Award season isn’t just about Best Actor or Best Picture; no matter what the Academy Awards are suggesting by airing certain presentations during commercial breaks, each department and job role is vital. Without editing, films would be a mess, while the hair and makeup team unquestionably transform an actor into the character they are inhabiting.
Costume design enriches the world we see onscreen; clothing informs character and is its own visual language. Its influence stretches far beyond those two-plus hours on screen, as countless runway collections can attest. A movie like Black Panther looks to the past, present, and future of African fashion and heritage as costumes designer Ruth E. Carter fuses indigenous patterns and silhouettes with cutting-edge technology such as 3-D printing.
The TV and film nominees are split into three categories: contemporary, period and fantasy/sci-fi. Prior to 2016, period and sci-fi/fantasy television costuming competed against each other, which on more occasions than not, went to a period show such as Mad Men. Game of Thrones does have ties to the clothing of the past, but pitting it against shows such as Boardwalk Empire and Downton Abbey — as it was in 2013 — makes less sense when you can honor a wide range of sci-fi and fantasy shows, particularly when period and sci-fi/fantasy are already separated on the film side. Furthermore, the Emmys have also recently separated these different genres.
Of course, there are TV shows and movies that straddle different genres, which has led to certain projects falling under more than one heading. “Otherworldy costumes not based in reality” is how the Costume Designers Guild defines sci-fi/fantasy and the rules state that "at least 51 percent of the work of the entire project needs to fall within the said category."
In television, a couple of shows have switched categories this year; in 2018, Ane Crabtree won the Excellence in Contemporary Television for The Handmaid's Tale, but now this falls under sci-fi/fantasy. Gilead is a dystopian world; however, scenes that are set prior to the formation of this society do fall into contemporary costuming.
Meanwhile, Lou Eyrich, who has previously won four times for various iterations of American Horror Story — in the now-defunct mini-series category, as well as contemporary — is also now considered sci-fi/fantasy for the most recent season. Eyrich has won a total of seven awards, including three for her work on Glee; her regular collaborator, Ryan Murphy is being honored with the Distinguished Collaborator accolade at the 21st CDGA event.
Of the five film nominees, only Ruth E. Carter is also nominated for an Academy Award this year, but she faces competition from previous CDGA and Oscar winner, Jenny Beavan. Both the MCU and DCU are represented, plus the ambitious costumes from A Wrinkle in Time have been recognized. The only MCU film to win is Alexandra Byrne for Doctor Strange two years ago. Last year's recipient was Lindy Hemming for Wonder Woman.
There are five nominated movies and TV shows in each category. We’re going to shine a light on the Excellence in Fantasy/Sci-Fi nominees, but for a full list head here.
A Wrinkle in Time - Paco Delgado
Paco Delgado is Oscar-nominated for his recent work on The Danish Girl and Les Misérables, but the mystical looks of each Mrs. (played by Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, and Mindy Kaling) are truly out of this world. It is like Couture Week has been unleashed on the big screen with Oprah modeling the latest in an innovative and experimental fashion doubling as chic AF armor. Each Mrs. has a distinct personality; the clothing she wears is an extension of this, from ethereal ecological garb to ornate textured colorful layers. Delgado uses traditional techniques mixed with new 3-D printing technology. The end result is a visual feast for the eyes.
Aquaman - Kym Barrett
It might surprise you to find out that the majority of the Aquaman costumes did not include any CGI aspects; other than Mera’s (Amber Heard) jellyfish gown and the underwater capes, the work was all Kym Barrett’s. This is also the most colorful of the recent DCU iterations; it is hard to take your eyes off Mera’s emerald green scales, even when Jason Momoa is on screen in wet denim and not much else. The reveal of Arthur in his Aquaman costume is just as mesmerizing, staying true to the aesthetic of this world while nodding to the origins of this character.
Avengers: Infinity War - Judianna Makovsky
Judianna Makovsky is more than familiar with the ever-expanding MCU as she has previously worked on Captain America: Winter’s Soldier, Captain America: Civil War and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol 2. There aren’t a ton of new costumes — including some civilian attire — in the latest Avengers, but maintaining the familiar is important, particularly when so many characters are involved. Having worked on two Captain Americas, Makovsky is a Steve Rogers expert; the subtle changes to his costume give him a moodier vibe that stretches far beyond his sadness beard (RIP).
