Consolata Boyle is an Irish costume designer who’s done a number of period films, often with director Stephen Frears. She’s been nominated for three Oscars (The Queen, Florence Foster Jenkins, and Victoria & Abdul), won one Emmy (The Lion in Winter), and one Costume Designers Guild award (The Queen). She’s currently working on Radioactive, the Marie and Pierre Curie biopic starring Rosamund Pike.
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Anne Devlin (1984)
Based on a true story, about a woman caught up in an Irish revolt in 1803.
Set in 1919 Ireland, Sean Bean stars in this miniseries.
Widows’ Peak (1994)
A young woman (Natasha Richardson) joins an exclusive community of widows in the 1920s.
“She does make her coatless, so as not to conceal her shape and ‘to give the feeling that she’s not affected by the elements, that she’s not quite grounded, that she’s lighter than air,’ Boyle explains. And she does give her dresses that are always slipping off her shoulders, plus the appearance that she isn’t wearing any underwear. (She’s actually wearing a slip.) “Just by Natasha’s sheer physical presence in a (conservative) town, you almost have to do nothing. That’s what designing is‘” (Widow Dressing).
Mary Reilly (1996)
Julia Roberts (why?) as a housemaid to Dr. Jekyll (and Mr. Hyde).
“Some things you forget about, some come back and end up in a costume. Stevenson’s life in the tropics was well-documented with photographs. He wore a lot of extraordinary linen suits and I used that for Jekyll’s side of the character” (The Frill Is Gone).
Moll Flanders (1996)
The feature film version starring Robin Wright, not the better TV miniseries. The story of a 17th-century woman who has many adventures.
The Serpent’s Kiss (1997)
17th century, gardening, Ewan McGregor and Greta Scacchi.
Love & Rage (1999)
Greta Scacchi again as a late 19th-century divorcée shocking her Irish neighbors.
The Winslow Boy (1999)
In late 1910s England, a young boy is accused of stealing, and things get complicated. With Jeremy Northam.
A biopic about author James Joyce and his wife Nora, again with Ewan McGregor.
The Abduction Club (2002)
In 18th-century Ireland, two sisters (one of whom is played by Sophia Myles) are kidnapped and fall in love.
The Lion in Winter (2003)
Michelle Pfeiffer stars as an older courtesan in a relationship with a young man (Rupert Friend) in 1910s Paris.
“’She reminds me of Klimt in particular because of the linear simplicity of her silhouettes,’ she says. Boyle’s favorite piece is a pink-and-green sari Léa wears on the balcony of her Paris flat, which Boyle discovered at the Paris flea market. ‘It was delicate, fragile, and utterly beautiful, but it was completely falling apart, so it had to be repaired for Michelle by hand’” (Costume Drama).
Into the Storm (2009)
A TV movie about Winston Churchill at the end of World War II.
Miss Julie (2014)
An updated adaptation of the Strindberg play, about an aristocratic woman (Jessica Chastain) seducing her servant (Colin Farrell).
Testament of Youth (2014)
An adaptation of Vera Brittain’s World War I autobiography. With Alicia Vikander and Kit Harington.
“During the years prior to all of the experience she had during the war, she was a young woman who loved beauty and clothes: that delicate part of her was very important as she noticed things and made notes in her diary about frocks and outfits that she wore and what she matched them with – it was beautifully revealing” (Consolata Boyle Exclusive Interview).
Finding Altamira (2016)
Antonio Banderas in the real-life story of the discovery of prehistoric caves in Spain in the 1880s.
Florence Foster Jenkins (2016)
Meryl Streep as the 1930s would-be opera singer with a terrible voice.
“She invested a lot of money in the fabrics, particularly for her performance outfits. There were a lot of pure silks and metallics — gold, silver, tulle — in those costumes… I thought, like many women of that period, that she would have had dressmakers. She would have contributed hugely to how she dressed. And the gloriously amateurish costumes — she would have been very, very closely involved, and made some of it herself” (Flamboyant costumes for ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’ mirror the real-life inspiration).
“Florence Foster Jenkins loved clothes, and she loved decorating clothes. You could never have too many flowers or ribbons or drapes. She literally didn’t know when to stop” (Consolata Boyle on costuming Meryl Streep for ‘Florence Foster Jenkins’).
Victoria & Abdul (2017)
Judi Dench stars as Queen Victoria in this film about her relationship with her Indian servant, Abdul Karim.
“I used black and lace and jewels and textures, so you see this woman buried beneath her position, tradition and what society expects; she’s deeply depressed. After she meets Abdul we see a lightness in her, but his clothes reflect it, not hers. He enters her life wearing these soft clothes that aren’t constraining, and as he becomes more bold and arrogant, we see him in colors that almost confront the other characters” (Oscar-Nominated Costume Designers Reveal Their Movies’ Characters With Color).
“She definitely loved decoration. If you see any photographs of Victoria in old age, she is encrusted with jewelry, texture and embellishment even from the tip of her head, where she is wearing her small little crown because she was too frail to carry the big, big crown. Then there is Abdul, who is like a reflection of herself, this beautiful young man whom she loved looking at. Also, through him she could imagine the light, and color and air and richness of India” (Flash on top of function serves to outfit the cast of ‘Victoria and Abdul’).
What’s your favorite Consolata Boyle historical costume film?