What does the word 'Victorian' bring to mind? For Costume Designer Consolata Boyle, the answer is the color black - in all its varying tones and textures. The FIDM Museum was fortunate to host the Irish designer in September 2017 before the release of her latest film Victoria and Abdul, for which she received her third Academy Award nomination for Best Costume Design (now on display until April 7 in our Art of Motion Picture Costume Design exhibition).
The movie tells the story of Queen Victoria at the end of her life, when she embarks on a controversial friendship with Abdul Karim, an Indian servant that became an unlikely companion to the aging Queen. To celebrate the film's majestic subject, we showed Consolata the Museum's rare c. 1897 two-piece ensemble belonging to Queen Victoria. The bodice and skirt, made of silk faille, crepe, lace, spangles, and beads, was part of the Queen's extensive mourning wardrobe.
While examining Queen Victoria's gown in our History Gallery, we spoke to Consolata about her experiences researching and designing for a Queen on Victoria and Abdul:
Can you tell us your reaction to seeing the Queen Victoria gown in the FIDM Museum?
It brings back so many discussions I had with the light and camera man - I can remember the first terror of the wonderful cinematographer Danny Cohen, who said, “Consolata it’s black! So much black!” And of course Victoria’s life was steeped in black because she was permanently in mourning, from the death of her beloved husband on. It’s so interesting because one way that I did it was all of this very typical embellishment. I took it a step further to make the blacks almost three dimensional. We laid on a massive amount of texture. By looking at this, it absolutely brings back in torrents the memories: the physical size, the shape, and the fact that this beautiful gown is obviously towards the latter end of her reign.