The Lamb Devours the Oscars 2021 – Best Costume Design

by Rob · April 24, 2021 · LAMB Devours the Oscars, Periodic Features · 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 back again to look at the nominees for Best Costume Design.

Thanks again Jeanette!

2021 LAMB Devours the Oscars: Costume Design

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences first gave an award for Best Costume Design in 1949 to Hamlet for the Black-and-White movie winner and Joan of Arc for the Color movie winner.  The two categories were merged in 1958 and the winner that year was Les Girls.  Traditionally, the Costume Design Oscar goes to a movie that is a period piece, awarding the costume designer who best recreates historical clothing. Occasionally, something with vision and fantastical designs takes the prize like Ruth E. Carter’s win for Black Panther in 2019.  This year, there are five nominees, all of which feature period-piece historical designs.  

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (Ann Roth)

Ann Roth is 89 years old and has won Oscars and Tonys for her costume designs and was nominated for an Emmy.  If she wins (she’s the favorite), she would be the oldest winner in the category.  In this movie, the costumes help recreate the lush sets of the 20s blues clubs where the band performs.  With only 8 known photographs of the real Ma Rainey in existence, Roth’s job was key in filling out the look of the movie.

Roth also found inspiration in paintings of Harlem residents from the 20s. The jewelry and clothes together helped support the characters’ backstories while providing depth to the scenes. Everything is painstakingly created and fits flawlessly with the actors’ performances to create an immersive look to the film.

Emma. (Alexandra Byrne)

Alexandra Byrne has worked on multiple adaptations of Jane Austen works and specializes in Elizabethan and Regency eras of England. With a story that has been adapted so many times, it can be difficult to try to bring something new to the movie that makes the look stand out. Byrne brought in bold colors and worked to find clothes that looked nearly edible. She knew she did not have to be museum accurate, but the clothes needed to look correct. 

The costumes in this movie enhance and work with the story, but never pull focus from it.

Mank (Trish Summerville)

Because Mank is set in 30s Hollywood, the clothes needed to be accurate to the glamor of the time and location. Trish Summerville used the monochrome setting on her phone to check the costumes as she was creating them to make sure they would work in the black-and-white movie. Colors that would have looked odd in a colored movie worked better in the black-and-white setting. 

She worked to make sure the outfits looked extravagant without being over the top and needed to find the right colors to use so that things did not fade into the background in a monochromatic setting.

Mulan (Bina Daigeler)

German designer Bina Daigeler created more than 2,000 different garments for the live-action Mulan. There has been some backlash towards her – a white German woman – creating items for a historical Chinese setting, especially after she stated the research she did was visiting Chinese collections in museums and then visiting China for three weeks to ‘soak up the culture’. That certainly makes her sound out of touch.  The costumes are beautiful and certainly add to the look of the film, but were there really no Chinese costume designers that could have been hired?

Pinocchio (Massimo Cantini Parrini)

Massimo Cantini Parrini owns more than 4,000 antique clothes and got to use some of his own collection for this dark but true to the original story version of Pinocchio.  The movie is just on the edge of fantastical realism as it tells the story of the puppet who wants to be real.  Parrini researched photographs of the mid 1800s art movements in Tuscany, using that to inspire some of the designs.

Honestly, I did not know this movie was released. It was apparently a huge hit in Italy, and a critical hit here, but not widely seen. 

Will Win: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Roth has been doing this a long time and has been winning several this year so she’s the safe bet for your office Oscar pool.

Should Win:  Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

This is a tough call, because I have not seen all these movies. The clothes in Ma Rainey’s are spectacular and lush and absolutely add to each of the characters, but I like the fact that the designer on Mank had to find the best colors to use even when the colors were not going to show in the final product.  Here’s hoping that next year we get a nominee that is something a little more fantastical and not just another five period pieces.