Color Coded: Undertone In Film

October 7, 2015 § 2 Comments

October 7, 2015

As some of you may know, my husband, Herb, is a voting member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. His career in film and music has certainly helped me to be more aware of the importance of film in formulating public notions about color and design. We subscribe to many periodicals and view many of the films nominated for Academy Awards, and I am constantly researching film archives as well as present-day films to better inform my work in forecasting.

I was recently watching the trailer for the film Suffragette and was instantly captured by the story about the fight for the women’s right to vote. It is hard to deny the value of the movement and the importance of this period of time considering that we as a nation benefit from this movement.

Screen Shot 2015-10-06 at 5.11.59 AM

Photo by Pathe UK – © ©Pathé Productions Limited, Channel Four Television and The British Film Institute 2015. All Rights Reserved

I have read many books and seen some notable film, television, and stage shows about the early Suffrage efforts, so I wanted to highlight one compelling point of this particular movie that is almost a supporting character: the color used to convey the mood of this film.

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In my talks this past year, I have been discussing the use of “umbered undertones” in current and future films. That expression comes from the somewhat murky tones that are being seen in both children’s films, where so many color stories come from, as well as films for grown-ups. Those more somber tones often reflect the nature, theme, mood, or historic setting of a particular film.

Suffragette reflects a historic time period when there were no Technicolor films, and the theme of the film is a rather sobering subject—women’s struggles in the pre-1920’s to get enacted their legal right to vote, and the indignities and abuse they suffered—hardly the stuff of bright Technicolor effects! Interestingly, the American suffragette colors of violet, white, and gold were very similar to the green, white, and violet carried by their British counterparts. It is believed that the British Suffragettes chose those shades because they represented the first letters of each color and translated into: “Give (green) Women (white) Votes (violet.)

We can expect these “umbered” tones to have a long shelf-life because of films like Mockingjay Part One, which was part of the popular Hunger Games series. Part Two will come this Fall, and the stage show will appear in 2016. Some TV shows are also showing these same effects. Super Girl of 2015 is wearing more somber colored garb than sported by Linda Carter in the Wonder Woman series of the 1970s.

If you were choosing colors to represent the cause of the suffragettes, what colors would you choose and why?


Yellow Gorgeous! The Minions And I Embrace The Radiant Hue, Will You?

July 9, 2015 § Leave a comment

July 9, 2015


Just like many of you, I am constantly online working, either reading and responding to email or doing research, and I am blessed that my work is FUN!.  Recently I received a message from a fellow color lover,  Piali Dasgupta, a Fashion Editor for Amazon India/Style Diaries, with a special request to discuss the color yellow, and not just any yellow but Pantone’s Minion Yellow.

My best Minion impression.

My best Minion impression.

Please click the link below to read the full interview.

[Minion] Yellow Fever – Style Diaries.

How A Color Becomes A Trend

April 22, 2015 § 1 Comment

April 22, 2015

“If you had any doubts that pop culture now defines a big chunk of the fashion world, not to mention the fashion you see and will potentially buy, this should put them to rest.”

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Follow the link for more.

How a Color Becomes a Trend: Introducing Minion Yellow –

Metamorphosis: From Form To Function

February 4, 2015 § 1 Comment

February 4, 2015


In the last year we’ve seen and talked about the butterfly as a fashion statement but we haven’t spent as much time talking about the butterfly as a symbol of change or the metamorphosis. 

The term metamorphosis is evocative of so many different things. The thesaurus puts it into the perfect context for this conversation. “his amazing metamorphosis from gawky hayseed to sexy pop star.” Additional terms to describe metamorphosis:  transformation, mutation, transmutation, change, alteration, conversion, modification, remodeling, reconstruction; humorous transmogrification; formal transubstantiation. Some pretty lofty words here, but they are all about change.

Illustration by Boyoun Kim

Illustration by Boyoun Kim

In an article titled Oscars 2014: The Year of Metamorphosis written by Jenelle Riley in the December issue of Variety, Riley has done a great job in articulating the spirit of metamorphosis our favorite actors have gone through for some of the top movies of 2014.

These days, it’s not enough to be good looking and a good actor. It’s just as important to be willing to adapt and transform yourself for that perfect role. That might mean adding prosthetic pieces, losing/gaining weight or simply baring it all with reckless abandon. Anyway you slice it, the critics all agree that the key is in the transformation. 

