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Wednesday
Aug232017

Emmy Review: Outstanding Period/Fantasy Costumes

by Nathaniel R

The television Academy split up the costume categories at the Emmys just a few years ago. Given that all awards bodies default to period work over contemporary work if they have a choice between the two (sigh) it's good that they did this. Now contemporary costumes will be able to actually win prizes! This period category, then, feels more like a continuation of the original Emmy category "Outstanding Costumes for a Series"

The nominees are...

 

  • The Crown "Wolferton Dplash" (S1E1)
  • Feud: Bette and Joan "And the Winner is" (S1E5)
  • Genius: Albert Einstein: "Chapter Seven" (S1E7)
  • The Handmaid's Tale "Offred" (S1E1)
  • Westworld "The Original" (S1E1) 

Will Win: Emmy voters have not typically had much imagination when picking costume winners, usually going for the flashiest and/or oldest time period available to them. Note their preference for shows like Rome, The Borgias, and Boardwark Empire and their refusal to give the statue to the genius execution of less ancient history in Mad Men. If they go for flashiest, expect to see a win for Feud.

On the other hand they also heavily preference HBO shows for this win --even shows that aren't widely loved like, say, Carnivale. So in a tight field I'm giving the razor thin edge to Westworld. Trish Summerville has made a name for herself in movies as a hip contemporary and futuristic designer (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl, Hunger Games: Catching Fire) but Westworld really pushes her range in new and multiple directions since there are essentially two worlds on view. Westworld, for all its fetishistic violence, is also really obsessed with the beauty of its leading ladies Evan Rachel Wood and Thandie Newton. This makes the costuming work on them extra fetishistic or at least ultra-noticeable. In a way they're indestructable superheroes only their altar ego is a blank slate beauty in a birthday suit, and when they don their familiar costume, we're looking at Super Cowgirl and Badass Brothel Whore cosplay. 

Should Win: This is a tough call. There are no eyebrow raising nominations. Given this field of riches I'm torn betwen the two nominations that couldn't be further apart aesthetically. If you think for a moment on it, there are many ways where the costuming and design of The Handmaid's Tale could have gone wrong. Most dystopic universes opt for drab miserabilism. Not this show. The costume team works surprisingly versatile variations with this world's state-mandated color palettes (greens for wives, bold red for handmaids, browns for aunts, blacks for security, and so on. It's all executed with such panache that the simplicity felt instantly iconic when the show premiered  

We swing from futuristic highly regimented imagination to the glamorous recreations of Old Hollywood in Feud. Polar opposites! Feud chose to submit the Oscar night episode which was a very smart move. It gives this reliably exciting team (Lou Eyrich has won three Emmys for American Horror Story) a lot of famous looks to approximate, especially Joan Crawford's all silver get-up (which gets its own showcase scene as she preps for the ceremony). The episode looked like a gargantuan task on nearly every tech level (that tracking shot through the Oscar theater!), which can count for a lot when it comes to awards: 'always let them see you sweat,' if you will. Isn't it funny that Feud has a conversation about this very thing? In a later episode Joan lashes out as Bette telling her she only wins awards because the Academy can always see her effort, her ACTING is visible. 

Could Win: Given that Genius has the lowest profile in this category, that's the only win that would be shocking. Virtually anything might prevail. If I'm wrong about Westworld  surprising, I'd call this a dead heat between the Hollywood glamour of Feud and the royalty porn of The Crown. Either way, this is one category where I'd love to see vote totals because most of the nominees were very well liked across the board and none of them would be embarrassing as a winner. 

Which show do you think is best dressed? 

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Reader Comments (12)

I love The Crown so much. It was one of the shows that has high production value from the set to the costumes, and watching it almost felt like watching a movie. On paper it sounds boring (a typical biopic about the queen), but in reality it was executed so perfectly it never felt that way. Never have I imagined I would be so fascinated by a royal family that was not even from my country. I also thought John Lithgow would win Supporting Actor. He is respected in the industry and also had won the SAG.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPJ

This category is well represented! My knee-jerk choice is The Handmaid's Tale. Atwood's world was brought to life so well, and every dress and wing felt like its own character.

But my prediction is The Crown.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSpencer

Handmaid's Tale and Westworld are the ones in which costuming is integral to the show's character and narrative, so I'm pulling for either one, but I assume The Crown will win (because it is the classiest and most polished looking of the nominees).

I get the notion that flashy wins, but if flashy skews toward campy, it usually loses. If not even Dynasty's persistent fabulousness and awesome hats only scored one win (in a tie), would Feud manage to buck the trend?

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

Don't fool yourself.
The Crown is going to win this. And production design too.
Hopefully Drama series as well.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

This feels like The Crown to me, although The Handmaid's Tale would be a handsome winner.

Honestly though, the Emmy's costume branch is worthless seeing as they didn't manage to give Janie Bryant a single Emmy in the seven seasons she knocked it out of the park for Mad Men.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

I would pick Westworld or The Handmaid's Tale. The costuming feels so integral to their respective shows. I'd probably give a slight edge to Westworld, but would be happy with The Handmaid's Tale winning.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBrian

I loved The Crown... I would like to see it win. I really think all the nominees are award worthy.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered Commenternatalie

I love that tracking shot in the Feud Oscars episode! Gave me a major "Goodfellas" vibe.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJakey

The Crown is so winning this. Same designer as Game of Thrones, too.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

I loved The Crown the way I loved Downton Abbey, but again, something original and fresh would be nice from Emmy voters. So, fingers crossed for The Handmaid's Tale.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPam

Feud actually managed when it comes to costumes to be colorful and glamorous but not indulgent. So I pick Feud.

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