As a preview to Oscar night…here’s a wonderful piece on Edith Head, who has won 8 Oscars. It also explains why no one will most likely never beat her record – it’s all about how the studio set up costuming back then as how it’s done today…and how actors and actresses wore what Ms. Head designed for them not what designers could entice movie stars to wear.
It’s really a throw-back to another era of movie-making and that’s not to take a single thing away from Ms. Head. She was a savvy lady who understood a lot more about design than just slapping a piece of fabric here and there. Each movie star had their own figure problems, and Ms. Head knew them all and knew what to do about them.
What’s more, many of the designers knew it and loved it when they knew she would be designing the costumes.
Jane Russell, inGentlemen Prefer Blondes, loved having her outfits designed by Ms. Head, as it not only made it easier for her to fall into her character, but made it easier to wear, so when she was up or an Oscar, this is the person she turned to.
This year’s contenders for Best Costume
Anna Karenina Jacqueline Durran (Atonement, Tinker Tailor, Pride & Prejudice 2005)
Les Misérables Paco Delgado (The Skin I Live In, Biutiful)
Lincoln Joanna Johnston (Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan, Sixth Sense, Indiana Jones/Last Crusade)
Mirror Mirror Eiko Ishioka (Dracula, Immortals, The Cell, The Fall)
Snow White and the Huntsman Colleen Atwood (Silence of the Lambs, Big Fish, Edward Scissorhands, Alice in Wonderland)
I can tell you from personal experience that the production that uses the most employees is usually the one that wins the Oscar. Usually the technical votes (and even thought Costume Design is moving out of that and into a more pronounced category every year, it’s still, for purposes of selecting the winner, consider a more technical award), but the award will go to the most extravagant use of employees, which usually means the most detailed period piece will win. Les Misérables certain fills that category, but Anna Karenina does so even more – more upscale, and therefore more detailed, clothing to be constructed. While Lincoln & the fantasy films Mirror Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman are intricate and require a lot of work and especially imagination, the work on Anna Karenina and Les Misérables requires more folks, and those are my picks for best costume this year.
I know this cause a family member was nominated for a movie and her competition, although stiff, wasn’t nearly as intricate and difficult as what my cousin had to accomplish in Dick Tracy.
This was her competition
Hamlet – which was a period piece, however the costumers weren’t all that intricate – historically correct and beautiful, but alas, not that ornate.
Avalon was also a period piece, however the costumes were again not that ornate or required hours and hours of work on the detail of the costumes.
Dances with Wolves is another historically accurate movie – as far as the costumes are concerned, but again, not massive ornamentation requiring a lot of personnel to create and construct the costumes.
Here is my family’s contender for the Oscar. This was a lot more difficult than it looks, because she was trying to stay within the color palette of the original comic pages. These were mostly basic colors – red, blue, yellow, green, black and white, even though the screen was using all the colors of the spectrum. It so happened that I had a client who wanted the dress on the right, so I had an intimate lesson in the problems that dress presented, and she told me that they used 8 yellow coats for Dick Tracy as they got dirty so fast, and in the comic books they were pristine clean all the time.
And here’s the winner that year – Cyrano de Bergerac. When I saw the film, I knew it would win…just look at this actresses garment – gobs and gobs of hours were spent in constructing this one outfit. I knew this was going to be stiff competition for my cousin!
So even though my family isn’t up for an award this year, I’m still watching it. I mean the runway is always worth the time and there’s a ton of ideas out there to be had!
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