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Ruffled feathers: Costume, gender and authorship in the Black Swan controversy

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In 2011, the popular and trade press reported a dispute between costume designer Amy Westcott and creators of fashion label Rodarte, Kate and Laura Mulleavy, following the decision that the fashion designers were only to receive a back-end credit for their work on psychological thriller Black Swan (Aronofsky, 2010). This article traces the coverage of the Black Swan controversy in order to demonstrate that press discourses surrounding the costume designer perform a series of cultural functions, often having a somewhat detrimental effect on the cultural legitimacy of costume design. Drawing on recent work in the field of feminist production studies, I seek to contribute to the body of work which examines theories of professional identity. Consequently, I argue that the coverage of Westcott's response to initial reports was framed in such a way as to re-establish these traditional value systems upon which economic structures for production are based. As such, I demonstrate that the press discourses surrounding the Black Swan controversy perpetuate certain problematic assumptions in respect to gender, labour and authorship.
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Keywords: costume design; fashion; gender; professional identity; trade stories; visibility

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of East Anglia

Publication date: 2012-02-09

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  • Film, Fashion & Consumption is a peer-reviewed journal designed to provide an arena for the discussion of research, methods and practice within and between the fields of film, fashion, design, history, art history and heritage. The journal seeks to stimulate ongoing research on these topics and to attract contributions not only from scholars researching in these areas but also from practitioners, who are traditionally excluded from academic debate. The journal thus aims to unite and enlarge a community of researchers and practitioners in film, fashion, consumption and related fields, whilst also introducing a wider audience to new work, particularly to interdisciplinary research which looks at the intersections between film, fashion and consumption.
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