Reviewer Valerie Porter: Valerie is a freelance magazine writer and co-author of 5 books. She has also been a freelance book reviewer for a weekly Los Angeles newspaper and has written her own book blog.
She is an avid reader of fiction and non-fiction.
Beyond the beads and sequins, the glitzy parties and awards shows in New York and Hollywood, there lies the very serious profession of costume designing, as explained in The Naked Truth, by multi-award-winning designer Jean-Pierre Dorleac.
Not that there aren’t delightfully entertaining examples of the glamorous and fun side – those are plentiful. But he reveals, through personal stories, the truth about the 14-hour days, the last-minute changes, working miracles on a small budget, and the hopes of pleasing a multitude of producers, directors and stars. And though he has had a highly successful career, he doesn’t shy away from talking about the jobs he almost got, or the movies that failed. The only complaint is that it stops when it feels there is more to tell, which is a tribute to his writing.
The book opens in 1973. His career is already underway and he wins the Los Angeles Drama Critics Circle award for costume design. Over the years, as the book progresses, his career expands into many more plays, television shows and films, most of which the reader will remember vividly.
What’s intriguing is the way Dorleac interweaves celebrity stories and encounters with the real art and business of designing, from first idea to the actual production and beyond. It’s exciting to take his journey as his personal “star” begins to shine even more brightly with time.
The book is lengthy, but very fast reading, told in a chatty tone that doesn’t hesitate to be funny and touching, but also brutally honest, if not downright bitchy, in a delicious way.
The names read like a “Who’s Who” of Hollywood past and present, including Edith Head, Lana Turner, Louis Jordan, Ann Miller, Jane Seymour, June Lockhart, Henry Fonda, Brooke Shields, Christopher Reeve and Christopher Plummer, to name but a very few who are included. There are tales of the darlings and the divas – a couple of them quite surprising. This isn’t “name-dropping”, however – these are the people he knew - the people he worked with and was friends with.
The Naked Truth should be mandatory reading for anyone considering a career in fashion or design. It should not only prepare them for the reality of design, but also inspire them to go forward. But film, stage and television lovers will be thrilled by the insider stories, too. It may well change the way we look at any production from now on.