Welcome to Sunday Best’s expanded Oscars edition, where we take a look at the year’s nominees in costume design (and briefly sigh at some really great costumes).
“Cruella”, designed by Jenny Beavan
Beavan’s 11 Academy Award nominations for costume design began in the 1980s, when she was nominated for a string of wonderful Merchant Ivory films; she is a two-time winner, for “A Room with a View” and “Mad Max: Fury Road”. For “Cruella,” this year’s most fashionable nominee (its main character is a young fashion designer, played by Emma Stone), Beavan dove into the styles of 1970s London. This voluminous dress plays with the then-popular trend of wearing a military jacket with a skirt, but does so much more. The jacket, Beavan told Vanity Fair, came from a vintage store in Los Angeles; the skirt, made up of intricate petals, took “an army of students and interns and trainees and makers” to create.
“Cyrano” designed by Jacqueline Durran and Massimo Cantini Parrini
The multitude of costumes – more than 700 were created – for Joe Wright’s whimsical take on ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’ involved two designers: Durran, Oscar winner for Wright’s ‘Anna Karenina’ and Greta’s ‘Little Women’. Gerwig, created the dresses for Haley Bennett’s character, Roxanne (pictured here), while Parrini, a former ‘Pinocchio’ nominee, took on the rest. One thing all the costumes had in common: they were all solid colors; no prints, brocades or laces. This was to minimize distraction: Parrini told the Los Angeles Times, “I really wanted the audience to focus on the footage and the scenes in the movie, on the actors’ faces.
“Dune” designed by Jacqueline West and Robert Morgan
West (four-time nominee and new to the sci-fi genre) and Morgan took on the challenge of creating hundreds of costumes set in the distant future. “Dennis [Villeneuve, the film’s director] wanted to create a world different from existing sci-fi movies, so [there are] no aliens, no silver gadgets. Instead, you have a philosophical experience,” West said in an interview with Vogue, noting that she and Morgan drew inspiration from “medieval references, ancient tarot cards and alchemy.” A particular challenge was the suits, which help survive in the desert by converting bodily fluids like sweat into water.”They should look like a working water distillery,” Morgan told Vogue, “while allowing the actors to move and do their choreography”.
“Nightmare Alley”, designed by Luis Sequeira
For the two worlds of this film – a seedy 1940s carnival and a chic big city – Guillermo del Toro’s longtime costume designer Sequeira (Oscar nominee for “The Shape of Water” costumes) created two very different types of models. For the carnival clothes, everything had to be aged, “like they had lived in a trunk for 15 years,” Sequeira told Variety. And for the most stylish streetwear, like the pared-back ensembles worn by Cate Blanchett as a psychiatrist, he created beautifully tailored garments from fabrics that would catch the light. For this black suit, “even in low light and in black, it was going to sing”
“West Side Story”, designed by Paul Tazewell
Tazewell, an acclaimed set designer (Seattle people saw his work in the touring production of “Hamilton” and the costumes for “Swan Lake” at Pacific Northwest Ballet), was haunted by beautiful shadows recreating “West Side Story”: those of the costumes from the original iconic 1961 film. Although many of Tazewell’s garments are quite different from the original, such as the black dress worn by Anita (Ariana DeBose) for the dance at the gymnasium, director Steven Spielberg requested that he echo Maria’s white dress in this scene, worn here by Rachel Zegler. The red sash, however, is actually Anita’s, who removes it from her dress and gives it to Maria; a symbolic act, Tazewell told Vanity Fair, of introducing her to womanhood, “to be a kind of sister who would lead her on this journey.”