Movie-costuming is a fine art: you want to enhance, but not distract from, the actual story. It's easy to spot bad or anachronistic costumes, but the best costumes always play second fiddle to plot and dialogue — melting, just slightly, into the background — except for scenes when the costume is entirely the point, like when Katniss Everdeen wears a dress that literally bursts into flames.
Saturday, February 22, marked the 16th annual Costume Designers Guild Awards, where the costuming industry honored the dedication to detail that separates a good costume designer from a great one. Whether gathering samples of dirt to get the perfect earth tone, or bedazzling Matt Damon's Speedo to get the perfect Matt-Damon-in-a-Speedo shot, these magicians know their cloth.
EXCELLENCE IN CONTEMPORARY FILM
Winner: Suzy Benzinger, Blue Jasmine
Bezinger outfitted Cate Blanchett in well-tailored clothes that oozed money, crafting her look so that the slightest wrinkle or untucked edge implies a much greater personal unravelling.
Image: Sony Pictures Classics
EXCELLENCE IN PERIOD FILM
Winner: Patricia Norris, 12 Years a Slave
Norris literally took soil samples from all three of the film’s plantations and used them to help her create the movie’s earth-toned costumes. She also discovered clothes on the set that were actually worn by slaves. Talk about realism.
Image: Fox Searchlight
EXCELLENCE IN FANTASY FILM
Winner: Trish Summerville, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Summerville also designed the costumes for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, so she’s no stranger to powerful female heroines. Nor is she afraid of making her characters a little uncomfortable: to help Elizabeth Banks embody the nervous Effie Trinket, Summerville dressed her in clothes that cinched her ribs and shoes with no heels, forcing her to teeter about on her toes.
Image: Lionsgate Films
OUTSTANDING CONTEMPORARY TELEVISION SERIES
Winner: Tom Broecker, House of Cards
House of Cards is all sharp suits and black dresses, with nary a splash of color in sight. On the Underwoods, particularly, monochrome has never looked quite so elegantly devious.
OUTSTANDING PERIOD/FANTASY TELEVISION SERIES
Winner: Caroline McCall, Downton Abbey
Though we may not long for the class differences and sexual politics of the Downton era, there’s hardly a woman alive who hasn’t coveted those elegant, turn-of-the-century clothes on some level; as a matter of fact, Mcall’s costumes (which are both vintage and recreated) have proved so popular that they’re coming to the U.S. as an exhibit, starting in March 2014.
OUTSTANDING MADE FOR TELEVISION MOVIE OR MINISERIES
Winner: Ellen Mirojnick, Behind the Candelabra
When we think “Liberace,” we think glitter — and glitter is exactly what Mirojnick gave us for this acclaimed drama about Liberace and his young lover. She bedazzled a Speedo for Matt Damon, dressed him and Michael Douglas in matching furs, and gave us more caftans than we thought possible.
EXCELLENCE IN COMMERCIAL COSTUME DESIGN
Winner: Nancy Steiner, Call of Duty “Ghosts: Masked Warriors” Teaser
“Call of Duty” conjures up more violence then fashion, but in the teaser for “Call of Duty: Ghosts,” Steiner gives us a series of terrifying, incredibly detailed masks, proving that horror and quality design aren’t mutually exclusive at all.