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In the Top 5 Costume Oscar Contenders, Getting Dressed for Transformation

In the Top 5 Costume Oscar Contenders, Getting Dressed for Transformation

1. “Carol”: Three-time Oscar winner Sandy Powell embraces a new aesthetic with Todd Haynes for this lesbian love story, adapted from Patricia Highsmith’s novel and starring Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Shot in 16mm by Ed Lachman, they recreate the visual language of ’52 as embodied by a host of female photojournalists, which is fitting since Mara plays a budding photographer. This means secondary colors rather than primaries and “a soft, soiled, indeterminate feeling.” This carried over into the wardrobe for socialite Blanchett and working girl Mara, which still reflected the ’40s during this transition into the Eisenhower era. For Blanchett, Powell scoured “Vogue” and other magazines from December ’52 to get the exact look for the time period of the movie.

2. “Brooklyn”: By contrast, there’s a more glam aesthetic to the costume design of Odile Dicks-Mireaux in transforming Saoirse Ronan from shy Irish immigrant to confident American woman in ’51. Ronan works in a posh department store, becomes an accountant and falls in love with Brooklynite Emory Cohen. The contrast is striking in the wardrobes: postwar Ireland was all about limitations and practicality, with knits that aren’t flashy and flat shoes vs. young American women swooning over movie stars. Ronan’s look was patterned after Grace Kelly, and Dicks-Mireaux found the perfect yellow dress and burnt orange/apricot suit in Montreal.

3. “The Danish Girl”: The subtle craft of transforming early 20th century transgender pioneer Lili Elbe (Eddie Redmayne) was a study in fashion contrast for costume designer Paco Delgado. It was all about the feminization of Elbe (born Einar Wegener), who became the first known recipient of sex reassignment surgery. Delgado took advantage of the difference in fashion between provincial Copenhagen and progressive Paris, which presented him with the idea that Elbe was trapped in a body like a cage. Heavily-structured Edwardian garments with high collars and tailored suits with restricted tones give way to soft and fluid fabrics and warmer colors, as Elbe becomes more comfortable in her own skin.

4. “Trumbo”: Costume designer Daniel Orlandi had a blast recreating the sartorial splendor of Hollywood during the Blacklist era, exploring the eccentricities of the two combatants: screenwriter Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston) and columnist Hedda Hopper (Helen Mirren). From his iconoclastic white dinner jacket to his bold ties, brightly-colored shirts and beautiful tweeds, Trumbo was the king of screenwriters until his fall from grace, necessitating a more conservative wardrobe. Meanwhile, Hopper came off like a decorated Christmas tree with a hodgepodge of mismatched pieces. But her celebrated hats contained fragile celluloid flowers from Orlandi’s private collection of vintage goodies.

5. “Mad Max: Fury Road”: Costume designer Jenny Beavan immersed herself in everything post-apocalyptic for George Miller’s celebrated reboot, imagining catastrophic circumstances for wardrobes in the desert. Beavan constantly thought about non-stop sand blowing in their faces along with safety issues, but managed to create quite a varied look. Her two favorites were Rictus Erectus (Nathan Jones), with his dolls head necklace (which took her back to her early prop and model-making days), and the five wives who are totally underdressed for a road trip with shawls, sarong wraps, bikini tops and mini-skirts.

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