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Oscars 2017 Category Breakdown: Best Costume Design

Every year, as we lead up to the Oscars, I break down each of the 24 categories. I do this to familiarize everyone with the category; what the trends are, how the guilds and stuff help (or don’t), etc. I also do it as a precursor to my giant Oscar ballot. I get most of the heavy lifting out of the way here, so that way when I get to the article, I’m just kind of riffing on how I think it’ll turn out and talking myself into all the bad decisions. It’s like college. And this is the pregame.

How these articles work is — I give you all the previous winners and nominees of each of the categories, then tell you how accurate each of the respective guilds and precursors are in what they vote for versus what wins the Oscar, tell you how each of them voted this year, then give you this year’s category, along with a quick rundown of how we ended up with that category (what was a surprise, etc). After that, I rank each of this year’s nominees in terms of how I see them right now in terms of their likelihood to win. Which is nothing more than my perception (notice that underline, even though you won’t) of how the category seems at the moment based on everything I know and have seen. Which will give you a general sense of the favorites.

Today is Best Costume Design. We’re getting it out of the way early because even you can tell me who’s gonna win this even if you can’t tell me all five nominees.

Year Best Costume Design Winners Other Nominees
1948 Black and White: Hamlet

Color: Joan of Arc

Black and White: B.F.’s Daughter

Color: The Emperor Waltz

1949 Black and White: The Heiress

Color: Adventures of Don Juan

Black and White: Prince of Foxes

Color: Mother is a Freshman

1950 Black and White: All About Eve

Color: Samson and Delilah

Black and White: Born Yesterday

The Magnificent Yankee

Color: The Black Rose

That Forsythe Woman

1951 Black and White: A Place in the Sun

Color: An American in Paris

Black and White: Kind Lady

The Model and the Marriage Broker

The Mudlark

A Streetcar Named Desire

Color: David and Bathsheba

The Great Caruso

Quo Vadis?

The Tales of Hoffmann

1952 Black and White: The Bad and the Beautiful

Color: Moulin Rouge

Black and White: Affair in Trinidad

Carrie

My Cousin Rachel

Sudden Fear

Color: The Greatest Show on Earth

Hans Christian Andersen

The Merry Widow

1953 Black and White: Roman Holiday

Color: The Robe

Black and White: The Actress

Dream Wife

From Here to Eternity

The President’s Lady

Color: The Band Wagon

Call Me Madam

How to Marry a Millionaire

1954 Black and White: Sabrina

Color: Gate of Hell

Black and White: The Earrings Of Madame de…

Executive Suite

Indiscretion of an American Wife

It Should Happen To You

Color: Brigadoon

Désirée

A Star is Born

There’s No Business Like Show Business

1955 Black and White: I’ll Cry Tomorrow

Color: Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing

Black and White: The Pickwick Papers

Queen Bee

The Rose Tattoo

Ugetsu

Color: Guys and Dolls

Interrupted Melody

To Catch a Thief

The Virgin Queen

1956 Black and White: The Solid Gold Cadillac

Color: The King and I

Black and White: Seven Samurai

The Power and the Prize

The Proud and the Profane

Teenage Rebel

Color: Around the World in 80 Days

Giant

The Ten Commandments

War and Peace

1957 Les Girls An Affair to Remember

Funny Face

Pal Joey

Raintree County

1958 Gigi Bell, Book and Candle

The Buccaneer

A Certain Smile

Some Came Running

1959 Black and White: Some Like It Hot

Color: Ben-Hur

Black and White: Career

The Diary of Anne Frank

The Gazebo

The Young Philadelphians

Color: The Best of Everything

The Big Fisherman

The Five Pennies

Porgy and Bess

1960 Black and White: The Facts of Life

Color: Spartacus

Black and White: Never on Sunday

The Rise and Fall of Legs Diamond

Seven Thieves

The Virgin Spring

Color: Can-Can

Midnight Lace

Pepe

Sunrise at Campobello

1961 Black and White: La Dolce Vita

Color: West Side Story

Black and White: The Children’s Hour

Claudell Inglish

Judgment at Nuremberg

Yojimbo

Color: Babes in Toyland

Back Street

Flower Drum Song

Pocketful of Miracles

1962 Black and White: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?

Color: The Wonderful World of the Brothers Grimm

Black and White: Days of Wine and Roses

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

The Miracle Worker

Phaedra

Color: Bon Voyage!

