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Great Costuming... According to Costume Designers

The Costume Design Guild has spoken! As with all guild awards... it's a combination of "Really?" and interesting "Oh, yeah!" choices.

Clothes Horse Royals in "W.E." via Arianne Phillips

Mark Bridges for The Artist
Michael O'Connor for Jane Eyre
Sharen Davis for The Help
Sandy Powell for Hugo
Arianne Phillips for W.E.

Good news: I have an interview coming up with Arianne Phillips, who is one of my heroes. And not just because she's worked with Madonna for 15 years or so.  
Notable Omissions: AnonymousCaptain America (unless they considered it a fantasy), My Week With Marilyn, A Dangerous Method, and Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy.
Oscar transferrence? The costume designers within the Academy, a much smaller number than votes on the guild awards, tend to prefer period work to other types of work so you could theoretically see all of these nominees repeat at Oscar, though Phillips is certainly most vulnerable as her movie is probably the least seen of these. Still royalty porn goes a long way with Oscar voters and Andrea Riseborough looks like she's wearing the entire budget of the film.

Jany Temime for Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
Penny Rose for Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Cindy Evans for Red Riding Hood
Alexandra Byrne for Thor
Sammy Sheldon for X-Men: First Class

Oscar transferrence? I'm guessing the best bet here is Alexandra Byrne for Thor.
Superheroes!: Interesting to see the fantasy category overtaken by superheroes (and yes I include Harry Potter there). I wonder if they categorized Captain America here or in "period"? Either way it didn't manage a nomination.
Strangest nods: Hasn't the Harry Potter cast been wearing essentially the sameish robes for the entire franchise? I have not seen Red Riding Hood so my apologies to Cindy Evans but I found that pink dress with red coat so painful to look at in tandem (even in the space of a 2 minute trailer!)  that my face lost a little of its color reading this nomination. Maybe every other costume in the movie is enticing?

Leesa Evans and Christine Wada for Bridesmaids
Wendy Chuck for The Descendants 
Erin Benach for Drive
Trish Summerville for The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo
Manon Rasmussen for Melancholia

Yay! We figured the scorpion jacket would get its due here but it's fun to see my double feature of bridal depression nominated. 
Oscar transferrence? Unfortunately that only happens for contemporary films when the entire movie is about the clothes (see The Devil Wears Prada).
Sigh. REALLY?: The contemporary category is where you often see guilds failing to live up to their duties as awards organization and just grab at whichever FYC screeners they're loving. No offense to Wendy Chuck who has done fun work on several contemporary pictures, not just Payne's movies, but apart from Clooney's hilarious run in inappropriate shoes the costumes aren't contributing a fifth as much to the success of The Descendants (consider it this year's Slumdog Millionaire with bizarre guild triumphs) as say the costumes of Young Adult, Beginners, Shame, Crazy Stupid Love, The Iron Lady (unless they considered that "period"), Martha Marcy May Marlene or The Skin I Live In are to their movies. The contemporary categories are almost always where you see the limits of guild imagination when it comes to defining "awards worthy". It's a fancy way of saying "WE LIKE THIS MOVIE A WHOLE LOT!"

How do you like these nominations and where would your votes go?

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Reader Comments (21)

Michael O'Connor deserves all the awards just for the marvelous dress with enormous sleeves that Sally Hawkins wears quite at the beginning.

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I'm ready to give the contemporary award to Trish Summerville if only for Daniel Craig's briefs.

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

I'm surprised Captain America didn't get in. It was lovely work, I thought it did both "superhero" and "period" much better than Thor or X-Men.

Also does anyone know who did the dresses for the Bridesmaids poster? They're so perfect! It's weird that they're the defining image of the film without actually appearing in the film!

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterSVG

Nat did you know that you can buy the scorpion jacket now online? But I am starting to think it only looks cool if one looks exactly like Ryan Gosling...

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenternic

I think, with these category splits, that The Iron Lady might have been implicitly disqualified. It's not wholly period OR contemporary, so we COULD see it as a spoiler at the Oscars.

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Why do I always think that a guild would be more attuned to the work of it's own members and craft, and more aware of the difficulties/challenges of contemporary work? (It sometimes seems that some actors are more hip to that than the guild itself.)

And is it just a way of saying "we like this film" or "we like this person" and there's an element of the usual schoolground clique-ishness at play. (Are any TFE readers in the guild, or an amateur or professional costumer who could offer a little insight into this?)

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

Contemporary design is important but it does seem a lot less interesting/challenging to grab a bunch of outfits from the GAP than to recreate pieces and put all that effort and detail in clothes from previous eras.

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

I really think W.E. is safe. I mean, of all AMPAS branches, something tells me the costume branch is filled with the most members tolerant of anything Madonna. Plus, it is royalty porn.

Also, I think people are underestimating both ANONYMOUS (Variety did a recent piece highlighting the 300+ intricate costumes that had to be crafted) and HARRY POTTER (its never won and could very well sneak in if the branch wants to honor the franchise)

Personally, I’m just crossing my fingers for A DANGEROUS METHOD.