When we see our favorite actor in a movie, it’s truly exciting to see them morph into someone we don’t recognize and even more thrilling when they capture a spirit that we’ve not yet seen from them. 

What is more fun than going to the movies and having your mind blown from the story or the setting, the actor or the acting, or the costumes? One might say that this year’s Oscar contenders far outshine their stunning wardrobes. Lucky for us that there is room enough for accolades all around.

I find that the term transformation can also be applied to the students in my color class. I revel in the various levels of expertise and knowledge of color that my students bring to the table. In the four days we share together I too experience a transformation in myself as well as witnessing that change in the students.

What star had the biggest metamorphosis that made you take notice? Was there a specific color related to that change that “spoke” to you?

Color Vs Black/White

November 18, 2013 § 6 Comments

November 18, 2013

Have you ever stopped to think about how color truly affects our lives? I understand the joy of color and know, first hand, how color can influence most aspects of our day to day existence. Then I remembered a movie that does a lovely job of capturing the transformative aspects of color.

That movie is Pleasantville. While I was watching the movie I had a bit of an epiphany. I then Googled Pleasantville and found this gem of a quote from Warren Epstein (The Gazette) on Wikipedia that really summed it up.


“This use of color as a metaphor in black-and-white films certainly has a rich tradition, from the over-the-rainbow land in The Wizard of Oz to the girl in the red dress who made the Holocaust real for Oskar Schindler in Schindler’s List. In Pleasantville, color represents the transformation from repression to enlightenment. People – and their surroundings – change from black-and-white to color when they connect with the essence of who they really are.”

Have you ever stopped to think about your immediate color world? What colors give you the connection to who you really are?

I was once asked “If you could live without color, where would you give up color?” 

Would you be willing to give up color?

Art Deco in The 20s, 30s, And 2013.

April 19, 2013 § 3 Comments

April 18, 2013

By now you may have heard that Brooks Brothers has put together a Great Gatsby inspired collection of suits just in time for the movie release. I am especially excited about these two occasions as I discuss The Great Gatsby and the Gatsby look in my presentations.

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There is a “Gatsby look” that has strong influence in both fashion and home. Typical deco is black, gold, silver and white as seen in Pantone The 20th Century in Color/1920s. Silver and Jet Black form the sleek contrast essential to the Art Deco aesthetic.

I am especially excited about those two influences as I discuss the “Gatsby look” in my trend presentations as it has historically had a strong influence on both fashion and home. A typical palette of the 20s, as depicted in my book, Pantone: The 20th Century in Color would have consisted of Silver and Jet Black forming the sleek contrast essential to the Art Deco aesthetic of the era. In addition, colors such as Carnelian, Champagne Beige and Turtledove were important accents, while Lavender Violet “beckons with a cool allure”.


Art Deco got its name from the Exposition Internationale des Arts Decoratifs et Industriels Modernes, held in Paris in 1925 and attended by exhibitors from twenty countries and sixteen million viewers. The modern language of luxury promoted by the fair began, for the most part, in the ateliers of the designers and craftsmen of France.

The 1930s saw the rise of Deco Architecture. Art Deco cathedrals of commerce and entertainment radiated glamour into the economic gloom of the 1930s.


The Deco palette of the 1930s fulfilled its mission as an antidote to the Great Depression with luscious tones. The silver of 1920s Deco remains, but the obvious luxury of gold becomes more important as precious metals are layered against smooth chocolate, misty jade and mauve.

The Art Deco movement has had such influence aesthetically from color palettes to design elements. Deco is certain to have another moment of glory even if it is 90 years later. The newest approach to Deco, as shown in the Pantone View Home forecast for 2013 that we create every year, is a palette of far more color, consisting of Silver and Champagne Beige, Monaco Blue, Jasper (a deep bluish green), Rio Red, Tap Shoe black (an homage to the flappers), Chinchilla and Moon Mist (a dreamy gray).

Are you inspired by Art Deco? What are some of your favorite Deco things or places?

Brooks Brothers’ Great Gatsby-Inspired Collection Puts On The Ritz | Read all the latest in fashion gossip, fashion industry news, and fashion trends | Daily Front Row.

