Kym Barrett & Catherine Martin – costume design legends ❤️‍🔥

This may not come as a surprise, but 99% of my judgment on films is formulated by how good the costume design is. A persons outfit says so much about their character, their background, their status and their intentions, it’s a huge box to tick in terms of how the character is portrayed throughout the film. Two women who do this exceptionally well (and who I idolise a lot) are Kym Barrett and Catherine Martin.

The duo worked together on the set of Romeo & Juliet, which is where my love for the two began. The two reimagined an ethereal Shakespeare classic and served it to a 90’s grunge youth. Style wise those two categories should not come together, yet Barrett and Martin understood the assignment and created costumes that would still be idolised two decades later.

Kym Barrett at the Shangi-Chi premiere
Catherine Martin with husband Baz Luhrmann at the 2019 Met Gala

They both went onto work on some of the best films of the last 20 years, so I thought I’d explore some of their most iconic ones, which also happen to be some of my personal favourites.

Kym Barrett

It’s apparent that Kym was the influence in the more edgier pieces worn in Romeo and Juliet. Heavily inspired by 90’s Prada, who at the time were just starting to make a name for themselves in ready-to -wear, Barrett made the smart decision to dress all the youthful boys in the infamous Hawaiian shirts and boxy suits. This styling choice was great at emphasising the rebellious attitude that the Capulet boys in particular had against the formality of the older generation.

After Romeo and Juliet, Kym worked on many big names in film, especially within the action genre such as The Matrix and Marvel’s Shang-Chi. Another reason that I’m a huge fan of Kym is that she was the costume designer on The Amazing Spider-man, one of my all time favourite films. Her styling of Peter in t-shirts layered over long sleeves and hoodies under his everyday jacket were so relevant to the time what teenage girls on tumblr would’ve idolised in nerdy boys. This idolisation was almost too good for the humble Peter, which could be interpreted as a reflection of how society within the film wouldn’t have seen Peter as cool enough to be a superhero.

Catherine Martin

Whereas it seems Kym Barrett favours working on brash, edgy designs, Catherine Martin is more for the romantic side of things. Following her work on Romeo and Juliet, she has worked with husband Baz luhrmann on all of his most notorious films.

For Moulin Rouge she took on Marilyn Monroe silhouettes and made them even more femme fatale in colour and cut, which really helped in telling Satine’s story when her voice was muted amongst the men around her. For Daisy in The Great Gatsby, Catherine used many Miu Miu pieces in the test scenes, which led to Miuccia designing some pieces especially for Daisy’s character. The heavy involvement of Miu Miu in Daisy’s wardrobe really emphasises how Daisy would’ve been seen as quite the It girl of her time.

I can’t express just how excited I am to see Catherine work her magic on Baz Luhrmann’s new Elvis Biopic. I myself am a huge Elvis Presley fan, and as his style plays a huge part in his iconic persona, it’ll be fun to see how Catherine plays into the eccentricity between Luhrmann and Presley. I already know that I’ll be doing a full review of the costumes when this film comes out, so stay tuned for that in a few months.

In summary, these two women have had incredible careers in costume design, and there’s absolutely no stopping them in continuing to create iconic costumes in films to come.

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