Gypsy

The Music Man

My Geisha

1963 Black and White: 8 ½

Color: Cleopatra

Black and White: Love with the Proper Stranger

The Stripper

Toys in the Attic

Wives and Lovers

Color: The Cardinal

How the West Was Won

The Leopard

A New Kind of Love

1964 Black and White: The Night of the Iguana

Color: My Fair Lady

Black and White: A House is Not a Home

Hush… Hush, Sweet Charlotte

Kisses for My President

The Visit

Color: Becket

Mary Poppins

The Unsinkable Molly Brown

What a Way to Go!

1965 Black and White: Darling

Color: Doctor Zhivago

Black and White: Morituri

A Rage to Live

Ship of Fools

The Slender Thread

Color: The Agony and the Ecstasy

The Greatest Story Ever Told

Inside Daisy Clover

The Sound of Music

1966 Black and White: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Color: A Man for All Seasons

Black and White: The Gospel According to St. Matthew

Mandragola

Mister Buddwing

Morgan!

Color: Gambit

Hawaii

Juliet of the Spirits

The Oscar

1967 Camelot Bonnie and Clyde

The Happiest Millionaire

The Taming of the Shrew

Thoroughly Modern Millie

1968 Romeo and Juliet The Lion in Winter

Oliver!

Planet of the Apes

Star!

1969 Anne of the Thousand Days Hello, Dolly!

Gaily, Gaily

Sweet Charity

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

1970 Cromwell Airport

Darling Lili

The Hawaiians

Scrooge

1971 Nicholas and Alexandra Bedknobs and Brooksticks

Death in Venice

Mary, Queen of Scots

What’s the Matter with Helen?

