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Celebrating the sci-fi/fantasy nominees ahead of the 22nd Costume Designers Guild Awards

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Jan 27, 2020, 1:13 PM EST

Award season is in full swing, with each guild honoring the best of 2019. Costume design has wowed audiences in a variety of ways over the last year, enhancing the magic and adding to the narrative of many genre movies and TV shows. Now it is time to celebrate those individual achievements at the Costume Designers Guild Awards.

“Otherworldly costumes not based in reality” is how the Costume Designers Guild categorizes the sci-fi/fantasy, which rules that "at least 51 percent of the work of the entire project needs to fall within the said category." A five-minute dream sequence does not a fantasy make. Movies and television are split into three distinct groups — contemporary, period, and sci-fi/fantasy — however, some of the nominees do fall into more than one of these distinctions. So, if you are wondering why you aren't seeing Jenn Rogien's work on Russian Doll discussed below (one of our 2019 costume highlights), it is because it has been deemed a competitor in the contemporary field facing off against Killing Eve, Fleabag, Big Little Lies, and Schitt's Creek. Likewise, Jojo Rabbit and Once Upon a Time ... in Hollywood — which blur the lines between history and fantasy — fall into the period lineup of contenders.

Michael Kaplan is not only nominated for his incredible work on Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, but he is also this year's Career Achievement recipient (Ruth E. Carter received this honor last year). Kaplan's costume design career spans nearly 40 years and began in auspicious style with Blade Runner in 1982. Since then he has worked on many big-name genre projects, including Fight Club, Armageddon, Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Star Trek, Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol, as well as all the installments of the recent Star Wars trilogy. Meanwhile, Charlize Theron will receive the Spotlight Award, which goes to an actor "whose talent and career personify an enduring commitment to excellence, including a special awareness of the role and importance of costume design." Roles in Atomic Blonde, Mad Max: Fury Road, Prometheus, and Snow White and the Huntsman all tick the costume excellence box.

Unlike the Oscars, which have only one award for costume design (the Emmys opt for three), the CDGAs ensure more than one type of costume design is recognized: 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 the full list of nominees head here. The 22nd Annual Costume Designers Guild Awards will be held on Tuesday, January 28.

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Aladdin remake

Aladdin - Michael Wilkinson

Reimagining a Disney classic isn't the easiest of tasks, particularly when audiences have such a strong connection to the original animation. Six-time CDGA nominee Michael Wilkinson managed to capture the essence of the animated looks from 1992 — including Jasmine's turquoise two-piece — while adding his own spin on the costumes. Beautifully embroidered garments fill the frame; nevertheless, Will Smith's Genie stands out in striking blue and gold. Not only did Wilkson have the principals to think about, but there were also over 200 background performers to consider. It was an incredible undertaking that saw the designer turn to source material from the Middle East and South Asia, crafting a whole new world out of a familiar story.


Avengers: Endgame - Judianna Makovsky

Considering Makovsky was nominated last year for Avengers: Infinity War, it should come as no surprise to see her name on this list — particularly as there are a number of new costumes to consider. Trips through a number of decades provided an opportunity for period attire including Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) and Howard Stark's (John Slattery) '70s garb. Nebula (Karen Gillan) got a new badass leather jacket and everyone who didn't get snapped out of existence got a new white suit for the mission. Makovsky also had the task of recreating scenes from previous movies, including a tight focus on a snug costume during a fight. Yes, America’s Ass wasn’t let down by the fit of his uniform. There was also a funeral scene, which featured traditional mourning attire but with each character’s personal style emphasized. The year's biggest movie had the costumes to match.

Brie Larson in Captain Marvel

Captain Marvel - Sanja M. Hays

Carol Danvers has gone through a lot of style changes over the years in the comic books, and it is safe to say there are some major fashion don'ts within those pages. However, there have also been sartorial highs including the 2012 redesign. As the first-female fronted Marvel superhero movie, there was a lot of hype and anticipation, including what her costume would look like. Hays took inspiration from the contemporary Carol revival and this design did not disappoint. From the very '90s Nine Inch Nails tee to the evolution of the Captain Marvel red and blue uniform, Hays paid homage to this character, her fighter pilot origin, and period the movie was set in. She also turned back the clock on Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), created the Kree Starforce uniforms, and made Carol an accidental trendsetter with her use of Classic Blue.

Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Maleficient: Mistress of Evil - Ellen Mirojnick

Marrying high fashion armor with pearl queen decadence, Elle Mirojnick hit new fairy tale costume heights in the Maleficent sequel. Michelle Pfeiffer as Queen Ingrith brought new meaning to the concept of an ice queen, decked out in pearls and opulent jewels. There is also a reason why some of these garments are runway-ready: Maleficent's (Angelina Jolie) new battle attire saw Mirojnick collaborate with designers Ralph & Russo. She also paid homage to the original Disney Sleeping Beauty animation — which was celebrating its 60th anniversary — via Aurora's (Elle Fanning) silhouette. With previous Career Achievement recipient Mirojnick at the helm, each one of these women brings something different to a striking fairy tale aesthetic.