Animated Classic Is An Artful Color Wonder

October 5, 2012 § 2 Comments

October 5, 2012

In the October booklet from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences there is a wonderful promotion for the up coming screening of a Chinese classic animation called The Monkey King: Uproar In Heaven (3D). The images were so striking and colorful that I had to share them with you. Below is an excerpt from the booklet.


“The Academy is proud to participate in the first China Onscreen Biennial (COB), launched by the UCLA Confucius Institute.

In scope and design, the COB is an unprecedented four-week bicoastal collaboration among American cultural organizations to promote U.S.-China dialogue through the art of film. The COB will look at both the present and past of Mainland Chinese cinema, bringing some of the best examples of contemporary Chinese filmmaking, as well as archival rarities and film restorations, to American audiences.’


A beloved classic of Chinese animation, Wan Laiming and Tang Cheng’s 1960s animated feature returns to theaters after a painstaking and dazzling 3D makeover led by experts at Los Angeles-based Technicolor. One of the most famous characters in Chinese mythology, the mischievous Monkey King leaves chaos in his wake from the Dragon King’s palace to the heavenly halls of the Celestial Emperor. Set to a blended Beijing opera-orchestral soundtrack, the film casts an enchanting spell.”


If you are interested in animated classics and the usage of color in that context you might want to check it out.

Watch a clip from the movie below.

Uproar in Heaven, Chinese Animation, 1 DVD, Monkey King – YouTube.

Sharen Davis Colorful Stylist On The Help

August 16, 2011 § 2 Comments

August 16, 2011

Kathryn Stockett’s novel The Help is an honest dialogue of what it meant to be the “help” for well-to-do families in rural Mississippi in the 60s. This film is rich both in character and in color.

From a recent article in the Hollywood Reporter comes some color insight from Sharen Davis, costume designer for the film.

“It was tricky because everyone thinks of Mad Men. But that’s about an upper-class Manhattan lifestyle, and this focuses on young women in the South-most of them getting married and having babies…

…I looked at copies of Vogue from the 1960s for inspiration, but it was too sophisticated, so I ended up getting my ideas from Seventeen magazine. It still had that innocent girlie look and lollipop color.”


Eugenia “Skeeter” Phelan played by Emma Stone, in “straight skirts and subtle prints” is career oriented and her look is a bit different from the other women.

Her longtime friend Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) is the Southern belle who wears “bright colors and bold prints because she always has to be seen,” while the outsider of the group is Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain) the bombshell. “Celia’s clothes are more fitted and feminine. She does her best to look like Marilyn Monroe.”

A Study Of Bill Gold’s Poster’s: Color And Typography

July 11, 2011 § Leave a comment

July 11, 2011

Bill Gold, called the greatest poster designer in Hollywood, has had an illustrious career designing classic posters for such films as “Yankee Doodle Dandy”, “The Way We Were”, “Casablanca”, “Hair”, “My Fair Lady”, “The Sting”, “Barry Lyndon” and “Mystic River”.

Here are some examples of his colorful work and some of the rationale behind it.

Yankee Doodle Dandy (1942)

For his first major studio release, it was important to Gold to emphasize the patriotism in the story of George M. Cohan. So he used bright American colors and incorporated the flag design as part of the Uncle Sam hat. He did all the lettering by hand then had a sign painter come in and color it at his direction. The “C” in James Cagney’s name is the same type Gold used for Casablanca. 

My Fair Lady (1969)

Gold says he used Peak’s “squiggles to get his juices flowing”. The final poster is a collage of the charcoal drawings, to which Gold added color.

Dirty Harry (1971)

For his first collaboration with Clint Eastwood, Gold saw the police detective’s gun as a central image that he used in all of the poster variations. He exaggerated the size of the gun in the international and main U.S. posters. In the international, he used repeating images and “psychedelic” colors, which design critic Steven Heller praises for having “a pop art quality”.

The Sting (1973)

To capture the 1920s look of the movie, Gold took the approach used in The Saturday Evening Post developed by illustrator J.C. Leyendecker, for both the main poster and the alternate. “The texture of the clothing has a hand-painted quality,” Gold says. “The whole feeling of the story is there.” Gold also used the magazine’s classic lettering style.

