Oscar’s Best Dressed

This Sunday I will attend an Oscar party and there will be a pool in which we place bets on the winners of each category. I will have no opinion on Best Sound Editing or Best Sound Mixing, no thoughts on Best Visual Effects, nor even Live Action Short, no disrespect to those professionals who contribute those essential skills to the making of great movies. But my interest lies elsewhere.

Of course the red carpet grabs all the headlines and I’ll pore over celebrities in fruit colored frocks as much an anyone. But there are more important sartorial splendors to assess. There’s the matter of Best Costume Design. Now this I will ponder gravely over the course of the weekend right up until the crucial moment when I must cast my selection.

This year’s crop offers everything from rags to riches. Never mind how the movie stars are dressed on Sunday, this is how the movie’s stars were dressed. How those characters we cried and laughed for looked. Those clothes spoke volumes. The Best Costume Design award recognizes  imaginative visionaries laboring behind the scenes to make invented characters leap from the screen and and into our hearts and minds. But they never get interviewed or photographed and are offered no top billing. Only around this time of the year are they talked about, but briefly. I must not fail them by making the wrong decision.

Solomon, before his misfortune, the epitome of dignified gentry


82-year-old veteran and 6 time Oscar nominee, Patricia Norris had the biggest challenge dressing Solomon, Patsey and the other plantation slaves. Untreated cotton and linen was dyed, washed, repeated and smeared with the soil from the different plantation settings to appear drab and threadbare next to the hooped, floral and frilled gentility of the landowners’ wives. Creativity and a powerful statement without access to the sequins and glamour at the disposal of the other contenders.


solomon sketch 12 years a slave costume design nomination


In contrast, with no need for restraint, the giddy tasseled, feathered, beribboned, diamanté explosions on chiffon and satin reflected perfectly the hedonistic 20s and allowed us to bear witness to an exciting collaboration between two doyennes of style: Catherine Martin and Miuccia Prada. It was period with a twist of contemporary.costumes-3

There was so much visual stimulation in every scene, but with a story so familiar that had already been explored in multiple interpretations, it was the costumes–and, okay, for a while, the soundtrack–that stayed in my mind.5f5b4ad700618316b0220e52ce081e26 f34d18dbb0f35f4af60900255145df30 images GATSBY-PINK-SUITR1-424x600 DAISY-SOFA-DRESSR1-424x600804349-1_l 804347-1_l3. THE GRANDMASTER

The third nominee, and the least well known, is foreign-language martial arts story, The Grandmaster, starring the beautiful Ziyi Zhang from Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. East Meets West in luscious silks and creeping floral embroideries; fur trims on simple Asian lines; Nehru collars and cheongsams in moody, ripe color combinations. William Chang Suk Ping’s costumes are ornate and sleek at the same time.Unknown-2 Unknown-1 images-7grandmaster4. THE INVISIBLE WOMAN

Michael O’ Conner, who previously received an Oscar for The Duchess, reportedly read The Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist and David Copperfield for historical inspiration, as well as trawling the Victoria and Albert museum in London and gazing at the painting The Darby Day by WIlliam Powell Frith before embarking on the designs for The Invisible Woman.The-Invisible-Woman2

It tells the story of Charles Dickens and his secret love affair with much younger Nelly Ternan played by Felicity Jones, set in the 1850s. Initially Nelly wears dowdy nondescript work dresses but as her standing in Dickens estimations grows, so too do the pastel colors, rich trims and frilled details of her gowns. Ralph Fiennes trussed up in his waistcoat and frockcoat is uncanny as Dickens. the-invisible-woman-095. AMERICAN HUSTLE

Last, but with all that cleavage and hair, certainly not least, we have the trashy, flashy fabulousness of American Hustle. The combover, the perms, the wrap dress (Diane Von Furstenburg, have you seen a run on your staple this season?), it was one hell of a ride. It doesn’t matter if, like me, you couldn’t quite follow the slipping, sliding plot. I blame it on the dazzle of Amy Adams. Couldn’t think straight, could I?amy2

First-timer Michael Wilkinson paired vintage finds with specially designed pieces bringing back into the style vernacular old stalwarts such as Charles Jourdan and Maidenform to perfectly capture Amy Adam’s fake posh girl persona. I thought she was pure dynamite and that’s why this one will probably earn my vote.oscars-costume-design-2014_contentWho are you voting for?

