Oscars 2018 Category Breakdown: Best Costume Design

So what we do here each year as a warm up for the Oscars is, I break down each of the 24 categories. The idea is to both familiarize everyone with the category and its history. I look at what the major trends are throughout the past bunch of years, how the precursors tend to go, whether they matter or not, that sort of stuff. I look at how the category came to be this year, and just anything else that seems totally pertinent about it. Then I rank each of the nominees and tell you what their likelihood (at this particular moment in time) of winning is.

This is all prelude to my giant Oscar ballot that I’m gonna give you. But I figure, if you have these as the warmup, it’s not as intimidating. You’ll have seen a lot of the pertinent trends here and we’ll all be able to reference these as a sort of cheat sheet. Plus it shows you where my head is at for how I think each of the categories are gonna go, and you can see me working my way up to all the bad decisions I usually make while guessing. Pretty much, with this, you’ll have a pretty good idea of how the category is gonna turn out.

Today is Best Costume Design. AKA Best Frills. We probably didn’t need to wait this long to go over it, but I feel like this one could be interesting, so I wanted to wait until most of the precursors were in before I talked about it.

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Color: Bon Voyage!


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


Mister Buddwing


Color: Gambit


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


Planet of the Apes


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


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


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


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



1982 Gandhi Sophie’s Choice

La Traviata


Victor Victoria

1983 Fanny and Alexander Cross Creek

Heart Like a Wheel

The Return of Martin Guerre


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


Peggy Sue Got Married


1987 The Last Emperor The Dead

Empire of the Sun


The Untouchables

1988 Dangerous Liaisons Coming to America

A Handful of Dust


Tucker: The Man and His Dream

1989 Henry V The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Driving Miss Daisy

Harlem Nights


1990 Cyrano de Bergerac Avalon

Dances with Wolves

Dick Tracy


1991 Bugsy The Addams Family

Barton Fink


Madame Bovary

1992 Bram Stoker’s Dracula Enchanted April

Howards End

Malcolm X


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


Queen Margot

1995 Restoration Braveheart

Richard III

Sense and Sensibility

12 Monkeys

1996 The English Patient Angels and Insects



The Portrait of a Lady

1997 Titanic Amistad


Oscar and Lucinda

The Wings of the Dove

1998 Shakespeare in Love Beloved



Velvet Goldmine

1999 Topsy-Turvy Anna and the King

Sleepy Hollow

The Talented Mr. Ripley


2000 Gladiator 102 Dalmatians

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon

How the Grinch Stole Christmas


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


2004 The Aviator Finding Neverland

Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events



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


The Queen

2007 Elizabeth: The Golden Age Across the Universe


La Vie en Rose

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

2008 The Duchess Australia

The Curious Case of Benjamin Buttin


Revolutionary Road

2009 The Young Victoria Bright Star

Coco Before Chanel

The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus


2010 Alice in Wonderland I Am Love

The King’s Speech

The Tempest

True Grit

2011 The Artist Anonymous


Jane Eyre


2012 Anna Karenina Les Misérables


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


Mr. Turner

2015 Mad Max: Fury Road Carol


The Danish Girl

The Revenant

2016 Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them Allied

Florence Foster Jenkins


La La Land

2017 Phantom Thread Beauty and the Beast

Darkest Hour

The Shape of Water

Victoria & Abdul

CDG is the major precursor. They don’t hand out for another few days. But for reference later, here’s how they do historically:

  • 2017, The Shape of Water won Period and lost the Oscar to Phantom Thread.
  • 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 to Great Gatsby.
  • 2012, Anna Karenina won Period and won the Oscar.
  • 2011, W.E. won Period and lost the Oscar to The Artist.
  • 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 to Elizabeth: The Golden Age.
  • 2006, Curse of the Golden Flower won Period and lost the Oscar to Marie Antoinette.
  • 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 7/13. So they’re solid, but not automatic. I also feel like in at least two of those years they deliberately went off the really obvious Oscar winner.

Here are BAFTA’s winners in those years:

  • 2017, Phantom Thread
  • 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 10/13.


  • 2017, Phantom Thread
  • 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

2016 was the only time they’ve missed.

So yeah. We’re generally in good hands.

