Hanna Nes, Contributor.
It’s that time of the year again; I can smell it in the air. Awards season, my absolute favourite time of the year that gets me in a complete frenzy over films, fashion and celebrity hubbub in general. Stretching from early January to late February, the annual awards season for film, television and music is one of the most anticipated times of the year, when trophies and titles are given out to the (mostly) deserving crop of (mostly) high quality productions, which have generated discussion, imitation and admiration throughout 2016 and early 2017. We’ve already had the Golden Globes and SAG’s of 2017, and next up is the final stop, the big one, the juggernaut: The 2017 Academy Awards, more commonly referred to as the Oscar’s.
This year’s nominations for best costume design are: La La Land, Jackie, Florence Foster Jenkins, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them and Allied. Last year’s winner was Mad Max: Fury Road, which won for its gritty post-apocalyptical designs. However, what makes this year’s nominees stand out among past ones is the fact that 4 of them are historically based films, thus requiring the costume designers to either replicate outfits from the film’s era or make duplicates of an existing outfit (as was seen this past year in Jackie and Florence Foster Jenkins). The Oscar’s have routinely given out awards to films that centered round extravagant costuming, however this year we see many more subdued and everyday designs being recognized as nominees. Let’s break down the nominees a bit.
La La Land – Mary Zophres
Arguably the film generating the most Oscar buzz with a whopping 14 nominations (!!!!) La La Land has earned a bit of flak for being nominated in the costuming category. Exhibit A: “Oh my god the clothes in La La Land look like crap you could buy at Sears” – unidentified friend of mine. Ok, ok, YES the outfits in the film are quite simple and do look slightly like the summer line at your local Walmart, I’ll say that much. However, what makes the costuming in La La Land so impressive is the fact that each design fits beautifully with the bright technicolour aesthetic and colour palette of the film. In addition, each outfit serves as an homage to a prior movie musical that inspired director Damien Chazelle (Les Demoiselles de Rochefort and The Umbrellas of Cherbourg to name a few).
Take for example the musical number “Someone in the Crowd”. Although the dresses may seem uninspired, they are actually a reference to the number “There’s Gotta Be Something Better Than This” from 1969’s Sweet Charity. Both songs follow the desire of several young performers to break out of the restrictive and disappointing jobs they have, in order to find stardom. The bright dresses Zophres designed for La La Land fit perfectly as an homage to the film’s punchy 60s frocks and the search for success in the endless disappointment of the entertainment business.
Jackie – Madeline Fontaine
Jackie has been earning much buzz about its chances in this category due to the accuracy of the costumes created for the former First Lady’s biopic. Designer Fontaine recreated many of Kennedy’s iconic outfits to perfectly pair with Natalie Portman’s makeup and hairstyling, not to mention her impeccable finishing school accent. Fontaine has included some the most recognizable get-ups including the pink Chanel dress suit and pill box hat Kennedy wore when JFK was assassinated.
The extent of recreating the real wardrobe of Ms. Onassis went as far as even dyeing fabric to the exact shade of the original copy or tracking down the original material used in Kennedy’s wardrobe (including the same Chanel buttons on her jacket). The sheer dedication to the craft of costuming and historical recreation is amazing in Jackie, which makes it truly deserving of the Oscar.
Florence Foster Jenkins – Consolata Boyle
Just like Jackie, Florence Foster Jenkins required designer Boyle to recreate many of the extravagant costumes the heiress wore in real life (including this hideous angel costume below that Jenkins wore during her actual vocal recitals).
The outfits Boyle came up with for the film are true to the outrageous creations Jenkins designed herself, adding a degree of fun for the audience in witnessing whatever garish get-up actress Meryl Streep will emerge in next, whether that be a Valkyrie or satin angel. Although Boyle nails the excess and splendour of upper society style and costuming in the 30s and 40s, Florence Foster Jenkins isn’t quite as memorable for its designs in comparison to some of its fellow contenders. I wish that the outfits had been more accurate though to how hideous they were in real life, as even Streep’s angel get-up looks significantly better than its historical counterpart.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – Colleen Atwood
This is designer Colleen Atwood’s 12th nomination for best costume design, having won 3 times in the past already. The film takes place in the mid-1920s in New York City, so the majority of outfits seen in the film are accurate to the time period with a lil’ bit of a magical touch to them, whether that be shining turquoise of Eddie Redmayne’s suit or shimmering dusty pink jacket the Jazz-age witch Queenie dons.
Atwood also sourced vintage clothing from the 20s from all over the world for the film, even for ensemble actors. However, although her designs work perfectly for Fantastic Beasts, they seem slightly un-significant and forgettable in comparison to other contenders on the list (although I would gladly steal one of those cloche hats).
Allied – Joanna Johnston
Just going to put it out there, but Allied was one of the schlockiest and melodramatic films I saw during 2016. Still, the costuming was stunning. Designer Johnston’s creations for Marion Cotillard’s character ranged from negligée to trousers to dramatic evening gowns, all adhering to the 1940s style and cut in which the film takes place during. Little references to other iconic cinematic looks are strewn throughout, with several of Cotillard’s outfits bringing about images of Ingrid Bergman in fellow WWII drama Casablanca.
An absolutely stellar movie fashion moment though, when Cotillard emerges in the gorgeous icy emerald draping evening gown (as seen above) looking like 1940s Hollywood starlet Gene Tierney.
As the Oscars are this Sunday, I’m getting my ballot ready with my bets on who is to win big that night. Although I am quite confident with my choices in the majority of categories, I must say that the nominees for Costume Design have left me stumped. It seems that La La Land and Jackie are neck in neck for the title, both deservedly so for their vastly different approaches to costuming in film. However, I would absolutely adore to see a win for Allied as the film’s gorgeous 40s designs are beautifully cut and will flood this year’s spring and summer wear with wide brim hats and flowy high waisted trousers.
A disappointing snub by the Academy was the critical darling Irish indie Sing Street, which was stuffed with fun mid-80s fashion, much of it imitating the style of popular new-wave/new-romantic bands including The Cure and Duran Duran. Isn’t that shiny blue suit fabulous?
As we can see, this year’s costume nominees showcase designs that are significantly more wearable than past nominees have been (save for Florence Foster Jenkins, if extravagant Edwardian fashion isn’t your style). With the Academy seeming to favour more historically based and/or contemporary wear in their nominations, there’s possibility of more of a crossover between the film and fashion industries. Through the influence design in cinema can have upon the mass clothing market and style trends, maybe this year we’ll see the return of two piece skirts suits and silk evening gowns? We’ll have to see.
Tune in Sunday at 8 PM to watch the Academy Awards live on various major network stations.