Oscars 2015: Costume Design – Who Has Your Vote?

This year’s Academy Award nominees for Excellence in Costume Design take us all over the spectrum, through fantasy, history and even somewhere in between. But who’s going to be taking home that little golden statue at the end of the night on Sunday? Well, the DD office has looked at the choices once again and is ready to take bets on the winner!

And the nominees are:

Milena Canonero, The Grand Budapest Hotel
Mark Bridges, Inherent Vice
Colleen Atwood, Into the Woods
Anna B. Sheppard, Maleficent
Jacqueline Durran, Mr. Turner

* * *

Inherent Vice


This one doesn’t stand a chance. How it even made it on this list is beyond us, when there are plenty of other serviceable 20th century period dramas that easily could have taken its place. (Take a look at the CDGA17 nominees for Period film and replace any of those in this spot.) A lot of press has been made lately about the demographics of the Academy Award voters: 94% white, 76% men, with an average age of 63. Well you can bet that all those 63 year old voters think the 1970s was the greatest decade in human history, and how! Because they made it so! Just look at that photo: Jesus was a hippy, ya dig! For the sake of being objective, I’ll actually discuss the costumes for a moment. Here’s a rundown of the plot: Hippy vs. The Fuzz meets drugged-up psychedelic pseudo-noir. Denim, brown suits, orange, dirt — what more can I say? The movie is a mere caricature: a caricature of its genre, a caricature of an era and a caricature of a good movie. Save yourself 148 minutes and take our word for it, odds do not favour this one.

Oscars2015 - Inherent Vicesource

Mr. Turner


The last time director Mike Leigh made a Victorian biography, we got one of the Daily Dandizette’s favourite cinematograph’s, 1999’s delightful Topsy Turvy, and costume designer Lindy Hemming got an Oscar. The film is perhaps the best dramatization of artists at work by showing both sides of the creative temperament, from the Romantic ideal of the restless artist to the driven, hardworking professional. As you can well imagine, the costumes are rich in detail and varied in scope.

Mr. Turner is another paean to the creative process, and the costumes feel real, lived in, and not museum pieces. A lot of that comes from the naturalistic performances Leigh gets from his actors, particularly Timothy Spall as intense landscape artist, Turner. As much as we enjoyed Jacqueline Durran’s costumes, the nature of the film doesn’t allow the same breadth as Topsy Turvy, which had the requisite period clothes, but added the fanciful designs of the Gilbert and Sullivan stage shows and traditional Japanese clothing as well. Also, it’s the least known film in the category and that’s never a good thing.

Oscars2015 - Mr Turnersource



The first of two Disney nods in the costume category, Maleficent was not a favorite movie for me, despite my love for Disney, and we fear our bias might cloud our assessment, but it’s still more of a long shot than not. Maleficent is a revisionist telling of Walt Disney’s classic 1958 “Sleeping Beauty” with one goal to capitalize on the most marketable Disney villain of all time, and Angelina Jolie’s unnaturally defined high cheekbones. Sheppard’s take on the costumes are more naturalistic and simultaneously more fantastical — and neither do much to improve the story, rather it feels like change for the sake of change. One of the things that makes “Sleeping Beauty” truly great are the concept designs by Eyvind Earle that shaped not only the entire production of the original movie, but also the most beloved icon of Disneyland — Sleeping Beauty’s castle. It is a style that combines history, modern art and whimsy seamlessly, and which “Maleficent” does much to ignore and bastardize. Now before we totally throw ourselves under the bus here, we really love Sheppard’s work in “Captain America: The First Avenger” and many of her other credits, but as previously mentioned, the production design of this movie is simply not to the DD’s taste.

Oscars2015 - Maleficentsource

The Grand Budapest Hotel


Heaven help us, we at the DD have liked the past three Wes Anderson films. Where we once had contempt for his overly whimsical dioramas, The Fantastic Mr. Fox maintained the irreverence of Roald Dalh’s original novel while marrying to Anderson’s As with all things Wes Anderson, whimsy is the name of the game and Grand Budapest Hotel is no exception. Here the costumes both enforce the style of the production while simultaneously propelling the story forward through time and scenery in a very manufactured world. But also what more can we add, the look is very par for the course Wes Anderson and we even dare ask where does the line between designer and director end on this picture? Nevertheless, bravo for an exceptional use of colour.

