The LAMB Devours the Oscars 2018: Costume Design

by Jay Cluitt · February 25, 2018 · Featured, LAMB Devours the Oscars · No Comments

Every day until the Oscars ceremony we’ll be highlighting a different category or movie here on the LAMB! Here’s a link to all the posts written so far:

Today, Le Anne Lindsay from Tinsel & Tine is here to look at the nominees for Best Costume Design.

When it comes to the artistic elements instrumental in rounding out and truly creating the feel of a movie or film, like Production Design, Cinematography and Music, what captures my attention more often than the others is Costume Design. I was not a fan of Carol by Todd Haynes, yet I remember the color palate of each dress and outfit worn by Cate Blanchett & Rooney Mara, and those fabulous furs. I thought Charlize Theron’s Atomic Blonde probably could have gone straight to video, except for the fact that she sported the coolest, mod spy outfits and coats in every scene. Say what you will about Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl, but my God, those flapper style dresses in the second half of the movie are superb! And I still get chills every time I see Julia Roberts in that stunning red dress emerging from the elevator with Richard Gere.

Costume Designer Jacqueline Durran is honored with double nominations this year, her 5th & 6th for Beauty and the Beast and Darkest Hour. Durran was previously nominated for: Pride & Prejudice (2005), Atonement (2007) Mr. Turner (2014) & Anna Karenina (2012) for which she won the Academy Award.

Beauty and the Beast

In creating the costumes for Beauty and the Beast, Durran was tasked with staying true to the original animation, trying to reflect 18th century France, and maintaining the, oh so important, enchanting magic of Disney. I think most of us who were big fans of the animated Beauty and the Beast feel pleased with the live version of Belle’s ball gown. Durran said it was quite difficult to find the exact right yellow that not only looked right to the eye, but filmed the same color under the lights. It also needed to move freely and leave Emma Watson unencumbered. For the Beast, the challenge was his size, having to construct clothes to fit this body that wasn’t human. For a long time she didn’t know what shape he was going to be or how he was going to move and how the costumes needed to work to enable him to move. I found it interesting that the concept for the Beast’s costume during the “Tale As Old As Time” dance was to imagine the objects of the castle created his suit for him because they wanted him to look attractive to Belle. So rather than embroidered gold accents, Durran decided all accents should be painted on, as if Plumette had painted it himself.

Darkest Hour

A lot has been made about Best actor nominee Gary Oldman’s transformation to become Winston Churchill. Jacqueline Durran had a hand in that, working alongside director Joe Wright, special effects artist Kazuhiro Tsuji and Oldman himself; they spent six months experimenting and developing the various components that made up the character, before they even began filming. One of Churchill’s most famous quotes is “my tastes are simple: I am easily satisfied with the best” this was certainly true when it came to his wardrobe – having his clothes made by the best tailors on Savile Row in London, which became the starting point for Durran, working with the bespoke tailors Henry Poole & Co. who still offer the chalk stripe fabric that was made especially for the prime minister – it is even still woven in the same Fox Brothers mill. Turnbull & Asser was called on to make shirts and that familiar spotty bow tie. There’s a scene in Darkest Hour where a wall of Churchill’s hats are displayed and he’s selecting which style to wear, those hats are from Lock & Co Hatters of 6 St. James’s Street, which made Churchill’s vast selection of headwear. Winston Churchill was also synonymous with smoking cigars, Oldman visited Churchill’s favorite, the James J. Fox cigar shop to research this aspect of the character as well. To this day, one of the customary cigar sizes for Cuban cigars is called ‘Churchill’ a long seven-inches and thick 47 ring gauge.

Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread takes place in 1950’s London and is about a very fussy fashion designer named Reynolds Woodcock, played by Daniel Day-Lewis, who despite being a royal pain in the pin cushion, is a genius at his craft. The very nature of the movie is meant to evoke oohs and ahhhs of dress porn perfection. Costume Designer Mark Bridges normally works on more contemporary movies like the Fifty Shades trilogy and Silver Linings Playbook. However, for this film he got to create over 50 garments, all constructed from scratch in the traditional couture manner – mostly beautiful post war, high fashion dresses. He also created a large wardrobe of things for Daniel Day Lewis and just let the actor put together what he wanted to wear from that wardrobe; because he felt the super method actor would prefer this for getting into character.  Which I imagine he did, as I also read before the film’s shoot, Day-Lewis spent months learning traditional dressmaking techniques, by attending an apprenticeship in the costume department at the New York City Ballet, where he painstakingly re-created a 1950s Balenciaga gown — using his wife, writer/filmmaker Rebecca Miller, as a model. 

The Shape of Water

When two of your main characters are janitors and one wears gills, where do you start with costumes? For Costume Designer Luis Sequeira it was to get inspired by fabrics, travelling to New York, Philadelphia, Montreal, Toronto, on vintage fabric shopping trips. Mixing textures and patterns to bring depth to the costumes despite the drab color palette needed to depict the Cold War era time period and the depressing, brown and gray lab where “The Asset” is kept. Sequeira did get to have a little fun with Sally Hawkins character Elisa when it came to her foot wear. Despite her meager earnings, he felt that the only thing Elisa really spent a lot of money on were shoes. So he gave her a little bit of a shoe fetish. And then there’s the musical dream sequence, if Elisa’s fantasy reminded you of Ginger Rogers in Top Hat that was intentional. Only Sequeira didn’t want to recreate Roger’s exact dress, just pay homage, while creating something unique for Hawkins. He explains, “The dress itself had four layers. We started out with a lace overlay, with a chiffon, then underneath, there were sequins that kind of emulated the creature’s lights. Then we put the crystals over top, so as she moved — like he moved — you would see this shimmering body.”

Victoria and Abdul

Director Stephen Frears examines an unexpected friendship between the titular monarch Queen Victoria (Judi Dench) and a servant, Abdul Karim (Ali Fazal) who travels from British-ruled India to England for the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 1887 and remains in England as the Quee’s faithful “Munshi” until the time of her death, spanning 14 years. You would think the fact that the movie takes place in the Victorian era would easily set the style of costume, but the Victorian era goes from early 1830’s to early 1900’s, fashion changes quite a bit in 70 years; fashions change quite a bit in 14 years. Costume Designer Consolata Boyle began with the Jubilee which had been well documented so everything had to be immaculately researched and correct for every costume in the room. Queen Victoria was in a period of mourning at the start of the film, so Judy Dench is dressed in a lot of black, however, Victoria’s clothes were very heavily decorated, so that helped to give the gowns texture. Boyle also had access to many of Queen Victoria’s actual gowns, as in the years that followed her death her garments were archived and kept hidden from daylight. Many are on display in London museums. As the story evolves and the Queen’s friendship with Abdul deepens, Boyle was able to creep in elements of color: black-brown, grey-black into the Queen’s wardrobe. For Abdul, you see in the movie when he and the other servant arrive, they are given costumes concocted by what an English tailor would imagine a servant to royalty in India might wear. But as he’s elevated to the position of Munshi, Consolata was able to introduce clothing more genuinely Indian and exotic.

I think all four designers did a magnificent job, as costumes are so important to the development of a character. I do however, believe the Oscar will go to Mark Bridges due to the nature of Phantom Thread being set in the fashion industry. But we’ll see how it goes down on March 4th!

What do you think is going to win?


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