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRyanSt

Joseph, my guess would be that in the best cases, it's a lot more specific than that. I was just watching the trailer and clips for Young Adult (another one not playing in my area yet) and those choices are very very specific to the characters, such as that "Hello Kitty" t-shirt, which is now stuck in my head. Those choices are part of what make me want to see a movie.

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

Personally I think at times it can seem easier to do period clothes? You've got books fashion plates and portraiture to use as starting points (later, photography); and if you get details wrong for the period, the only people who will complain are the "historic costume nerds" (I'm one of those, btw.)

And the 1930's are really, really hard to screw up. Sure it can be done, but that decade was when many designers were doing their best work, women's fashions were more graceful than in the decade before and after. It almost seems an easy "get".

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJanice

That's the problem: The Academy and guilds seem envious almost entirely of the stitching process, not character specific work and don't focus on what makes contemporary work good because of it. Drive I get, Bridesmaids and Melancholia I kind of get, haven't seen The Descendents, but I don't get The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo at all. 1. The lighting draws attention toward their faces and away from their clothes. 2. Oh, yeah, toss a leather jacket on our main hero and clad everyone else in bland sweaters. News flash: For contemporary movies: If it's not something like The Devil Wears Prada, either 1. Keep a careful eye out for licensed/logoed shirts. If you see a logo/license, look up what that is and what that might say about the character. 2. After step one's done, consider if the costumes actually help sell the movie and characters or are just there so we're not looking at nude people. 3. Consider whether these thoughts would change your view on whether the film might actually deserve to break into the actual category. 4. If, all Academy member Costume Designers reading, even after you all go through deep thought processes for five years, there isn't a year where two works of modern costume design manage to get in, maybe you should actually lobby to split this category into "Modern" and "Period/Fantasy".

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterVolvagia

Nat, you do realize that most of the characters, at least the younger characters in Harry Potter, are not actually wearing robes. They're wearing more contemporary clothing, though each more in-keeping with their characters. You could argue have been wearing pretty much the same costumes since the beginning, but the series has done a pretty good job with the variety of costumes on the younger characters. I've always admired that about Harry Potter. Also, I feel like the costumes in The Descendants says a lot about where these people are and how accostumed they are to being there. It's rare that we see a George Clooney character in beach clothing. I'm not saying that makes it awards-worthy, but it's something to consider.

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRichter Scale

The one nice thing I can say about Red Riding Hood is that the costumes are good. That's it.

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterRobert G

Very happy that W.E. scored the nom here!

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMirko

Very happy for Bridesmaids. Those costumes wouldn't have been any better if they had been designed by Lady St-Petsois Juju herself.

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterEvan

I think it's quite possible that the Oscar nominees end up being an exact replica of the period nominees here, although I wouldn't be surprised to see either The Help or W.E. left out in favor of something else (My Week with Marilyn, perhaps).

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJohn-Paul

Yet again, the contemporary category is disappointing as you say. "Drive", "Bridesmaids" and that stunning wedding dress from "Melancholia" are all highly deserving, but the others? I got a kick out of each of Daniel Craig's impeccably tailored vests and jackets, but the entire look of the film is unoriginal, an adaptation of the original film. "The Descendants" on the other hand is down right offensive! All those wacky Hawaiian shirts (in a film set on Hawaii!) are just so impressive? That's crazy.

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

"Hanna" really deserved to be in the comtemporary category. It's really brilliant work that gives wonderfully subtle nods to the fairy-tale aspects of the story.

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterLiz N.

the dress in "red riding hood' is lavender, not pink. i thought the choice was beautiful.

January 19, 2012 | Unregistered Commenterjay c

These are very up and down, aren't they? W.E., Jane Eyre and nearly all the Contemporary nominees are pretty great choices. I say 'nearly' because that nod for The Descendants reeks of 'we love the movie!' because those costumes were thoughtless in much of the same way many other aspects of that movie were as well. I mean, Hawaiian shirts + khaki shorts + sandals for a film set in Hawaii? Ground breaking. /Miranda Priestly voice

Also, this is one of those years where you could have 10 final nominees for the Oscar and you'd still leave out some great work by some very gifted and clever costumers. Anonymous, Captain America, A Dangerous Method, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Young Adult, Beginners, Shame, Crazy Stupid Love, The Iron Lady, The Skin I Live In and Immortals -- among just the snubs. It just becomes a personal preference game at that point.

And I love Sandy Powell like no other but even I'd make her sit out this year for Hugo, which is nowhere near her best work. Ditto Mark Bridges who does solid work for The Artist but nothing spectacular. Captain America's costumes were so amazing, I'd hate to see any of the other superhero movies make it in instead, should we must have one represented. I could go on and on about the costume talking points for 2011 but this reply is long enough already. ;)

January 20, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMark

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February 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterJulie K.
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