Best Costume Design

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

Black Panther

The Favourite

Mary Poppins Returns

Mary Queen of Scots

I feel like this category was pretty set all around. You knew Black Panther, The Favourite, Mary Poppins and Mary Queen of Scots were gonna be there. Three of them hit all the precursors and Black Panther was missing BAFTA, but you knew they’d put it on. The only real question was that fifth spot. Bohemian Rhapsody hit every precursor, and yet they left it off in favor of Buster Scruggs, which only had a BAFTA nomination. Go figure. Still, this was one where if you played the percentages, you were gonna get it mostly right. The one miss was a “shit happens” situation, which you have to expect when dealing with these things. So yeah, nothing overly surprising in terms of how this one came about.

In terms of precursors so far:

BAFTA: The Favourite

BFCA: Black Panther

And CDG announces in three days. I suspect The Favourite wins Period and Black Panther wins Fantasy. I think the latter is much more a slam dunk choice than the former. I think The Favourite could easily lose the guild, since they occasionally make some questionable choices, and tend to go for the designer over anything else. But looking at the choices… Sandy Powell has two nominees on both lists and her main competition has never won CDG Period. So yeah, I expect it to go the way we’d think. Put it this way… nothing that wins CDG Period over The Favourite will affect how I look at these rankings for a second.


5. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs — It missed almost all the precursors and this is its only major nomination. The Coens for Screenplay is basically an automatic at this point and it has a Song nomination which is just a random bonus. This is the only place it really landed, and I don’t think people are gonna see it and go, “I need to vote for that.” Remember how I said space movies always get nominated in Production Design but never win? Well, meet the western in Costume Design. The Revenant, True Grit, Australia… they don’t win. Just by glancing at this category any Oscar novice could tell you this is a fifth choice.

4. Mary Poppins Returns — Conventional wisdom says that with four overall nominations this should go higher, but you have to realize… frills win in this category. So it goes fourth. The costumes are nice and colorful, but no one’s gonna be falling over themselves to take this. The other three are clearly “costume” films. Two of them specifically, one of them more, “Oh yeah, those were also very prevalent.” So this is the fourth choice. In a different category this might even be a second choice. But this is the afterthought to Disney’s nominations this year. I don’t see any momentum here. It’s lost all the precursors.

3. Mary Queen of Scots — It’s frills. It’s queens and it’s Costumes with a capital c. But, there’s another frills choice in the category, which relegates this to an afterthought. I wonder if this would have won if The Favourite weren’t here. But we’ll never know. And since this has lost to the two frontrunners lock step throughout the race, and this only has one other nomination and it’s Makeup & Hairstyling, I can’t see this really going any higher than third, can you?

2. Black Panther — It’s got BFCA. Granted, BFCA fell over themselves to give this wins (though it still only won three), but it’s a win. And the costumes did look nice. Normally I would say this is the category to reward this one, since the costumes are the thing you cannot say anything negative about. They were specific, well-designed, and helped differentiate the characters well, which is something you should do in a movie where there are different tribes within the nation. So yeah, all that works for it. But, it lost BAFTA. And CDG I suspect will split. So I can’t call this a favorite in any way. Especially since… frills, man. It’s always gonna be a second choice that can win and not the likely winner. This is Costume Design. You know the deal.

1. The Favourite — It’s won BAFTA, it’ll probably take the guild, and it’s about a queen and has a lot of corsets. How is this not automatic? Outside of the insane Black Panther noise, were this any other year, I’d have had this as the automatic winner in one of the most locked categories of the night. I’d have said this was gonna win and maybe Mary Queen of Scots could pull a fast one that was unlikely given the 10-2 nominations ratio. Here, this is a clear favorite and Black Panther is a “could happen.” Costume Design, guys. We haven’t seen frills in a few years. Last year had Victoria and Abdul and slightly Beauty and the Beast, but Phantom Thread was all about dresses, so that was a nonstarter. 2016, no frills. 2015, Cinderella, maybe? 2014, no frills. 2013, nothing particular. 2012 — Anna Karenina, frills. 2011, The Artist wins over frills, but frills in a movie no one’s ever heard of. (Anyone remember Anonymous, perhaps the most appropriately-titled movie we could be talking about right now?) The Young Victoria, The Duchess, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Marie Antoinette… this category was built on frills. They’re not gonna pass up an opportunity to go back to them. Especially when this is tied for the most nominations! Come on, guys. It’s not that hard!

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