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CalArts Remembers Three-Time Academy Award Nominee Theadora Van Runkle

Photo: courtesy of the Costume Designers Guild

With the announcement of the 2012 Oscar nominees this week, CalArts remembers costume designer Theadora Van Runkle. She attended the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles and was later nominated by the Academy for her costumes in the films Bonnie and Clyde, The Godfather: Part II and Peggy Sue Got Married. Chouinard merged with the Los Angeles Conservatory of Music in 1961 to become CalArts, and their graduates, like Theadora, are part of the Institute's extended community.

Theadora, who passed away in November 2011, was heralded by Mary Rose, president of the board for the Costume Designers Guild, as one of "the most iconic costume designers we've ever had as well as one of the greatest illustrators and artists." You can read a tribute to Theadora on the Costume Designers Guild website.

She is most widely known for her first job as a designer in which she reinterpreted American Depression-era style for the film Bonnie and Clyde. Theadora was working as an illustrator when a friend invited her to create the fashions for "a little western over at Warner Bros" that turned out to be the runaway hit of 1967. With the success of the film, a retro trend was born. "Her designs swept the fashion world away, noted her friend, actress Helen Mirren, "and in the following years, girls all over the world were wearing the look she created for Faye Dunaway."

You can see Theadora's bank-robber chic designs for Dunaway's Bonnie Parker and Warren Beatty's Clyde Barrow in the film's trailer.

On Feb. 8, Arts President Steven D. Lavine will host an evening dedicated to the Chouinard Art Institute, one of the great early forces in the emergence of Los Angeles as an international art center. Chouinard alumna Alice Estes Davis, a renowned costume designer noted for her exceptional work with Walt Disney, will join the discussion along with Gianina Ferreyra, a filmmaker currently creating a documentary about Chouinard’s founder, Nelbert Murphy Chouinard, and her influential art school.

Last edited by cziemba on Jan 25, 2012
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