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Crafts Roundup: Best Costume Design Contenders Play Dress-Up for the Past and Future

Photo of Bill Desowitz By Bill Desowitz | Thompson on Hollywood January 2, 2014 at 2:48PM

Costumers finally got their own branch this year, which mean they're no longer lumped in with the other designers, so we'll see how that impacts the nominations in two weeks. Not surprisingly, there's an abundance of upscale period pieces ("American Hustle," "12 Years a Slave," "Lee Daniels' The Butler," "The Great Gatsby," "Philomena," "Inside Llewyn Davis"). But even when dealing with the future ("Her") there's a retro vibe, save for the idiosyncratic and flamboyant "The Hunger Games: Catching Fire" (see our TOH! interview with Trish Summerville)
'The Great Gatsby'
'The Great Gatsby'

For "Gatsby's" Catherine Martin, who does both production and costume design, "sets and costumes are indivisible: they create a synthesis which allows you to tell the story as effectively as you can. It's like a wave that never seems to be coming until it's almost on top of you and then it's far too big for you to ride." 

Martin collaborated with Miuccia Prada and Brooks Brothers in creating the '20s-inspired costumes. Indeed, Prada re-imagined 20 dresses from her collection for two extravagant parties. Most noteworthy was the crystal dress worn by Carey Mulligan's Daisy, which Prada tweaked from her chandelier dress. The vision was all about looking forward and back for an anachronistic hybrid.

In "Philomena," Consolata Boyle took inspiration from the lightheartedness and laughter that propel the story, as Judi Dench and Steve Coogan reveal their inner selves through the meeting of opposites."The real Philomena has a wonderful sense of style and it's important to the overall persona," Boyle suggests. "I wanted to carry that through but for it not to be a distraction or too busy. It was a coherence of color and fabric, and a feeling of comfort.There was simplicity of colors and shape."

Oscar Isaac in "Inside Llewyn Davis"
Oscar Isaac in "Inside Llewyn Davis"

With "Inside Llewyn Davis," it was more about comfort than flamboyance for Mary Zophres. Her research revealed that even though the Greenwich Village folk story took place in '61, the counterculture fashion movement had not yet taken hold. Even so, there was a big difference between uptown and downtown dressing. In terms of contrasts, though, Oscar Isaac's eponymous protagonist wears the same beige corduroy jacket throughout while John Goodman's cranky jazz musician dons a maroon suit.

And when it came to wardrobes in "Her," a retro concept informed ideas for organic shapes, textures, palettes, and materials. But, as with everything else, red was prominent for its comforting warmth.

"Style and fashion in clothing generally looks back to look forward," explains designer Casey Storm. "We landed on the concept of a future that became a more personal and unique experience that you could have. There are more options to refine your choices and make it a world you want to live in rather than a fake, uniform world."

This article is related to: Crafts Round-up, Costume Design, Thompson on Hollywood, Awards, Awards Season Roundup

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.