The motion picture of the year at the 2011 Academy Awards was the period film “The King’s Speech.” Besides winning in this category and many others, the film was also nominated for the wonderful costume design spearheaded by Jenny Beaven. Beaven is no stranger to Oscar nominations, having been nominated a total of nine times in her career.
The movie is set in England, on the eve of World War II. The designs for the film capture the essence of the time and the characters in a way few costumes succeed at doing. Beaven has revealed that she had only five weeks to ready the costumes before shooting began, and a very small budget to work with.
To plan, Beaven spent a lot of time researching the King, the Queen and the times they lived in. She studied photos and read biographies, learning about the couple’s favorite colors and styles while altering some of their preferences to better fit the modern audience’s tastes and expectations. It’s a challenge that any costume designer must face when designing for a historical film.
Beaven has said she does not prefer to sketch out costumes. Instead, she pulls each costume together a piece at a time, mixing and matching to achieve the desired result. In the films she works on, much of the costumes are created from found pieces that she finds at rummage shops and prop stores combined with a few pieces created new. Beaven is also known for involving the actors in their costume development by asking them to try on different costumes and accepting their input. The result is always a costume design masterpiece, as in ‘The King’s Speech.’