107 Years, 2.5 Million Outfits
Countless Characters: Inside Hollywood’s “Magical” Mecca of Costumes with The Hollywood Reporter
Step into Western Costume, America’s largest and most iconic warehouse of famous clothing, where finds from Mahershala Ali’s 'Green Book' sweater to 'Black Panther's' warrior jewels take their place next to clothes from 'Gone With the? Wind' and 'West? Side Story.'
“For a girl who’d just moved to Los Angeles, Western Costume was like the Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory of Hollywood,” says Oscar-nominated Black Panther costume designer Ruth E. Carter of the 120,000-square-foot “treasure trove” in North Hollywood that includes a dedicated library, milliner, cobbler and 2.5 million costumes worn by stars from the Golden Age onward. “As you walked around, you’d hear on the loudspeaker names of designers being paged,” adds Carter, who asked the costume supplier to make the split-toe boots of the Marvel best picture contender’s Dora Milaje warriors. “Hearing that [A Clockwork Orange‘s] Milena Canonero or [The English Patient‘s] Ann Roth was in the building, you kept hoping they were in the next aisle. It’s this magical place where not only stars came in to be fit, your heroes were doing their artistry.”
Whether it’s Oscar winners like 1939’s Gone With the Wind or recent popcorn fantasies like both Fantastic Beasts films, chances are the clothes adorning the characters have been loaned, replicated or custom made at Western Costume. (Only costume designers, costumers and stylists on working productions can browse and rent without an appointment.) “What makes us stand out from our competitors is that, over the last 30 years, I’ve bought 11 companies that were costume rental companies,” says president Eddie Marks of the comprehensive collection that experts say remains unrivaled by such Los Angeles costume houses as Palace Costume, American Costume Corporation and Motion Picture Costume Company. A former costume supervisor, Marks is also the father of Branden Marks, a costume supervisor on CBS’ S.W.A.T. (who of course uses his dad’s company).