Oscars2015 - Grand Budapest Hotelsource

Into the Woods


Providing original costume design for a movie like “Into the Woods” is actually a lot more challenging than you’d think. It is story adapted from a Broadway show with its own unique design, but even more so, the characters are from beloved childhood stories that everyone knows already. This is a very narrow space to word within. Little Red Riding Hood must be wearing a red hood, because the audience must both recognize and accept this character before she has even been introduced. The costumes of Into the Woods are an interesting marriage of couture, nature and sex. Just look at Meryl Streep’s post-transformation gown to get a sense of our meaning. Add in the behind the scenes magic Atwood pulled off to keep Emily Blunt’s pregnancy under wraps, and we call this one best in show.

Oscars2015 - Into the Woodssource

Usually we might look to the Costume Designers Guild Award winners for a hint, but unfortunately we’ve been left out to dry this year! Both our top contenders: The Grand Budapest Hotel and Into the Woods earned top awards for costume design in separate categories. Congrats to all the CDGA winners!

So it’s up to you reader to be the judge!

A Year in Review: 2014

At the risk of my “year in review” posts being my most frequent kind of post, here is a quick round-up of 2014, so I can move on to my next most frequent post, my Academy Award predictions for the Costume Design category.

In February I started off making my first vintage-inspired piece, a skirt based on McCalls 6667 from 1946. I didn’t actually have the pattern or anything I just made is after being inspired a picture of the pattern I found through a random Google search.


In March I visited the Downton Abbey exhibit at the Spadina House. And in April I attended Costume Con 32, sporting a vintage look (including my 1946 skirt above).


In July we took a cruise to Iceland and Norway and stopped off for a few days in London. I was able to sneak in a little costume spying too. Including most notably a trip to the V&A for the exhibit: “The Glamour of Italian Fashion – 1945-2014“. Unfortunately no photos (or sketching!) allowed.

In September I made the Bluebird nurse’s uniform. And the missing collar and cuffs were added in October. Also in October I made a Halloween costume, for the annual dance I attend, that intertwined a Venetian masquerade ballgown style with Marie from the Aristocats.


And I got to don my 1912 dress again for the annual Haunted event. This time with wig and fur.

Bryan and Nicole, inside, Haunted Mississauga 2014

In November I helped celebrate local history by donning an 1812 dress. This one wasn’t made by me, but I put together the turban-style headpiece to match.


In November and December I made two museum costumes one 1830s dress and one WWI era. These combined Past Patterns and original pattern drafting by me.

DSC_0176 DSC_0174

And post-Christmas I bought a pair of Miss L Fire 1940s-inspired heels to continue my foray into making vintage a larger part of my wardrobe.


In the meanwhile, we also bought and moved into our first house and adopted two kitties. And I started a dress that’s still lost in the packed boxes.

It was a busy year, but here’s to a much busier next year. (And I think it will be, because I’ve already completed a 1940s plaid skirt and 90% completed a Vionnet-inspired gown! Hurray!)

Bluebird – WWI Canadian Nursing Sister

The past couple weeks I’ve been working my fingers off putting together a costume commission. The request was for a Canadian nurse’s uniform from the First World War. The nursing sisters were nicknamed Bluebirds because of the beautiful blue colour of their uniforms.

bluebird 0Original Bluebird uniform from the War Museum in Ottawa, Canada

Yesterday was an annual event hosted by the city to celebrate our history and culture, and I was requested to model the uniform at the Small Arms Building, which was used to manufacture firearms for WWII, mainly by local women.

Despite my best efforts however, I was not to complete the uniform in its full entirety, but it was finished enough to achieve the necessary effect. Here are a couple photos of the – almost – complete uniform.

bluebird 4

bluebird 2

bluebird 6

bluebird 5

bluebird 3

bluebird 1

Dressed in Downton

Way back in March I had the opportunity to visit “Dressed in Downton” an exhibit of costumes from the hit British television show, Downton Abbey. The exhibit was held at the Spadina Museum (pro. spa-DEEN-ah), a 55-room mansion nestled in among a neighbourhood of rich midtown Toronto. Spadina is perhaps no substitute to Downton, i.e. Highclere Castle, but it is beautifully maintained historic building built in the 1860s and styled for the 1920s/1930s era.

Spadina House.

And now the exhibit!

On this outing we were also testing out our new Sony smartphone attachable lens. This is a DSLR lens that communicates with any phone/tablet via an app and its own dedicated wireless connection. Very cool. And also fabulous for this kind of exhibit: because the lens and viewfinder are not connected, you can stick the lens in inconvenient locations and still have a visual of the photo you are going to take without, you know, contorting your body.

The show was by appointment, with the exhibit followed by an accompanying tour of the mansion. We were led first up to the third floor servant quarters to get a chance to get a first taste of mansion life and ogle some gorgeous costume eye candy.

Wealthy American, Martha Levinson

Lady Cora’s Red Embroidered Gown

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