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Photo of the reviewed book entitled Designing Hollywood written by Christian Esquevin.

This post is a review of Designing Hollywood: Studio Wardrobe in the Golden Age. Read my thoughts about Christian Esquevin’s book published by The University Press of Kentucky to decide whether it’s right for you or anyone on your (holiday) gift list.



Disclosure: Ad. The book entitled Designing Hollywood: Studio Wardrobe in the Golden Age is a sample of my choice provided by Pacific Court. The post is not endorsed by them, the author and The University Press of Kentucky. I wrote it entirely myself, and it represents my own 100% honest opinion.


Brief Historic Background of the Golden Age of Hollywood

Before 1920, film stars wore their own wardrobe in the movies. However, thereafter, the wardrobe and fashion not only became central to telling the plot or story – think: clothing conveys a message. In addition, the studio wardrobe became essential for the movie marketing and advertising strategy.

The latter was especially true for the female actors’ attire. The various magazines featured the stars in the garments they wore during filming which helped establishing the Hollywood Glamour Style, while promoting the movie and its stars.


examples of iconic wardrobe presented in Designing Hollywood
Stars in their studio attire. These examples of two Hollywood wardrobe designs featured in the book are still modern today. The hounds-tooth blazer became an eternal classic. Still today, many formal-attire stores have a variation of the gown with peacock embellishment in their collection.



Major studios started hiring costume designers, seamstresses, and cutter-fitters. Their task was to dress the actresses/actors their best and in line with their role in the movie. While in the beginning of the Golden Age, the designers had long-term contracts, starting in the 1950s, studios began hiring designers for a specific star or movie.

The Golden Age came to an end in the late 1960s, early 1970s. Reasons were the increase of households with TVs, and the related decline in movie visits.


How Did Christian Esquevin Cover the Designing of Studio Wardrobe?

The first chapter sets the historical framework of Hollywood movies in the Golden Age. In the next chapters, the author discusses the various studios, their productions, stars, financial situations, designers, and iconic clothes. Herein, the main focus is on the designer and attire. In addition, the reader learns about the movies, their stars, and the costs of the created attire.

Christian Esquevin elucidates the diverse backgrounds of the designers. He introduces examples of self-made, grass-root designers, design/fashion college graduates and designers of Haute Couture. Photos of employees of the wardrobe department underline the huge efforts spent on the glamor attire.


collage of studio wardrobe employees at work
Examples of a cutter-fitter and seamstress at work in the wardrobe departments at the Hollywood studios. Photos are cropped.


Despite their central role for the success and marketing of the film, the designers received no mentioning of their work in the early decades. Finally, the end credits of the film listed the head designers. The reason was that the Film Academy began to award designers for the Best Wardrobe for color and black-and-white movies.


How Is the Creation of Hollywood Style Presented?

Christian Esquevin well illustrates the symbiosis between studios, designers, (glamourous) attire for marketing of the stars and films. In total 74 b&w  and 25 color photos of sketches and stars in their movie attire support and enhance the written story.


examples of Hollywood studio wardrobe sketches
Examples of Hollywood studio-wardrobe sketches featured in the book.



He also points out the friction among stars on the set, stars and designers, designers on the set, and the head designers and management. Disagreements and even hate led to an often unhealthy, unfair and/or unpleasant work environment. Consequences reached from leaving the studio before the end of the production, over mental health issues, to potentially suicide.



In my opinion, this book is a Must-Read for historic film enthusiasts, fashion historians, and all people who are interested in fashion, design, and/or film. It would be an excellent read as one of the books for an entry course in fashion-, design- and/or film college programs.


collage of sketches for the review of Designing Hollywood
Examples of the color sketches shown in the book.




Where to Buy Designing Hollywood: Studio Wardrobe in the Golden Age by Christian Esquevin

The University Press of Kentucky is the publisher of this interesting hardcover book of 256 pages. You can buy the book for $49.95 on their website.

Alternatively, you can also order the book at


About the Author

Christian Esquevin earned a BS degree in anthropology at the California State University, Los Angeles, and a MSLS in Library Sciences at the University in Southerner California in 1971 and 1975, respectively. He worked as the director of the Coronado Public Library from 1988-2018.

He is the blogger at, a scholar, collector of classic film costume design sketches, and a researcher of Hollywood costume design history. In 2008, he authored Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Label.

The Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising Museum in Los Angeles featured his costume design collection in 2014.


Photos: N. Mölders

© 2013-2023 Nicole Mölders | All rights reserved

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This Post Has One Comment

  1. This sounds like a good designing book to read. I like how they included sketches from the designers.