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Overture to Oscar: Best Movie Costumes of the Year

February 8, 2011

Costume designers, much like set decorators, are rarely given the credit they deserve when it comes to helping a director or actor achieve their vision in a film.  The right costumes can take a character from interesting to fascinating, and in  the hands of a sartorial genius, the perfect hat, dress or suit can work miracles.  Here are best examples of costuming this year.

5.) Black Swan – costumes by Amy Westcott

The black and white swan costumes for the ballet itself were mesmerizing and intense, but equally interesting were Westcott’s costumes for the female leads during rehearsals and “down time”.  It’s these costume choices, especially the “little girl lost” ones for Natalie Portman’s Nina, as well as the “trashy chic” choices for Mila Kunis’s Lily, that catapult Westcott onto the costuming scene.  She has an eye for what composes modern and sleek, and it is no wonder.  She’s been the chief costumer on HBO”s Entourage since 2005.

4.) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Pt. One – costumes by Jany Temime

Temime has costumed the “Potters” since Prisoner of Azkaban, but this summer’s film was the highlight of the bunch, illustrating just how much our beloved characters have grown.  She has a keen eye for using color to highlight plot points in the midst of grays and blacks (see that fabulous Hermione dress in the middle of London traffic).  It’s not just the ladies who get the star treatment  – her men’s costumes, especially those of elder wizards and notorious bad guys, are as dramatic and fun as the ladies’ choices.

3.) Alice in Wonderland – Colleen Atwood

I adore Atwood’s costumes – her past movies include Little Women and Sleepy Hollow (both instances where the costumes at times had me pausing to check them out in more detail).  This year, her costumes for Tim Burton’s fantastical take on the Lewis Carroll classic were the best of her career.  Her outfits for Alice go from fashion-forward Victorian to  full out battle maiden.  Her getup for Depp’s Mad Hatter was inspired, right down to the signature hat.

2.)Robin Hood – costumes by Janty Yates

Although the movie itself was underwhelming, I was impressed (and almost giddy) when looking at Yates’ costuming choices, which were not only historically accurate, but interesting and character-appropriate – a rarity in medieval films.  Most designers working with this time period tend to make the men look like they just walked out of jousting practice (which would be about 2-300 years off in terms of historical accuracy) and the women like they came from Ye Olde Renaissance Faire (also about 300 years off).  Yates dresses upper-class Marian in garb which would hold up in brutal English winters, showing that the chatelaine of a proper manor house wouldn’t necessarily wear laces and silks.  Her intense eye for detail benefitted the men, as well.  Her Richard the Lionheart’s battle armor in the beginning of the film was pitch perfect.

1.) The King’s Speech – costumes by Jenny Beavan

I’m also a big fan of Jenny Beavan, who almost never seems to go wrong when choosing fabrics and styles for characters.  Her past film credits include Gosford Park (where the dresses on Kristin Scott Thomas made me swoon with delight) and last year’s Sherlock Holmes.  Her choices in Hooper’s film are spot on – especially the awkwardly elegant suits for Firth’s George VI and her “sensible” suits and dresses for Bonham-Carter’s Elizabeth Bowes Lyon.  It was a time of transition in both men and women’s fashion, and Beavan’s royals contrast sharply with the more middle class practicality of Logue’s family.  All in all, the costumes for The King’s Speech were easily the best of the year.  Expect Beavan to walk away with the Oscar.

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