1972 Travels with My Aunt The Godfather

Lady Sings the Blues

The Poseidon Adventure

Young Winston

1973 The Sting Cries and Whispers

Ludwig

Tom Sawyer

The Way We Were

1974 The Great Gatsby Chinatown

Daisy Miller

The Godfather Part II

Murder on the Orient Express

1975 Barry Lyndon The Four Musketeers

Funny Lady

The Magic Flute

The Man Who Would Be King

1976 Fellini’s Casanova Bound for Glory

The Incredible Sarah

The Passover Plot

The Seven-Per-Cent Solution

1977 Star Wars Airport ‘77

Julia

A Little Ngiht Music

The Other Side of the Mountain

1978 Death on the Nile Caravans

Days of Heaven

The Swarm

The Wiz

1979 All That Jazz Agatha

La cage aux folles

Butch and Sundance:: The Early Years

The Europeans

1980 Tess The Elephant Man

My Brilliant Career

Somewhere in Time

When Time Ran Out

1981 Chariots of Fire The French Lieutenant’s Woman

Pennies from Heaven

Ragtime

Reds

1982 Gandhi Sophie’s Choice

La Traviata

Tron

Victor Victoria

1983 Fanny and Alexander Cross Creek

Heart Like a Wheel

The Return of Martin Guerre

Zelig

1984 Amadeus 2010

The Bostonians

A Passage to India

Places in the Heart

1985 Ran The Color Purple

The Journey of Natty Gann

Out of Africa

Prizzi’s Honor

1986 A Room with a View The Mission

Otello

Peggy Sue Got Married

Pirates

1987 The Last Emperor The Dead

Empire of the Sun

Maurice

The Untouchables

1988 Dangerous Liaisons Coming to America

A Handful of Dust

Sunset

Tucker: The Man and His Dream

1989 Henry V The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Driving Miss Daisy

Harlem Nights

Valmont

1990 Cyrano de Bergerac Avalon

Dances with Wolves

Dick Tracy

Hamlet

1991 Bugsy The Addams Family

Barton Fink

Hooks

Madame Bovary

1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula Enchanted April

Howards End

Malcolm X

Toys

1993 The Age of Innocence Orlando

The Piano

The Remains of the Day

Schindler’s List

1994 The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Bullets over Broadway

Little Women

Maverick

Queen Margot

1995 Restoration Braveheart

Richard III

Sense and Sensibility

12 Monkeys

1996 The English Patient Angels and Insects

Emma

Hamlet

The Portrait of a Lady

1997 Titanic Amistad

Kundun

Oscar and Lucinda

The Wings of the Dove

1998 Shakespeare in Love Beloved

Elizabeth

Pleasantville

Velvet Goldmine

1999 Topsy-Turvy Anna and the King

Sleepy Hollow

The Talented Mr. Ripley

Titus

2000 Gladiator 102 Dalmatians

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Quills

2001 Moulin Rouge! The Affair of the Necklace

Gosford Park

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

2002 Chicago Frida

Gangs of New York

The Hours

The Pianist

2003 The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King Girl with a Pearl Earring

The Last Samurai

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

Seabiscuit

2004 The Aviator Finding Neverland

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events

Ray

Troy

2005 Memoirs of a Geisha Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Mrs. Henderson Presents

Pride & Prejudice

Walk the Line

2006 Marie Antoinette Curse of the Golden Flower

The Devil Wears Prada

Dreamgirls

The Queen

2007 Elizabeth: The Golden Age Across the Universe

Atonement

La Vie en Rose

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

2008 The Duchess Australia

The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttin

Milk

Revolutionary Road

2009 The Young Victoria Bright Star

Coco Before Chanel

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus

Nine

2010 Alice in Wonderland I Am Love

The King’s Speech

The Tempest

True Grit

2011 The Artist Anonymous

Hugo

Jane Eyre

W.E.

2012 Anna Karenina Les Misérables

Lincoln

Mirror Mirror

Snow White and the Huntsman

2013 The Great Gatsby American Hustle

The Grandmaster

The Invisible Woman

12 Years a Slave

2014 The Grand Budapest Hotel Inherent Vice

Into the Woods

Maleficent

Mr. Turner

2015 Mad Max: Fury Road Carol

Cinderella

The Danish Girl

The Revenant

2016 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Allied

Florence Foster Jenkins

Jackie

La La Land

CDG Awards aren’t until the 20th, but here’s how they do for later reference:

  • 2016… this was one of the few times CDG was way off. Hidden Figures won Period and wasn’t nominated for the Oscar. Doctor Strange won Fantasy and also wasn’t nominated. La La Land won Contemporary and lost the Oscar. (Fantastic Beasts won.)
  • 2015, Mad Max: Fury Road won Fantasy and won the Oscar.
  • 2014, The Grand Budapest Hotel won period and won the Oscar.
  • 2013, 12 Years a Slave won Period and lost the Oscar.
  • 2012, Anna Karenina won Period and won the Oscar.
  • 2011, W.E. won Period and lost the Oscar.
  • 2010, Alice in Wonderland won Fantasy and won the Oscar.
  • 2009, The Young Victoria won Period and won the Oscar.
  • 2008, The Duchess won Period and won the Oscar.
  • 2007, Sweeney Todd won Period and lost the Oscar.
  • 2006, Curse of the Golden Flower won Period and lost the Oscar.
  • 2005, Memoirs of a Geisha won Period and won the Oscar.

2005 is reasonably the earliest we can go for helpful data. In all those years, they’re 7/12. So they’re solid, but not automatic.

Here are BAFTA’s winners in those years:

  • 2016, Jackie
  • 2015, Mad Max: Fury Road
  • 2014, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • 2013, The Great Gatsby
  • 2012, Anna Karenina
  • 2011, The Artist
  • 2010, Alice in Wonderland
  • 2009, The Young Victoria
  • 2008, The Duchess
  • 2007, La Vie en Rose
  • 2006, Pan’s Labyrinth
  • 2005, Memoirs of a Geisha

They’re 9/12.

BFCA:

  • 2016, Jackie
  • 2015, Mad Max: Fury Road
  • 2014, The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • 2013, The Great Gatsby
  • 2012, Anna Karenina
  • 2011, The Artist
  • 2010, Alice in Wonderland
  • 2009, The Young Victoria

Last year was the only time they’ve missed.

So far, this year, Phantom Thread won BFCA. BAFTA and CDG are still TBD, but I think we all know where those are likely to go.

Best Costume Design

Beauty and the Beast

Darkest Hour

Phantom Thread

The Shape of Water

Victoria & Abdul

The three big contenders made it on the list; Phantom Thread, Shape of Water and Beauty and the Beast. They hit all three of the precursors. The rest was all a toss-up. Victoria & Abdul got no precursors, but those period dresses and Indian garb were just too tempting to pass up. And Darkest Hour only managed a BAFTA nomination but got in on the strength of everything else (that and Phantom Thread were the two films with the strongest showing on nominations morning).

