Durinda Wood 1970 is a costume designer and has designed costumes for film, theater and television. At the 2004 Costume Design Guild Awards, she won the Excellence in Contemporary Costume Design for Film Award for The Mighty Wind.
According to Deborah Landis, President of the Costume Designers Guild, film costumes serve two equal purposes: “to support the narrative by creating memorable characters, and to provide balance within the frame by using color, texture and silhouette. Costume designers are skilled professionals trained to work in the two-dimensional format of the film frame, and costumes are designed to appear on one actor, one set, lit and framed in the most specific way”(50 Designers 3). The costume is not a mere garment and the designer endeavors to design costumes that lift the characters off the page of the screenplay and shape their personalities. Even before a word is spoken, the costume designer helps to tell the story.
The Dana Hall Archives conducted the following email interview with Durinda Wood.
How did your Dana experience contribute to the person you are today? In a few ways it made me stronger and more independent. First, leaving home in my early teens allowed me to depend on myself rather than on family and the familiar town I had grown up in. Secondly, single sex education gave me a great respect for women and the perspective that women were equal and just as capable to achieve whatever they wanted. However, because of that I came out of Dana a little naive to the sexism in the world. I never did understand when I was expected to be subservient. Was that a bad thing? Probably not. I just boldly went where I probably wasn’t supposed to go because I didn’t know the rules. I’m glad I didn’t.
How did you become interested in costume design? I came out of the womb interested in clothes. I went to Dana in the late 60s when Carnaby St., hippie fashion, and vintage clothes were hip. Since we wore uniforms to class, having our own style outside of class was very competitive. Many girls were fashioning their own leather vests, tooled belts, silver jewelry, moccasins, long skirts, and decorated jeans. In those early years my fascination with clothes and theater added up to costume design.
What do you enjoy most about the field of costume design? Creating a character through clothes is the most fun for me. I will never tire of imagining how a person’s personality manifests itself in clothes. It’s a visual language and I love learning the vocabulary. All the way from a 5th century farmer to a 21st century hustler, research is the key and that’s what I love most.
Where do you find the inspiration for the costumes for a particular film? You can find inspiration just about anywhere so that’s where I look for it. All projects are different and so is the inspiration gathering. For Star Trek, I looked at European fashion magazines. Runway couture can be absolutely outrageous and out of this world. For period films, it’s the research of historical paintings, books, movies, music, and anything you can get your hands on. For the Chris Guest movies, the actors are very inspirational. We develop the characters’ clothes together and the fitting room can be a virtual minefield of inspiration and discovery. When I look for inspiration, I find what in this wide world is going to tell me most about the subject and then with all the information gathered, the ideas usually just start flowing.
It must have been an amazing experience to win the Excellence in Contemporary Costume Design for Film for the Christopher Guest film A Mighty Wind in 2004. Did this award change your life in any way? Change my life?…….No. But it felt great to have appreciation from other designers who know what it is I do. It can boost one’s confidence, which is always needed in such a highly pressured industry.
You designed costumes for the television show Star Trek: The Next Generation. That show had so many memorable characters: Jean-Luc Picard, Data, Worf, and all of those aliens. What was it like designing the costumes for this show? I have to say that it was tough designing for Star Trek. On one hand, it was great because we did the show all on the Paramount lot so it was a close-knit community of crew and artists. And we had our own large costume department and workroom including a great staff. But it was relentless. We created extraterrestrial new worlds every week. Monday: read and broke down the script then had department head meetings. Tuesday: designed the whole show, got them approved and made necessary changes. Wednesday: shopped all the fabric and got all designs into work. Thursday and Friday: cut, built and fitted the clothes. We were always working on three episodes at once, one prepping, one shooting and one wrapping. That went on every week for 36 episodes a season. The good thing is I learned to trust my design instincts. There was no time for mulling things over or second-guessing.
What is your favorite film or show for which you have designed costumes? It’s impossible to say what is my favorite. They are kind of like children. All different and all a part of me. I can’t even say what is the best work because I’m too close to it.
What are you working on now? I just finished another film with Christopher Guest called For Your Consideration with all the usual players. It’s a comedy about the Academy Award season and should come out sometime in September 2006. See you at the movies!