Before the Gold: Best Costume Design

This month we’re taking a look at this year’s Oscar nominees and digging into their past work to find hidden gems that you may have overlooked. This year’s nominees for Costume Design run the gamut, from first-time nominees to Oscar perennials, from relative newcomers to industry legends. But they all have something in common: they all have under-seen and under-appreciated work in their filmographies.

Alexandra Byrne

Nominated for: Emma.

Previously Nominated for: Hamlet, Elizabeth, Finding Neverland, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Mary Queen of Scots

Hidden Gem: Murder on the Orient Express

Alexandra Byrne has found her greatest success in period films, garnering every one of her Oscar nominations for one. However, her terrific work in Murder on the Orient Express was forgotten in the shuffle of the 2017 season, but should not go forgotten on her resume. She turned out some of her best work in the murder mystery, and love the film or not, there’s no denying that her lavish costumery fits the film perfectly and is absolutely gorgeous to boot. The costumes work so well due to the intense amount of research Byrne puts into each of her projects–creating a ‘30s look that transports you to the era and could probably be dropped into the actual era without being noticeably modern.

Bina Daigeler

Nominated for: Mulan

Previously Nominated for: None

Hidden Gem: All About My Mother

Bina Daigeler is a first-time nominee this year for her work on the Disney blockbuster Mulan, but she’s done great work for decades, including some key collaborations with Pedro Almodóvar. Her work on All About My Mother is already appreciated by those who have seen the film, but it deserves even more recognition. The costume design is just impeccable. The use of the bright colors help lend a dreamlike nostalgia to Almodóvar’s tribute to his mother. It perfectly captures the way memories seem to grow brighter and lovelier the further we get from them, turning into Technicolor movies of the mind.

Massimo Cantini Parrini

Nominated for: Pinocchio

Previously Nominated for: None

Hidden Gem: Ophelia

Massimo Cantini Parrini has only been very active as a costume designer for the last decade, and he’s done most of his work in Italian films, like Pinocchio, the one he is nominated for this year. One of his more recent projects, and one that flew under the radar was Ophelia, an English language production starring Daisy Ridley and Naomi Watts. Parrini found a way to meld the middle ages with modern femininity. His costumes help tell the story and drive home the feminist ideals behind the retelling while staying true to the time period they’re set within.

Ann Roth

Nominated for: Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom

Previously Nominated for: Places in the Heart, The English Patient, The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Hours

Hidden Gems: Silkwood/Working Girl

Ann Roth is the definition of a living legend, having worked on films such as Midnight Cowboy, Coming Home, and 9 to 5. While most of her nominations have come from designing costumes for period pieces, she is a master of modern costume design, able to depict characters and story through current styles and trends. Some of her most underappreciated work can be found in her collaborations with Mike NIchols, such as Silkwood and Working Girl. She perfectly captures the fashions of working people in two totally different ways. Her costumery in Silkwood shows the blue collar sensibilities of factory workers, the way they just throw on a t-shirt and jeans, subtle costume work that still tells so much about the characters. And her work in Working Girl is of different working class people, those attempting to move upward in the world, so she places them in clothes that could be those of upper class executives, but when the two are in the same room, they’re not quite the same. There’s a slight sheen on the true upper crust that is lacking on Tess and her ilk.

Trish Summerville

Nominated for: Mank

Previously Nominated for: None

Hidden Gem: Velvet Buzzsaw

Trish Summerville scored her first nomination this year for Mank, but she has been doing notable work for years, collaborating with David Fincher multiple times on films such as The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Gone Girl, and also working on bigger properties like The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and The Dark Tower. One of her more overlooked projects is the Dan Gilroy film Velvet Buzzsaw, a satirical horror film set within the modern day art world. Her eye for the outlandish and her ability to subdue it enough to make it realistic work to the benefit of the film here, making each character kooky enough to drive the weirder elements of the story while grounding them enough that the audience doesn’t tune out.


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Written by Grace Carbone

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