Black Panther - Ruth E. Carter
This is how you build a previously unseen world; the costumes of Black Panther reveal just how vast Wakanda is. Each character is richly designed, drawing on a range of influences including Afrofuturism and sacred geometry. From the super stylish James Bond-inspired casino sequence that featured the colors of the Pan-African flag to Shuri’s (Letitia Wright) tech-infused athleisure styling, Black Panther is a sartorial superhero movie for the ages. This movie also appeared on our Top 10 Best Dressed of 2018 list. Ruth E. Carter has also collaborated with Spike Lee since Do the Right Thing and is a well-deserved recipient of the Career Achievement Award.
The Nutcracker and the Four Realms - Jenny Beavan
Sugar Plum Fairy (Keira Knightley) was another Top 10 Best Dressed thanks to her very on brand styling, which included an incredible ruffled frock that moved with every step she took. In this heightened world of themed realms, suits are also infused with icicles and floral brocade. The detail in every single frame is a sight to behold. Clara’s (Mackenzie Foy) wears a typical Disney princess dreamy gown, but she also gets to go on an adventure in military garb. Beavan draws on French and Russian influences that feel authentic to the book and ballet, while also putting her own spin — or pirouette — on this well-known story.
American Horror Story: Apocalypse - Paula Bradley and Lou Eyrich
American Horror Story: Apocalypse is set in the near future, but also looks to past series' including the return of some super stylish witches. Yves Saint Laurent and the 1970s were a big inspiration for the witch look of AHS: Coven. Those previous influences are there, but these characters have also grown-up and evolved. Recent Ryan Murphy acting troupe addition, Cody Fern is turning heads both on the red carpet and in his role as the silk scarf-wearing Antichrist. Previous CDGA winner Lou Eyrich is joined by Paula Bradley as they add capes and lace to this fabulous monochromatic palette.
The Handmaid’s Tale - Ane Crabtree
The red and white handmaid uniform is an iconic symbol, which is now being utilized in real life protests across the world in the continued fight for reproductive rights. Ane Crabtree has created a textured world both in flashbacks and the present timeline of this oppressive world. Season 2 introduced to several new places and people, including the bitter Colonies, the utilitarian garb of the Econo workers and Commander Lawrence (Bradley Whitford) who dresses and behaves like no other man in his position. Switching from red to black for a mass funeral is still one of the most haunting costume images of 2018.
A Series of Unfortunate Events - Cynthia Summers
Another Best Dressed of 2018 honoree makes the CDGA cut, as Esmé Squalor (Lucy Punch) cannot be stopped. The Baudelaire children live in dark times, but the clothes they wear often shine a bit of brightness into their unfortunate predicament. The whimsical nature of the costume and production design helps alleviate the suffering of the children at the center of this story. Summers drew on iconic designers such as Balmain, while also ensuring she used sustainable materials where possible.
Star Trek: Discovery - Gersha Phillips
An iconic series brings plenty of history, which means a designer has to stay true to the foundations, while also delivering their own spin on the costumes. A big challenge, which Gersha Phillips has more than lived up to with her work on Star Trek: Discovery. The red, gold and blue uniforms are all present, but rather than a carbon copy, they pay homage to the original while keeping a contemporary silhouette. Not only that, but Phillips delivers on the gold chest armor, Michelle Yeoh looks glamorous and commanding in this garb.
Westworld - Sharen Davis
Oscar-nominee Sharen Davis takes over from Ane Crabtree (who designed the majority of Season 1), which sees the expansion of Westworld to different parks and multiple timelines. Tessa Thompson as Charlotte Hale switches out corporate chic and her fancy slip gown for Western menswear, meanwhile, Maeve (Thandie Newton) finds herself adapting to a variety of dangerous scenarios. Davis delivers on the aspects we already know, while also using costumes to enrich this sprawling world.