Academy Awards Project: Best Costume
Lines can be said. Lighting can be set. Sets can be made. The last pieces of the illusion that cinema can carry while on set (excluding post-production wizardry) are from the costume department (we will do Makeup & Hairstyling down the road). Usually, you will find period piece films in this category, mostly because the ability to make the garments of yesteryear is a great one. This year is no different, with some solid dressmaking skill found in all of the candidates. I am not a fashion expert, but I can discern how strong each costume is when it comes to making a film’s impact stronger. Here are the nominees for Best Costume, ranked from worst to best.
Biggest Snub: Crazy Rich Asians
The amount of regal outfits in this film is borderline countless. The amount of events here, where most of the participants appear in a new get up each time makes for a daunting task for a costume designer. What makes each person pop at each event every single time? What makes the less fortunate lead character stand out, especially when she is granted an outfit that finally matches the expectations of the snobby elite? A great costume designer can fulfill all of this, and Crazy Rich Asians has that with Mary E. Vogt.
5. Black Panther-Ruth Carter
For once, last place here isn’t an indication of a bad nominee. Black Panther goes a bit further than your typical super hero film in this department, especially because of the volume of people in the universe here. All of the Wakanda citizens have brilliantly designed outfits that, once again, connect nature with the future. Yeah, this being in last place means this is one hell of a category.
4. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs-Mary Zophres
I honestly think the outfits in Black Panther are better, but The Ballad of Buster Scruggs gets the extra edge because of the different costumes for each of the different stories. Each tale gets a different wardrobe (naturally), but you can see minor differences in each. Are clothes coated in dust? Stained by food? Prim and proper, as if it were brand new? Obvious care was taken for each of these combinations, and it certainly does elevate this anthological spectacle to new heights.
3. Mary Poppins Returns-Sandy Powell
At first, this seems like the weakest category. However, I think you might be overlooking how many bloody people are in this film (extras included). There are clear differences between the middle class and the upper class when it comes to what they wear (and how they wear it). You can see who is a part of which social infrastructure based on what they wear alone. Also, there is the Poppins herself, whose adventures spawn new clothes for her and her fellow travellers. Yeah. This film has some great costume design.
2. Mary Queen of Scots-Alexandra Byrne
It’ll be hard to disparage this film when it comes to its costume designing. A major component of what kept you going (outside of the two lead performances) is the costume department (as well as the makeup and hairstyling; a topic for another day). This is because of the many exotic dresses that Mary and Elizabeth wear, as well as the variety of outfits that Mary herself dons (including sleepwear, too). This is an exemplary case of costume design in a period piece film (there’s always at least one each year); what more can be said?
1. The Favourite-Sandy Powell
Yeah, The Favourite sneaks into first place for this category, because these costumes are well beyond your typical period piece film’s costumes. The tiniest amount of detailing in each and every outfit is unbelievable. The cinematography pairs up with these combinations perfectly, because you can see all of these tiny inclusions leap off of the screen. Guaranteed, you won’t know where to look the first time you see The Favourite. These aren’t meant for the screen. These are meant to be believed. This is the work of a master, and that is what Sandy Powell is (who has been nominated twice this year for this category). These costumes are more serious than the caricatures that wear them, and this contrast makes them the best costumes of the year.
Our Predicted Winner: I think The Favourite has this one in the bag; if you believe a period piece will win this category yet again, the only other major threat is Mary Queen of Scots.
Our Academy Awards Project is an ongoing series that will continue until all the categories have been ranked and reviewed. Tune in Monday to Saturday for a new category each day.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.