If peeking behind the scenes of glamour industries is your poison, my debut novel set in the international fashion industry is available. You can buy Silk for the Feed Dogs here.


  1. I’m creating an Oscar Party. I have my slip all ready to fill out – I take wild stabs at catagories I know nothing about and if all else fails I say “DH Lawrence”. I think costumes will be American Hustle (because I looked amazing in those fashions back in the day) but I believe that 12 Yrs should take it. Or Gatsby. Or…oh never mind. I don’t know yet. A few glasses of champagne and a rushed decision. Never lets me down.
    I am creating a faaaabluous skirt ensemble. Went to the fabric store and found that patterns AND tulle were on sale! Serendipity or WHAT?! I’ve got TEN yards of tulle and an abiding fascination with Diana Vreeland who said
    “A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika. We all need a splash of bad taste—it’s hearty, it’s healthy, it’s physical. I think we could use more of it. No taste is what I’m against.”

    • Oh, I wanna go to your Oscar party!! Sounds fun! Layers of tulle, what could be better?! Wish my gay friends were going to mine but they’re all out of town, But DH Laurence? I’ll try that for the best Foreign Animation slot 🙂
      You should get your Hustle gear out of mothballs and pull an Amy, Laura. Your spring will be wild and wonderful and played to a disco beat 🙂

      • ABBA! It must be played to Abba (Dancing Queen) Donna Summer (Dim All the Lights) Earth Wind & Fire (Boogie Wonderland) and Gloria Gaynor (It’s Raining Men) Anita Ward (Ring My Bell) I think our party will be gobs of fun, we have the champagne lined up on the table already. We have cheese and fruit. We have TULLE! DH Laurence is our stock ‘go to’ answer when we can’t answer a question. No matter what the question is, the answer is DH Laurence. Always.
        I wish I’d kept my wrap skirts and leather trench coat and onesie blouses. sigh…

  2. A rare occasion — dievca in a dither….too many excellent choices for Best Costume Design. I must think~harder. Or is that drink~harder? HAVE FUN! XO

  3. A rare occasion — dievca in a dither….too many excellent choices for Best Costume Design. I must think~harder. Or is that drink~harder? HAVE FUN! XO

  4. Oh, an Oscar party! I would love to host one some year — a real black tie affair! Because I LOVE looking at all the costume designs in anything and everything I watch, on the screen or at the theatre. I would actually love to glam up, go all out, one year for it!

    The only one of these I’ve seen is Gatsby. However, your Amy Adams photos have me scrambling to find American Hustle ASAP! Hope you choose wisely.

  5. Patricia Norris says “the Academy likes it’s sequins.” Have to say I was a suck rat for Miuccia Prada’s costumes.

  6. Its sequins, I meant. Bloody iPad auto ocorrect!

  7. Autocorrect is ruining communication! I agree–I took this opportunity to display again Prada’s drawings as I thought they were so beautiful. Gatsby would be my back up choice on Sunday if I have a last minute change of heart.

  8. petermcl2013

    American Hustle all the way!! Amy Adams looked amazing and her boobs should get an award of their own (literally best supporting to those dresses). Even the sketches look amazing!

  9. I admit it: I’m way too far behind and haven’t watched any of them yet! But from stills, sketches and trailers I’m equally bedazzled by Gatsby’s glam and Amys boobs! Close tie. Which one did you vote for?

  10. I agree with you. Those are the two true contenders in my opinion but Amy pushes AH to the Oscar.

  11. Oscar parties are always great fun!
    Good question you’re throwing at us 😉 !
    I’d go with no. 3 The Grandmaster, because I love the Asian styles and I think these pictures shown here are simply beautiful.
    If I had a second choice I’d go with no. 5 American Hustle, because I grew up in the ’70ies in Southern California and I can still pictures these styles in my mind… 😀
    Of course, The Gatsby is beautiful, too, but the mags were so full of these clothes, that I’ve simply had enough of them.
    Enjoy your party and do let us know on Monday or Tuesday if you agree with the Academy Award’s choice :-D, will you?

  12. Well, what very fine reasoning you have put together. I like your thinking. I will report back with my successes (probably slim) and my failures (abundant) after the big live draw 🙂

  13. Hot tip: Sandra’s spacesuit!

  14. I live a sad, sad life..my trips to the cinema as now reduced to box sets!! When they come out on DVD I’ll give you my highly considered opinion without ever the thought of cheating…….! xxxx

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