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Secrets behind the Screen: How the 2024 Oscars Costume Designers Bring Characters to Life

The film equipment, actors and actresses, the crew, and an experienced director are all important in order to create a great film that will capture an audience. However, one of the important details in a film that does not get nearly as much recognition as it deserves is costume design. Costume design has the ability to tell a story and showcase the personality of a character without using the structure of a script. Costume design can also either make or break your believability of a film’s world. The 2024 Oscars costume designers have exemplified creativity in making costumes that have morphed characters into people with struggles that audiences can relate to. This article will focus on the 2024 Oscars costume designers’ inspiration for their costumes and their backgrounds.

Image of Jacquline Durran,, 22 March, 2024

Jacqueline Durran background: Jacqueline Durran was born in London. She has worked on costumes from films such as Joe Wrights’s Pride & Prejudice, Anna Karenina, Tinter, Tailor, and Soldier Spy. She has one two academy awards, four BAFTA Awards, and two Costume Designers Guild Awards.

Official Barbie Costume Sketch,, 22 March, 2024

Costume Inspiration for Barbie: Most of the costumes for Barbie were inspired by the history of Barbie dolls. For example, Ken and Barbie roller skating in the real world in neon outfits is based of of a real life Barbie doll called Hot Skatin’ Barbie. Durran observed that Barbie’s motivation for what she is wearing isn’t from inside of her. She is not a normal character because her outfit doesn’t define her personality. What Barbie wears depends on what she is doing or where she is going. Durran noticed that most Barbie dolls come in a pack: the doll is included with a matching dress hat, bag, shoes, and other accessorries. The main part of playing with a Barbie doll is by dresing them in different clothes. This is why, in Barbie Land, Barbie would have her clothing change in each scene. The most difficult part of the costuming was the colors (all the costumes had 15 color combinations). Most of the colors were pastels and Durran had to have buyers go to each store in London to find clothes with the exact colors that were needed.

Image of Holly Waddington,, 22 March, 2024

Holly Waddington Background: Holly Waddington studied fine arts at Oxford and worked at the Angles Costumes House in London (which is the oldest costume supplier in the world). She has done costumes for films such as Lady Macbeth, War Horse, Atonement and The Two Faces of January. She won the Oscar this year for her work in Poor Things.

Image of official Poor Things costumes and sketch,, 22 March, 2024

Poor Things Costume Inspiration: The inspiration for Bella’s costume in Poor Things was focused on Bella’s growth and development throughout the film. Bella dresses in more traditional clothing of the 1890s (which is the period the film is set in) in the beginning of the film and dresses in more abstract clothing (like military dresses) by the end of the the film. The book is set in the 1880s but Waddington did not want the film to feel like a period drama. She wanted to get rid of the traditional lace, beads, and fabrices that were mainly used in Victorian dress. Corsets were a big no no as Waddington felt like it would tie down Bella’s character (who was supposed to have a free spirited personality). Durran wanted the costumes to feel like they were alive which is representative in the big shoulders on the costumes. Durran wanted the shoulders to emulate lungs to refer to Bella being reanimated into her new life of self discovery.

Image of Ellen Mirojnick,, 22 March, 2024

Ellen Mirojnick background: Ellen Mirojnick was born in New York City in 1949. She went to the Parsons School of Design and the School of Visual Arts. She worked on costumes for the flims Fatal Attraction, Wall Street, Basic Instinct, A Perfect Murder, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, and Behind the Candelabra. She has won Costume Designers Guild Awards and the Saturn Award for Best Costume Design.

