2020 Oscar Category Breakdown: Best Costume Design

Today is Best Costume Design. Normally I’d wait to go over a category like this until I see what BAFTA and the guild have to say, but given how this one looks I think we can make pretty solid guesses as to how it’s gonna turn out. If things change based on those other two, then we can recalibrate. But until then, we’re just gonna follow the usual logic for this category — follow the frills.

Everybody knows what normally wins in Costume Design, and I bet most people just glancing at all five nominees in this category will know automatically what’s most likely to win. That’s really the only kind of logic you need most of the time.

Best Costume Design


Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom




Not really the most surprising category in the world. Four of these pretty much anyone could guess based on how the precursors turned out. The only real surprise was Pinocchio getting on. It had a guild nomination, but it being a foreign film didn’t make it the obvious choice for that final spot. But, when you look at the other films in that spot — Ammonite had no traction anywhere, News of the World was destined to go soft for them, Promising Young Woman is contemporary, and contemporary films never get nominated here. So in the end, we got Pinocchio and the four choices that hit almost all the precursors. Not that bad a category but also not something that screams ‘costumes’, outside of one choice in particular. And that’s pretty much the logic I’m using in guessing this one.

5. Pinocchio — It’s foreign, not that many people have seen it and I’m not sure people will feel the urge to vote for it here. Maybe Makeup & Hairstyling is where you make that argument, but here, I can’t see it happening. You have to realize, the majority of the people voting have only seen a handful of the movies. Not everyone watches everything nominated. Even though, I’ll say, they have made it easier for people to do so, provided they can use the internet. Once nominees were announced, they changed the Oscar streaming site to list every nominee in every category and make them available for streaming. So now you have the ability to watch stuff… I’m just not sure most people are gonna do that. So this feels like the longest shot on the board in the category, given that it’s the least known of the films on this list and will have the least amount of people who’ve seen it.

4. Mulan — You can make the case for this as third choice, but I’m saying fourth. Live action Disney remakes have never won this category (unless you wanna count Alice in Wonderland a decade ago, but that can be seen as a Tim Burton movie over a Disney movie). They just don’t win. You can make as many cases as you want as to why people will vote for this, but the fact remains that there’s no real precedent or evidence to think it’s going to happen. This isn’t nominated at BAFTA, which is a huge red flag, it lost BFCA and even if it wins the guild, that’s only one of three categories. I don’t see any way where this comes into the ceremony as anything higher than third choice.

3. Mank — 10 overall nominations has to count for something. I know there’s no major heat on this for Best Picture and the general feeling on this is that it’s respected more than it is liked… but with a film like this, they’re going to look to give it something. They always do. I think of Lincoln, which, with 12 nominations that year and Daniel Day-Lewis guaranteed to win, only won one other award. I’m thinking that’s gonna be the fate of this movie. One, maybe two awards at most just to get it something. This feels like one of the likelier categories for it to contend it. I don’t see it winning, because you really haven’t seen something with this level of muted costumes (there are some of the Davies costumes, but largely it’s just dudes in suits) win in… a while. The Artist is the last one, so I guess that is a legitimate precedent. I’ll need to see this win either the guild or BAFTA before I take it seriously as a potential winner, since at least The Artist won the majority of the precursors that year. It feels like a solid third choice here.

2. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom — It has a BFCA win already, the costumes are at least somewhat memorable in terms of the Ma Rainey dresses and I could see this getting legitimate votes. Again, though… not sure I consider this a favorite until I see it win BAFTA or the guild. But this does feel like a solid alternate that could take it down if that’s where the prevailing sentiment goes. But, it’s Costume Design… we know what wins here.

1. Emma — Frills, frills and more frills. They love this shit. This would be the favorite even before you considered the precursors. I expect this to win BAFTA and the guild could go either way. If this wins BAFTA, it’ll look a lot like what happened last year, when Little Women won there and lost BFCA and wasn’t even nominated by the guild en route to winning the Oscar. I pretty much would need to see Ma Rainey sweep everything before I considered anything other than this the favorite. Because people have a template for what they think this category is about, and that template usually takes you all the way home in terms of guessing the category. And this is that template.

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