‘Indiana Jones’ costume designer shares experience with KSU

Lauren Crist

Costumer: design process starts with the story

Academy Award nominee Deborah Landis gave a lecture on film costume design in the Wright-Curtis theatre Friday afternoon. Landis designed costumes for other movies, including “Animal House” and “The Blues Brothers.” Lauren Crist | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

The costume for Indiana Jones hangs on display at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C. Meanwhile, its creator, Deborah Landis, passed on her years of experience in film costume design to Kent State students.

“Our ultimate goal is not about making the most beautiful costume,” Landis said. “The character comes first.”

Landis gave a lecture on film costume design in the Wright-Curtis Theatre Friday afternoon. Landis said she jumped at the chance to see Kent State and its fashion museum.

“I have always wanted to come to Kent State and see the collection,” she said. “This is one of the great costume collections of the world.”

During the lecture, Landis interacted with the audience and showed PowerPoint presentations about various elements of film costume design.

“She’s fascinating, and she is someone to know, and it was great that she was able to come here and talk to us,” said Jennifer Biehl, costume design graduate student. “I’m glad that I had this opportunity.”

Following the lecture, the audience asked Landis questions about her experience and career in film costume design.

“I was absolutely thrilled that Deborah could come because I knew that not only for fashion students, but theater students, she would have wonderful insight,” said Jean Druesedow, Kent State’s museum director. “This seemed like a perfect opportunity.”

Landis designed costumes for movies such as “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” “Animal House” and “The Blues Brothers”. She was nominated for an Academy Award in 1988 for “Coming to America.”

“Just to have the nomination was all I ever needed,” she said. “I’ll never, ever forget that night.”

Landis grew up in New York City. She earned a bachelor’s degree in theater from Goddard College in Vermont and has a master of fine arts from UCLA.

“I had the three qualities for costume design: being passionate about history, being really crafty and loving the theater,” Landis said. “I think those three components make a good costume designer.”

The costume-designing process is always the same, Landis said, and it starts with the story. Costume designers have to research the time period, social status and history of the character.

“(The costume) is a gift a costume designer gives an actor,” she said. “Once you give it to the actor, it’s no longer yours.”

Landis said costume design is a passion and requires organization and resourcefulness.

“You have to want that career enough to hold on and make it work,” she said.

Contact College of the Arts reporter Lauren Crist at [email protected].