom made from scratch. It's still very impressive to watch. Like a great work of art!
Directed by: Patrice Chéreau | Costume Design by: Moidele Bickel
There are various reasons why I've chosen this movie. Done in a relatively low budget, the costume designer took creative license and mixed different period references to effectively define the characters, as well as color code the narrative, and I think that's a smart design approach. Another reason why I consider this an important movie to mention is because I remember it as being the one in which I became aware of breakdown. All the costumes look aged and appropriately worn, and that gave it an interest and authenticity that I hadn't noticed before.
Directed by: Jane Campion | Costume Design by: Janet Patterson
What I like about this movie is how it uses costume as an integral part of the story. It's smartly set in the morally restrictive Victorian times, and the tightly fitting clothes become a tool to explore desire and repressed sexuality. It's very refreshing when scripts draw such attention to costume, because it reinforces their importance and storytelling capabilities.
The work in The Piano is visually understated, and the costumes complement beautifully the tone of the movie in a superb way. I was a kid when this came out, and it was exciting to become aware of the sexual connotations behind clothes. It captivated me!