Oscar’s best dressed: Vote your favorite

in Romance by

The Oscars are right around the corner, and while most people are already taking bets on which movie will win Best Picture, my thoughts are focused a bit differently. Mainly, dresses.

This shouldn’t come as a surprise to those who know me – I might, uh, have a little bit of an addiction to clothes. Which means I will spend Oscar night with my eyes glued to the red carpet, analyzing outfits, wondering if red or black or pale pink will win out for best color scheme this year, praying Jennifer Lawrence doesn’t trip on her train, etc.

It also means that my favorite category is not Best Picture, but is, in fact, Best Costume Design. This is the category where lesser-known movies might actually have a shot, where the screen is filled with amazing sketches and over-the-top looks when the nominees are announced. And this year there are some excellent nominees.

First up, The Grand Budapest Hotel, designed by Milena Canonero:

This movie is quintessential Wes Anderson, sparkling with vintage outfits, vivid colors, and uniforms bordering on comical. Tilda Swinton is unrecognizable as an elderly widow, her fragile frame enveloped by gold lace, fur and pearls, while Saoirse Ronan’s Agatha is perfectly demure in her 1930’s pastel dresses and coats. The almost-outlandish outfits drive this film, catapulting us into several lost eras, and making an old, once-grand hotel feel both magical and real.

The Grand Budapest Hotel has a chance at winning, but the real front-runner is Colleen Atwood for Into the Woods:

To be honest, I was not a huge fan of this movie. While an amazing play, the film tried too hard to stay true to the source material with most of the action happening off-screen. But who cares about the story when it comes to the clothes, right? Because while the plot had some obvious issues, the costume design was basically flawless. Rapunzel is lush and beautiful with her flowing gowns and equally flowing hair. Meryl Streep’s witch transforms from an old hag to a stately woman in sweeping lines of structured purple and black. Johnny Depp’s wolf rocks a zoot-suit and fur. This is definitely the film to beat.

Though Maleficent, designed by Anna B. Sheppard and Jane Clive, shouldn’t be discounted quite yet:

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Those horns, those wings, those black, drapey dresses! Sheppard and Clive did not have a huge color palate to work with when it came to Angelina Jolie’s look in the film, but boy did they make the best of all that black and grey. Jolie’s feather collars, her staff, her awesome headgear—not to mention Aurora’s lovely, medieval-style gowns—were always perfectly designed, capturing the essence of all the characters through their looks. And isn’t that the ultimate point of an amazing costume?

Thankfully, it’s a philosophy that Mark Bridges brought to Inherent Vice as well:

 

Set in the 1970s, the film follows Doc, played by Joaquin Phoenix, as he tries to help an ex-girlfriend solve a crime. His laid-back, bumbling attitude is captured perfectly by Bridges’ vision: slouchy, ill-fitting clothes, un-kept hair, a straw, beach-bum hat. The whole movie is a love-letter to the 70s, with the women rocking love beads and mini-dresses, and the men in leisure suits and loose hippie shirts. This movie shows us that sometimes it’s the simplest costumes that say the most.

Which is exactly what makes Jacqueline Durran’s costume design for Mr. Turner so amazing as well:

 

A period piece set in the mid-1800s, Mr. Turner, starring Timothy Spall, tells the story of the legendary British painter J.M.W. Turner. From brothels to ballrooms, Durran’s designs perfectly capture the time period, lending realism to the film and the life of a great artist. What more could you ask for from costumes, both elaborate and ordinary?

 


Rachel Carter grew up surrounded by trees and snow and mountains. She graduated from the University of Vermont and Columbia University, where she received her MFA in nonfiction writing. She is the author of the So Close to You series with Harperteen. These days you can find her working on her next novel in the woods of Vermont.

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