Image of official Oppenhiemer costume concept art,, 22 March, 2024

Oppenhiemer Costume Inspiration: One of the reference that inspired Oppenhiemer’s costume for the film was an image Christopher Nolan sent Ellen of David Bowie in the 1970s. Nolan thought that the photo captured a certain quality that he wanted Cillian Murphy, who played Murphy, to embody in his portrayal of the character. Ellen was inspired by the image of Bowie as she felt that Bowie’s hat, costume, and wide shoulders in the photo were similar to Oppenheimer as well as Bowie’s wiry apperance. Ellen Mirojnick also looked at photos of Oppenhiemer for reference and noticed that his sillouete did not change had very fine tailoring that was noticeable even in black and white photos. Oppenhiemer’s father imported fabrics from Europe and Oppenhiemer came from a wealthy family. In the film, Oppenhiemer wears a three piece suit with a hat that conveyed the message to the audience that Oppenhiemer knew how to present himself. The guilt and worry that Oppenhiemer feels inside after the nuclear bomb is detonated on Hiroshima and Nagasaki is masked by his well dressed appearance on the outside.

Image of Janty Yates,, 22 March, 2024

Janty Yates Background: Janty Yates was born in 1950 in London. She worked on the costume design for the films Gladiator (2000), The Martian (2015), House of Gucci (2017), Alien: Covenant (2017) and The Counselor (2013). She won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design at the Academy Awards and the Sierra Award for Best Costume Design at the Las Vegas Film Critics Society for Gladiator.

Image of David Crossman,, 22 March, 2024

Napoleon Costume Designers Janty Yates And David Crossman Tackle Epic Challenges On And Off The Battlefield

David Crossman background: David Crossman was born on February 12, 1970 in London. He is best known for his costume design in the films The Batman (2022), Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016) and 1917 (2019). He won the Saturn Award in 2022 for Best Costume for The Batman.

Costume concept art for Napoleon and scene from Napoleon,, 22 March, 2024

Napoleon Costume Inspiration: Janty Yates and David Crossman both created 4,000 uniforms and hand sewed 30 gowns for the film. The military uniforms that Napoleon wears in the film was inspired by painting and sketches as well as Napoleon’s financial situation before his rise to power. Crossman stated that when Napoleon became a general he did not have much money to his name and couldn’t afford a general uniform. In the survivors’ ball scene in the film, Crossman decided that Yates and him were going to put Napoleon in a blue coat with a gold braid as there was one rare sketch of Napoleon in a braided coat. The paintings Yates and Crossman used gave both costume designers different perspectives on each period of Napoleon’s life. Some of the paintings portrayed Napoleon as heroic while others were negative portrayals of him. Yates focused on Josephine’s clothing as she wanted to exaggerate her greed through her clothes. As Josephine rose to power, her clothing had more gold and silver until the final third of the film where her clothing becomes more modest.

Image of Jacqueline West,, 22 March, 2024

Jacqueline West Background: Jacquline West started her career in San Francisco Bay as a fashion designer and went into film costume design in the 1990s. She has worked on costumes for the films The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, The Social Network, Dune (2021), The Tree of Life, and Argo. She won the Online Film Critics Society Award for Dune (2021) and the Satellite Awards for Water for Elephants for Best Costume Design.

Scene from Killers of the Flower Moon,, 22 March, 2024

Killers of the Flower Moon Costume Inspiration: Jacqueline West’s inspiration for the clothing of Killers of the Flower Moon was from the Osage. West worked with Julie O’Keefe who was a member of the Osage Nation who was a costume cultural advisor for the film. West and O’Keefe both worked with Osage artists to make the costumes for Lily Gladstone and other actors who were playing the members of the Osage community. They tried to combine historical clothing with modern fashion that showed off the Osage’s new wealth. West and O’Keefe researched Osage blankets and ribbon weaving for the film. Jacqueline West was inspired by the Osage wedding coat and how the coat evolved to become part of Osage regalia. She showed Martin Scorsese the research she found on the Osage wedding coat and he approved and the coat was put in a wedding scene in the film. Jacqueline West wanted to showcase authenticity in the clothing for the film and thought that it would have been a disservice to the Osage community if she didn’t represent the clothing accurately. O’Keefe reached out to the Osage community for help with the costumes and had some of the oldest ribbon-maker families help with the clothing.

Annalee Deabel is a junior at Indiana University Bloomington. She is majoring in anthropology and minoring in folklore. She admires fantasy films and seeks to broaden her understanding of foreign films.

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