If you’ve felt that major television and movie productions’ costume quality has declined recently, you aren’t alone. In a Facebook post that’s amassed over three thousand shares, wig maker and hairstylist Nolan Yost shared his thoughts on the decline of production quality and what he calls, “the Shein era of mass media.”
In his post, Yost places blame on new studio systems that prioritize pushing out new content as fast as possible to grab huge fan bases. This push, he says, is shortening pre-production time frames and lessening budgets to compensate for the extra costs of rushing departments to meet quicker production deadlines.
“I can’t speak professionally for set design or VFX and cinematography, but I can say that the toll it takes on costuming and hair/makeup has made almost every new release from Amazon, Netflix, and Hulu have a B-movie visual quality,” Yost stated.
“It’s becoming harder and harder to ignore the more we’re flooded with it.”
Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings vs. Amazon’s Rings of Power
Yost starts by highlighting something a lot of us fans have loved about Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy: the costumes.
“The production spent years hand-making every single piece of armor with real metal, hand-dyeing all-natural fiber fabrics, and designing distinct embroidery and hairstyles specific to each race in Middle Earth that had continuity through the story,” Yost said.
“The natural dyes and dedicated layers of fabrics for elves, for hobbits, wool/dyes, and for men a much more muted/medieval look, yet ethereal because of the slight detail you don’t really notice, but the depth draws your eye to every inch of the costume regardless.”
These qualities, he says, played a big part in the trilogy aging so well despite being made 20+ years ago. He then shifts his gaze to Amazon’s billion-dollar Lord of the Rings series, The Rings of Power. The shift in costume quality, he says, is all too noticeable.
“They barely scrapped together an unnaturally gilded scale mail breastplate and just screen printed a stretched long sleeve shirt to match underneath, all over a skirt in a single layer of a warped poly skirt. [In the second image] they just saved money on an Elven wig altogether for a 2022 pompadour, with a velvet pleated priest smock (with crushed parts not even steamed out), and a neckline that isn’t tailored to fit like we’ve seen previously with Elrond or Celeborn,” Yost pointed out.
House of the Dragon‘s Wigs
Yost then turned his attention to House of the Dragon, or more specifically, the show’s wigs. Yost isn’t the first person to point out how painfully obvious it is that the actors are wearing wigs, though. He offers some explanation on why we notice it more in this series than we did in Game of Thrones.
Besides those few episodes, before Viserys was gifted his (molten) golden crown by Khal Drogo, Game of Thrones‘ only white blonde-haired Targaryen was Daenerys. One set of high-quality, human hair wigs for a single character is doable, but for House of the Dragon, this would have been incredibly expensive, Yost reasons. Most likely, House of the Dragon decided to go with synthetic wigs instead because of the number of characters sporting the iconic blonde hairdos every episode.
“The problem is that synthetic hair reflects light throughout the whole hair shaft and it tangles extremely easily. With any shot where a character isn’t actively moving or is performing dialogue and the hair isn’t being actively smoothed down every couple of second between shots, each flyaway is going to show up on camera if there’s any indirect lighting and look messy. Not only that, synthetic hair is also twice as thick per strand than human hair, so regardless of that the wigs are going to look bulky in an uncanny valley sort of way,” Yost explained.
These Costumes Won’t Age Well
These shortcuts studios are taking to meet deadlines are going to have lasting effects, Yost predicts. Rather than age like fine wine (like the Lord of the Rings trilogy), it’s going to be painfully obvious where studios cut back on costume budgets when viewers rewatch some of these major productions in 15 to 20 years.
“It’s been noticeable af with Marvel the last few years, and it’s been super noticeable recently with every new show that gets rushed through to filming in order to get a release date within 1-2 years of a green light. But it’s going to be so f–ing awful in 15-20 years looking back at all the potentially great but cheaply made media from this time period, the Shein era of mass media.”