Barry Lyndon (1975)

For Stanley Kubrick’s 18th century costume drama, Gold flew to London for three weeks of intense discussions with the director. Kubrick insisted on having a special hand-lettered alphabet created, and Gold suggested the illustrated outer framing. After Gold returned home, he and Kubrick spoke by phone each day for weeks while a Warners messenger flew back and forth daily with sketches. Kubrick kept adding shading around each illustration to make it more distinctive.

Hair (1979)

Gold and illustrator Bob Peak did a lot of experimenting, including the picture of the sun coming through hair. He also played with different lettering styles. 

Color Within The Lines and Behind The Seams

January 24, 2011 § 1 Comment

January 24, 2011

The following designers will no doubt be nominated for Academy Awards for their costuming work.

Behind-The-Seams with Costume Designers
by Elizabeth Snead

Colleen Atwood-Alice In Wonderland

Behind-The-Seams: “The Hatter’s look was based on the real hatters who used mercury in their trade which poisoned them and made them go mad. It also caused their hair to turn a very fried red color and their skin to get very pale…

We wanted the Mad Hatter’s bow tie droopy but, when he cheered up, such as when Alice came around, he perked up and his tie would also get happy. It was controlled by Johnny so he could make it happen when felt it…”

Amy Westcott-Black Swan

Behind-The-Seams: “It was Natalie who recommended Rodarte. …I met with Laura and Kate Mulleavy (Rodarte), and I saw their feathered Vulture Collection-I think it was Spring 2010. It seemed very appropriate…

All the lead characters are based on characters in the ballet. Nina, the White Swan, wears pale colors. When Nina loses her innocence, she starts to dress a little darker. By the end of the film, she’s all in black for the first time…”

Louise St Jernsward-Made In Dagenham

Behind-The-Seams: “It was in the script that it had to be a Biba dress and two girls had to wear it, and Sally was quite a bit smaller than Rosamund. …Biba, which was such a great shop and so inexpensive…

Sally wanted to keep her character very low key in the beginning. She’s a working girl with two kids, so it’s clothes form that era, but practical, simple. As her confidence grows, she gets a bit more stylish, but then she also had less money so I tried to do it with color…”

Jenny Beavan-The King’s Speech

Behind-The-Seams: “We had an incredibly short prep time, just five-and-a-half weeks. So thank God for the Internet. There is an incredible amount of archival footage online-Pathe News-of the Duke and Duchess of York. I had no idea and I was very grateful. We also got the spirit in family Photographs that you can find, as well as books and souvenir albums from the coronation…

The Queen mother loved fur. She had fur trim on practically everything. Not to get PETA riled up, we used very old furs, nothing new. Even though she wore a lot of blues and mauves, the colors were too theatrical on film and too strong on Helena so we used muted softer hues.”

Sandy Powell-The Tempest

Behind-The-Seams: “Julie wanted the characters that lived the island to look like they were part of it. So that’s how it started, looking at images of a place [Lanai] I had never been too….

The idea was for Prospera to look androgynous. Her clothing had to be practical and also have this feeling of coming from the landscape. The shapes were inspired by Japanese fashion designers. The colors are natural, indigo, the color of the sky and sea. The browns and sands work with the land, almost as a kind of camouflage…Julie wanted the court costumes to look like those in Goya or Velazquez paintings, very dark but also metallic…”

Nicoletta Massone-Barney’s Version

Behind-The-Seams: “For Minnie Driver, I had to make everything for her. You can’t find vintage dresses for such a tall woman. I had a lot of documentation for her character. She was very spoiled and very rich. One bracelet is not enough, three is better. I love Minnie’s wedding dress. That was fabulous. And she had the body for it. But, as with any costume, without the actor to give it the life, it is nothing…I always assign a color to every actor/character. If you forget the color, a movie becomes like a carnival. It’s terrible. Giamatti was brown. To show the confusion and gradual loss of Giamatti’s memory, we would leave a button undone or make the cuff a little destroyed or the shoulder pad a little off.

For the full story click the link below.

OSCAR: Behind-The-Seams With Costume Designers For ‘Alice In Wonderland’, ‘Black Swan’, ‘The King’s Speech’, ‘The Tempest’ –

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