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker

Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker - Michael Kaplan

Sure, the final part in the new Star Wars trilogy was ultimately divisive, but one aspect that cannot be quibbled upon is Michael Kaplan's excellent costume design. He is the recipient of the 2020 Career Achievement Award and for good reason. The Rise of Skywalker expanded upon the legacy of the excellent outerwear on offer in a "galaxy far, far away," delivered several poignant homages to Carrie Fisher via camouflage ponchos and white hoods, showed Ben Solo's (Adam Driver) love of a grungy sweater, gifted us with Poe Dameron's (Oscar Isaac) infinity scarf, and made Zorii Bliss (Keri Russell) an instant sartorial star in a purple jumpsuit with major gold accessories.

Carnival Row

Carnival Row, 'Aisling' - Joanna Eatwell

Period and fantasy attire often go hand-in-hand (see also, Game of Thrones), taking familiar garments from the past and elevating the design to match the world they are part of. In the case of Carnival Row, costume designer Jonna Eatwell has fairy wings and curled horns to consider when conceiving a Victorian-adjacent world. And she does a beautiful job injecting steampunk chic into the garments worn by Cara Delevingne as Vignette Stonemoss. In the nominated second episode, each social group is showcased revealing the significant differences in wealth and status. This includes dapper puck Agreus Astrayon (David Gyasi) in all his best silk and finery who moves into the fancy neighborhood, much to the chagrin of pink leg-of-mutton sleeve wearing Imogen Spurnrose (Tamzin Merchant). This is the episode in which the audience gets a taste of what this mythic world is really like.

Game of Thrones Season 8 Episode 6

Game of Thrones, 'The Iron Throne' - Michele Clapton

Fresh off winning the Emmy in the same category and having previously won four CDGAs for her work crafting the costumes of Westeros, Clapton is the one to beat. Submitting the final episode also showcases her incredible work on Game of Thrones and as with The Rise of Skywalker, no matter how you feel about how it ended, the costumes from start to finish are exceptional. Sansa Stark's (Sophie Turner) coronation gown is indicative of the rich texture, detail, and story each garment tells: the way this scene was shot in close-up is a much-deserved love letter to Clapton's (and her team) exquisite work. The only thing this finale is lacking is the Cersei Lannister (Lena Headey) finery, but there is enough to warrant a fifth win for Clapton's Game of Thrones win at the CDGAs.

The Handmaid's Tale

The Handmaid's Tale, 'Household' - Natalie Bronfman

Taking over from award-winning costume designer Ane Crabtree, Natalie Bronfman has been working on The Handmaid’s Tale since the first episode. Crabtree won a CDGA Award in 2018 when this show was placed in the contemporary category (this is another genre-blending show) and the IRL impact of the red uniform is significant. In "Household," the handmaids go to Washington, delivering another striking and poignant image. As with previous seasons, it isn't the exact same uniform: June (Elisabeth Moss) is on the receiving end of a brutal gag in order to silence her. Three seasons in and the costumes are still used in an effective manner to underscore the repressive nature of this society.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

A Series of Unfortunate Events, 'Penultimate Peril: Part 2' - Cynthia Summers

Injecting whimsy into a show, which at its heart involves a villain trying to murder children doesn’t sound like the easiest of tasks, but it is a challenge costume designer Cynthia Summers rose too. In Season 2, Esmé Squalor (Lucy Punch) proved she was a fan of the Balenciaga-inspired extreme shoulder silhouette, which she took even further the following year in matching pink pinstripes suits with "daughter" Carmelita Spats (Kitana Turnbull). In the penultimate episode, a trial takes center stage providing plenty of stylized costume moments, but there are also flashbacks to how this all began. Taking place at the opera, the attire is suitably fancy. The world the Baudelaire children inhabit may be bleak, but the costumes are anything but drab.

Watchmen Sister Night

Watchmen, 'It's Summer and We're Running Out of Ice' - Sharen Davis

Regina King disguised as Sister Night is one of the indelible costume moments of both the year and the decade. Breathing new life into Watchmen is a huge challenge that Damon Lindelof and his creative team surpassed, which includes conceiving new superhero identities. The leather hooded look is perhaps the crowning achievement of Sharen Davis — including the inventive way of covering King’s face — but the use of that identifiable Watchmen yellow in the police uniform is also a stunning choice that should be celebrated.