The LAMB Devours the Oscars 2020 – Best Costume Design

by Rob · February 8, 2020 · 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, Jeanette Ward of The Mundane Adventures Of A Fangirl is here to look at the nominees for Best Costume Design.

Thanks Jeanette!

Costime Design

The Academy Award for Costume Design is supposed to go to the costume designer who ‘conceived’ the best costumes for their movie. I find this an interesting statement since the award seems to regularly go to the designer who does the best job of mimicking historically accurate costumes in a period drama. The word conceived to me means that they invented something new or created something that has not been seen before. When I think of amazing costumes, I usually think about sci-fi masterpieces and out-of-this world epics, which seem to be more in the vein of designers creating new and original ideas – Jean-Paul Gautier’s work in The Fifth Element, for example. Occasionally a fantasy or more genre-based film will win, but period dramas dominate the winners. The academy prefers a nominee who accurately recreates something and adds just enough of a touch to personalize it and the characters.

Past winners included Gladiator, Moulin Rouge, Chicago, Lord of the Rings Return of the King, The Aviator, Memoirs of a Geisha, The Duchess, The Young Victoria, Alice in Wonderland, The Artist, Anna Karenina, The Great Gatsby, Mad Max Fury Road, and of course, Black Panther. There are five nominees for the 2020 ceremony:

The Irishman (Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson)

The costumes in The Irishman are literally mobster suits from a few decades ago. The movie traces a story from 1949 through 2000 and the outfits and costumes are time-accurate for the characters throughout the eras. Sandy Powell has worked on The Wolf of Wall Street and The Aviator, and her talent for recreation of these types of garments is proven.

This is an example of the costume designer understanding the story and using the clothes to enhance the characters. The costumes ensured that the union leaders/mobsters looked effective and quietly intimidating. The darker colors allow them to blend in but still look powerful. The details in the tie jewelry and cufflinks were all considered. It’s a wonderful job, but is it award-worthy?

Jojo Rabbit (Mayes C. Rubeo)

On the flip side of the mostly dark suits of The Irishman are the bright and surprisingly vibrant colors of Jojo Rabbit. Mayes Rubeo was born in Mexico City and has made history as the first Latina to be nominated for a costumes Oscar. She worked on Thor: Ragnarok and again here pairs with Taika Waititi. The designs are carefully researched. The colors and costumes shift throughout the movie as the boy at the center of the story sees his worldview change.

Even as some of the surroundings get darker and a more measured palette, Scarlett Johansson’s character of the boy’s mother stays vivid throughout. This is a perfect example of the costumes reflecting the viewpoint of the lead of the story.

Joker (Mark Bridges)

I don’t want to get in to why this shouldn’t be a movie – this is a character that requires no backstory and certainly should not be humanized (okay, I guess I will get into it a little). However, since the movie is nominated for just about everything, of course it is also nominated for best costume design. The story is set in 1981 Gotham City and the majority of the city and its inhabitants are dark and gritty.

Mark Bridges made the choice to dress Joaquim Phoenix’s Arthur in dismal and dingy colors, as if he did laundry poorly, mixing his colors and his whites. I have to say, I really appreciate that bit from Bridges, and again, it shows how a skilled costume designer lets the character build the costume even if it seems simple. The outfits are designed to reflect the shift in Arthur’s mentality as he gets closer to full-out Joker. The final costume is a 1970s style suit that incorporates bits from his previous clown-work, the vest and the tie stay with him and are incorporated as he shifts into complete crazy.

Little Women (Jacqueline Durran)

This entry is one that demonstrates some of the Academy’s favorite costuming qualities: striking, period-drama gorgeous outfits. The March sisters in the story, Meg, Jo, Amy, and Beth, are dressed in middle-class but intricate clothes by Jacqueline Durran. She also made an effort to have each sister have slightly different style throughout the story.

Durran stated she started by creating a ‘mood board’ by looking at period-accurate paintings. The background of the film is more neutral and the girls each have a color palette, but not one that is restrictive. Meg is green and lavender, Beth is brown and pink, Amy is light blue, and Jo is red and indigo. Using that framework, Durran crafted various looks for each that would also reflect their personality. The work is stunning and the details are lovely.

Once Upon A Time…In Hollywood (Arianne Phillips)

Arianne Phillips did costume design for The Crow and Tank Girl as well as Hedwig and the Angry Inch, so her skill is glam-rock-based. In this 1969 set movie, she recreates some iconic looks from late 60s Hollywood. Even if the details of the costuming are not seen on film, Phillips hoped they would help the actors find the characters. This includes necklaces, jewelry, and belt buckles.

Phillips used a lot of yellow in the costumes for the movie because it was commonly used in the 60s and she feels it represents California. All the clothes for the leads were hand made. Sharon Tate’s sister actually lent some jewelry pieces to the production so that Margot Robbie could be wearing some of Sharon’s pieces while playing Sharon.

Who Should Win:

In my opinion, Michael Kaplan should win this category for Star Wars Episode IX: The Rise of Skywalker. Of course, he’s not even nominated, so I clearly do not know what I am talking about.

Kaplan costumed multiple creatures and characters in unique and wonderful costumes that ranged from practical (Rey’s practice outfit and Finn’s action-ready general outfit) to implausible (there’s an entire planet of aliens in celebratory clothes).

Not to mention that Palpatine finally got some fancy red-lined evil robes, Lando shows up in the slickest cape this side of Ryloth, and Naomi Ackie’s Jannah is wearing an outfit suitable for her life of riding alien horse-type creatures across wild plains. Keri Russell’s new character Zorii has a form-fitting helmeted getup that would be perfect for a potential spin-off Disney+ show – just sayin’…

Who Will Win:

I am a little surprised that 1917 is not nominated, since it seems to have dominated a lot of the more ‘technical’ awards. I believe that Little Women and Jacqueline Durran will win here. The Academy loves a historical drama, and this one has the splashiest and most visually stunning costumes of those nominated. All the designers did excellent work, and after putting this together, I have a new respect for the work they do to make the costumes both reflect and influence the characters. I think Little Women is going to be the winner. As a side note, because I am always thinking of ways to make the show itself more interesting – there was one year where they essentially had a fashion show of the nominated movies’ costumes. I really wish they would bring that back so that you could see what was nominated and why.