• Melissa Imari Alvarez

Invincible Designers: 89th Academy Award Costume Design Nominees

Scarlett O'Hara's green drapery dress. Jim Stark's red windbreaker jacket. Dorothy Gale's blue and white gingham dress. Indiana Jones's brown fedora. You can probably see each of these characters in your mind and know the actor who played them. But how likely is it that you know the face or the name of the person responsible for designing these outfits? You don't have to be a costume aficionado to appreciate what the characters are wearing on the screen, but too often, the brilliant minds behind the wardrobe go unmentioned, unnoticed, and unappreciated. Hopefully, this will help! Read on to learn more about the 5 Costume Designers nominated for an Academy Award this year.

Joanna Johnston, Allied

Joanna Johnston with costumes she designed for Allied.

Joanna Johnston has been working with costumes in films for close to 40 years, receiving her first feature film costume design credit in 1987 for Hellraiser. Other films she's designed for, to name just a few, include Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, Death Becomes Her, Forrest Gump, Love Actually, and The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Johnston received her first Academy Award nomination in 2012 for her work on Lincoln. This year she received her second nomination for Allied, the World War II spy drama.

In an interview with Harpers Bazaar, when asked which piece she's worked on was her favorite, she responded, "...every film is favorite. Like now, [Allied] is my favorite. When I did Who Framed Roger Rabbit with Bob [Zemeckis], that was my favorite. I loved Lincoln. You kind of immerse yourself into it; your whole focus, when you're looking for stuff you're like a magpie, you just hone into everything. And then you just shift; you just dump it like an old lover and you move on to the next one."

Colleen Atwood, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Colleen Atwood working on one of her designs for Snow White and the Huntsman.

Colleen Atwood is one of the most recognized costume designers, known and celebrated for her long-term partnership and multiple collaborations with Tim Burton. She has accumulated 70 costume design credits over the span of 33 years, which has her averaging at least 2 projects per year! Atwood's extensive resume includes films which have earned her12 Academy Award nominations, including Little Women, Sleepy Hollow, and Into the Woods, and 3 wins for Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, and Alice in Wonderland.

She attributes her success to her controlling nature. "‘I look at and approve every fitting, no matter who anybody is, and I am very controlling in how I want everything to look. It’s important: it matters, and you never know what you’re going to see. I learned a long time ago that you can’t control what happens with pieces you care about unless you’re there, so I’m there."

Consolata Boyle, Florence Foster Jenkins

Consolata Boyle accepting her Costume Designers Guild Award for Excellence in Contemporary Film for The Queen.

Stephen Frears, director of Florence Foster Jenkins, can only sing his praises for Consolata Boyle, whom he has brought on to design several of his films. "Consolata is simply brilliant. I barely need to speak to her as I know what she’s doing is going to be dazzling. I’ve worked with her for 25 years, so I’m very lucky.”

Boyle studied history and archaeology at University College Dublin, trained in costume design at the Abbey Theatre, and received a post-graduate diploma in textiles at West Surrey College of Art and Design. Her film credits include Moll Flanders, The Serpent's Kiss, Cheri, and The Iron Lady. She has been nominated for an Oscar one other time in 2007 for The Queen.

Madeline Fontaine, Jackie

Madeline Fontaine in an interview for her work on Yves Saint Laurent.

Madeline Fontaine is a French costume designer most known for her work on Amélie, Yves Saint Laurent, and Versailles. She has been nominated for several César Awards in France, and won in 2005 and 2009 for her designs in A Very Long Engagement (Un long dimanche de fiançailles) and Séraphine, respectively. Fontaine is also the president of the French Association of Film and Audiovisual Costumers (AFCCA). This is her first year to be nominated for an Academy Award.

When asked what advice she has for anyone looking to work in the costume industry, Fontaine said, "I would tell the newcomers to be always curious and never stop learning, to stay far away from competition, and try to be at the best of what they can do.

Mary Zophres, La La Land

Mary Zophres discussing wardrobe with La La Land director, Damien Chazelle.

Mary Zophres has worked on a range of films, from There's Something About Mary to Interstellar. She has also been the Coen brothers' go-to costume designer since The Big Lebowski. In fact, it was her work on their film, True Grit, that earned Zophres her first Oscar nom.

In interviews for La La Land, Zophres has stressed the importance of communication and collaboration when designing for a film. "It was done through a synchronicity between costumes and set design, and production, and cinematography...We knew what the clothes were, and we were all in sync. Sometimes the exterior took precedent, sometimes the costume took precedent. It was collaborative film-making, and we were working as one. Everybody on set wanted to make this vision that Damien had, happen. We were all in it, working our butts off, coming up with ideas, but we were following our leader and he was an incredible leader."

Notable Mentions: Hidden Figures, Kubo and the Two Strings

Renee Ehrlich Kalfus (left) and Deborah Cook (right).

Both notable mentions are nominated for Academy Awards in other categories- Hidden Figures for Best Picture and Kubo for Animated Feature Film. Renee Ehrlich Kalfus, Hidden Figures, was tasked with dressing history-making women for a time when fashion was on the brink of a major shift, in a workplace with a strict and demure dress code. Kubo and the Two Strings may seem like an odd choice to endorse for costume design, but Deborah Cook built upwards of 30 copies per outfit for some of the small-scale puppets.

Be sure to tune in to the 2017 Oscars on ABC, February 26 7e/4p, to see which of these talented designers will take home the Academy Award.

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