Fashion people were all jazzed that Rodarte created costumes for Black Swan. Of course nothing could be more exciting than bird-inspired Rodarte tutus on the big screen, and of course nothing could be more exciting than Natalie Portman flapping about in them. As the Rodarte Swan titillation fluttered on in the press, someone read the credits and pointed out that designers Kate and Laura Mulleavy are not billed as the film's costume designers, which would cheat them out of an Oscar nomination should the film's clothing earn one. Though the film didn't get the nod, its costume designer, Amy Westcott, asserts that the sisters wouldn't have been cheated out of anything.
She spoke to Clothes on Film:
Clothes on Film, Chris: Are you aware of the controversy surrounding yourself and fashion house Rodarte (the Mulleavy sisters) in the press; that they should be credited alongside you as costume designers?
Amy Westcott: Controversy is too complimentary a word for two people using their considerable self-publicising resources to loudly complain about their credit once they realised how good the film is.
CoF: Do you feel as though you are being vilified for something out of your hands?
AW: I was happy for Rodarte’s persistent publicity efforts at first; I’m so proud of the film and anything that brings it to an even wider audience is genuinely welcome. I tried to put aside my ego while being airbrushed from history in all of their interviews, as I’m just not that kind of person anyway. But when articles were planted that attacked me personally as if I had conspired against them I felt nothing but despair and betrayal. I don’t have a publicist working for me, needless to say, and I was asked to stay quiet -“not to engage”, to avoid any bad press towards the film. Unfortunately this seems to have proven detrimental to the perception of my work on Black Swan. I didn’t make the rules that the Guild and the Academy set and I am proud of my professionalism and commitment to my work, so to have my name dragged into such ill-informed gossip is galling and hurtful to say the least.
Interestingly, the overwhelming reaction from other costume designers has been very affirming. Apparently this has happened to a number of people, but this one just got more press.
Westcott says that, contrary to reports, Rodarte did not design 40 costumes — or "all of the ballet looks" — but only seven. "The core ballet was designed by Zack Brown (for American Ballet Theater), and my department and I added some feather detailing to assimilate them with the White Swan," explains Westcott, whose work has been credited with inspiring a ballet trend in fashion.
CoF: Has this situation made you wary of working with fashion designers again?
AW: Absolutely. I was too trusting, and never saw this “controversy” coming. Suffice to say that I will never be put in this position again.
Westcott explains that designing looks for a film and costuming a film are two very different beasts. To get the dancers' clothes as realistic as possible, she stalked real ones in rehearsals and around the studio, taking their pictures when they didn't know it, to get accurate reads on their coats, bags, and leg warmers. All of the clothes then had to be screen-tested so that the film's color scheme would be maintained. All these details, of course, are very important to the overall mood and feel of the film. It might not have ruined your day in quite the same way after you saw it if there were a stray canary-yellow scarf somewhere in there.
Black Swan: Amy Westcott Interview [Clothes on Film]