Rankings:

5. Darkest Hour — World War II films almost never win this award. The fact that it was nominated is actually pretty significant for the film, because this is a movie about dudes in suits in boardrooms, smoking cigars. There are no big dresses or anything like that. You look back at comps for this movie, and the closest I can get is Lincoln, but even that had some women in it. The King’s Speech, maybe? I don’t know. It’s just not something they vote for the win. We’ll get into it more as we go along, but not in the last 50 years has something like this won the category. Unless it wins a precursor, you have to consider it #5 in terms of likelihood to win.

4. The Shape of Water — At first blush, you’d think there’s no way this is anything lower than third in the category. But, when it comes to costumes, and Best Picture winners (assuming this is still the favorite at this moment in time) — they vote for them in categories that make sense. Even if something is gonna win big. They’ll give it the awards that make sense. La La Land was a backlash situation, and it didn’t win. But The Artist. The Artist felt like a lock all the way through. And it won Picture, Director, Actor, Score and Costumes. The categories that made the most sense. This, up for 13 awards… costumes doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Even by the people who are gonna try to sweep vote it. First off, it takes place in the 60s, and the most recent comp you have for that is The Aviator, which is primarily 30s and 40s (and classical Hollywood). Also, do you consider the fish man part of the costumes? Or is that makeup? Does that count? Even still, it’s not like you vividly remember anything any of the people wore in this movie. It just got an extra nomination. Don’t try deluding yourself into thinking this has a legitimate shot. You wanna make it the third choice? Fine, make it third. I might end up doing that in the end myself. But there’s no basis for thinking this’ll win. They don’t go for stuff like this in this category, and the film clearly doesn’t have the kind of support that makes you think it’ll sweep everything (and even when we thought a film had that kind of support, last year, it couldn’t win stuff like this category).

3. Victoria & Abdul — In Costume Design (or a lot of Oscar categories), the prevailing theme is “most is best.” And this certainly is a contender for “most costumes.” 19th century British royal gowns, check. Indian garb for the exotic, check. It checks a lot of boxes. The drawbacks to this are that it doesn’t really have a lot of other nominations, and I’m not sure people care enough to vote for it. Stephen Frears has gotten these kinds of nominations before — Florence Foster Jenkins last year, The Queen. Neither won. And when the big, frilly royal  costume films have been nominated in recent years, the one that won was Anna Karenina. Because even if you didn’t see that movie, you knew it was all about the costumes (and other things, which we’ll get to in a second). These kinds of movies typically haven’t won in this category since the late 2000s, and I’m not expecting that trend to pick up again here, with this especially. But I think, for now, you have to consider it a slight upset contender, just because it does fit the mold of what people look for when they vote for this category. (Though I will say, the complete lack of guild and precursor attention is what will probably make me think about dropping it to fourth choice. Though that could also lead me to leave it here, seeing as how it hasn’t contended against these other movies in anything and doesn’t have losses against it either. So we’ll see.)

2. Beauty and the Beast — Again, most costumes. You think about this movie (which you likely saw, or at least saw coming attractions for), and all you think about are the costumes. That yellow dress and blue suit with the coattails. Automatically, this makes a lot of sense in this category, and automatically becomes the biggest (and probably only) upset contender for this win. Most years you would consider this the de facto winner. But I think we all know that you just can’t do that this year. Now, a word of caution, since it must be mentioned — these Disney remakes have done well in this category over the past couple years. Cinderella, which is the closest comparison to this movie, was nominated here (and lost to Fury Road). Maleficent was nominated (and lost to Grand Budapest). Snow White and the Huntsman was nominated (and lost to Anna Karenina). And Alice in Wonderland actually won this category, in a moderate shocker at the time (which is looking less like one as time goes on). These movies do get nominated, but they don’t always win. Because I think people see Disney and they think ‘kiddie’ and not ‘classy’. Which I think is the main thing holding me back from saying this has a legitimate shot at the upset. Though, if anything can overcome that label because of the amount of costumes it has, this is the one. So while I do think there’s a chance for this movie, I don’t see it as being the frontrunner at all at this point in time.

1. Phantom Thread — I think the minute we all saw this movie we knew it was winning for its costumes. It’s about DRESSMAKING! And those dresses, though. This should sweep all the precursors en route to an easy win in this category. If it starts to lose stuff, then we can talk. But for not, I’m not only considering this the favorite in the category but also one of the biggest locks of the night. No need to make these breakdowns any more complicated than they need to be.

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