The biggest night in the film year is undoubtedly the Oscars. The 2017 Oscars, also known as the Academy Awards, will be held on 26th February and recently, the nominations for the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, a prestigious prize won previously by the likes Renie Conley for her work in Cleopatra, were announced. Helen Beaumont looks at each of the contenders below…
La La Land
The musical La La Land follows the love story between jazz pianist Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) and struggling actress Mia (Emma Stone). Its costume designer, Mary Zophres, wanted the characters to woo the audience. She drew on classic movie musical fashion to achieve this aim. Zophres’ used everything from two tone shoes to sexy blue halter dresses, to inject some jazz glamour. La La Land has been a big hit with audiences and critics alike, so it’s a shoe in for the costume design Oscar.
But La La Land faces some stiff competition in Jackie, a film about US First Lady Jackie Kennedy (Natalie Portman). Madeline Fontaine was its costume designer and she intrinsically knew that when dressing a character who existed in real life, you need to be painstakingly accurate. Fontaine researched Jackie Kennedy’s style extensively, re-creating legendary looks like the Chanel pink suit she wore when her husband was assassinated and the Dior red dress she donned for her first White House interview meticulously. Fontaine could easily walk away with the Oscar, as she helped turn Natalie into Jackie.
The latest Harry Potter film, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, is a strong contender for the Oscar. It whisked viewers away to 1920s magical New York, as ‘Magizoologist’ Newt Scamander (Eddie Redmayne) battled the forces of evil and it’s designer, Colleen Atwood used costumes expertly. Everything from the grey ensembles donned by the New Salemers anti-magic group, to the flapper fashions of free-spirited Queenie Goldstein (Fine Frenzy) revealed key insight into the characters.
Audiences were gripped by Allied’s story of World War Two intelligence officers Max (Brad Pitt) and Marianne (Marion Cotilliard), as they fell in love on a mission. Allied could easily take the Oscar, as designers Joanna Johnston and Robert Zemeckis skilfully moved the narrative along through clothing. The Marianne character is a classic example. In Casablanca, she wears a chic, graphic wardrobe. But in London, where goes under another identity, this is swapped out for a cooler, darker wardrobe characterised by muddled patterns and wools, emphasising the confused nature of her double life.
Florence Foster Jenkins
Florence Foster Jenkins, which follows the real-life story of an eponymous heroine (Meryl Streep), as she pursues a singing career in 1940s New York, could grab the Oscar. Its designer Consolata Boyle has collaborated with Streep many times and this helped the two craft a distinct look on this project. She dressed Streep in outrageous clothing, complete with tiaras, elaborate jewellery, fur coats, silk dresses and even feather fans. By taking the wardrobe to this extreme, Boyle clearly helped Streep get into character, allowing the famously talented star to embody the ridiculousness that defines Florence.
It’s unclear who’ll take home the Academy Award for Best Costume Design at the Oscars. Everyone on this list has crafted distinctive looks, which communicate their characters’ key traits to viewers, while moving the production’s narrative along. This just shows that there is more talent in the modern costume design industry than ever before and whoever clinches the gong will be a worthy winner.
About Helen Beaumont
Helen Beaumont’s career started at Camberwell College of Art, where she studied the History of Art and Design, specialising in costume during her final year. After completing study, Helen became a costume buyer for theatre and opera. She has since become a professional costume designer, with a keen interest in period clothing. Throughout her career, Helen has created authentic costumes for prestigious companies such as the Universal Studios, Disney, BBC, Tiger Aspect and the Young Vic Theatre.