Oscars Best Costume Design overview: Period and fantasy nominees present a wide array of wardrobe choices

The Best Costume Design category at the Oscars is often fairly cut-and-dried, with period costumes always having an advantage over others. This has also frequently been a category where there isn’t as much direct connection to the films nominated for Best Picture; last year’s “Cruella” and other winners like “Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them” only had two nominations and won for their costumes. This year three of the nominees are period films, and three are nominated for Best Picture. Only one of this year’s nominees is a first-timer.

The Costume Designers Guild handed out their awards last week, with “Elvis” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once” winning their respective races for Period and Sci-Fi/Fantasy, although all five Oscar nominees were represented across those two categories.

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Gold Derby’s Experts predict “Elvis” to win over “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” by a significant margin, and that certainly tracks with how the academy tends to lean towards period costumes, although that CDG win gives “Everything Everywhere” strength as a spoiler, especially since it’s nominated in so many other categories.

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Mary Zophres – “Babylon”

This is Zophres’s fourth Oscar nomination in the category, having previously been nominated for Damien Chazelle‘s “La La Land” and two Coen Brothers movies (“True Grit” and “The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”). This movie has a matching Production Design nomination, something it has in common with two of the other nominees. Chazelle’s period dramedy about the early days of Hollywood during the transition from silent films to talkies has a number of lavish scenes with the most glamorous of costumes, as would clearly be the case back during the Roaring ‘20s.

Zophres’s beautifully crafted costumes are on display in just about every scene, even if it’s merely the well-tailored suits worn by Diego Calva and Brad Pitt. The film’s lack of support from other chapters does make it more likely this will only win one of its three Oscar nominations, and this probably won’t be it.

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angela bassett black panther wakanda forever queen ramonda
angela bassett black panther wakanda forever queen ramonda

Ruth E. Carter – “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”

A recent winner for the original “Black Panther” movie in 2019, Carter’s work on creating not just superhero costumes, but all the original Wakandan designs for those mourning Chadwick Boseman‘s T’Challa, is part of what makes the sequel so extravagant visually. Rightfully, a lot of focus has been put on her most recent work, with costumes on display prominently at theaters, helping them get added attention. But despite her costumes being considered the frontrunner for so long in our odds, losing the CDG Award to “Everything Everywhere” in the Fantasy/Sci-Fi category gives some hope that we may have a real horse race here. Speaking of which …

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Austin Butler, Elvis
Austin Butler, Elvis

Catherine Martin – “Elvis”

This year’s powerhouse has to be Baz Lurhmann‘s wife and long-time collaborator, who has designed most of his movies, and has already won four Oscars, two in Production Design and two in Costume Design, for 2013’s “The Great Gatsby” and 2001’s “Moulin Rouge!” Unsurprisingly, she’s also nominated in Production Design this year, but it’s impressive the way Martin was able to recreate the iconic outfits worn by the King, Elvis Presley, during his memorable television and stage appearances over his relatively short career.

Although Luhrmann was only nominated as one of the film’s producers and not as a director, the below-the-line support for the movie as well as for Austin Butler, who wore and performed in most of those costumes, makes Martin the frontrunner to win her fifth Oscar here.

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Costumes Everything Everywhere All At Once Oscar Nominations
Costumes Everything Everywhere All At Once Oscar Nominations

Shirley Kurata – “Everything Everywhere All at Once”

To some, the work by first-time nominee Kurata on the Daniels‘ absurdist comedy is like nothing they’ve ever seen, especially the outlandish outfits worn by Stephanie Hsu‘s multiversal villain, Jobu Tupaki, whenever she shows up on screen to plague characters played by fellow nominees Michelle Yeoh and Ke Huy Quan. These outfits ranged from a sequin-adorned jumpsuit that wouldn’t have looked out-of-place in “Elvis” to an all-white costume that would have allowed her to slip right into Wakanda during T’Challa’s funeral.

And then there are costumes so bizarre they’d be hard to describe or explain. Kurata’s work definitely wins points for originality and for how much that added to the unique nature of “Everything Everywhere.” Still, academy members outside the costume chapter do often go with more traditional fare and known commodities, so this would certainly be a surprise win.

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mrs harris goes to paris
mrs harris goes to paris

Jenny Beavan – “Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris”

With three Oscars under her belt, most recently for last year’s “Cruella,” Beavan is an undeniable favorite any time her work is nominated, with an astounding 11 nominations going back to 1985. Her first win would be a few years later for “A Room with a View,” and her presence at the Oscars has been quite common since then.

This British indie film – a remake, in fact – starring Lesley Manville, is all about the fashion industry, in ‘50s Paris no less, so it gets points in this category as a period film. The only thing that hurts the film is the fact that it wasn’t nominated in any other categories, though it does follow a similar path to the film for which Beavan recently won her third Oscar.

This one is all about whether the fantastic work of Kurata can slip past the undeniable costume design champs in this category, or whether Catherine Martin will add another Oscar to her mantel.

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