Why ‘The Great Gatsby’ is so far ahead in Best Costume Design Oscar race

When it comes to predicting the winners in the various below-the-line crafts categories at the Oscars, a good rule of thumb is usually to focus on those drawn from the Best Picture nominees. However, there are the inevitable exceptions and this is particularly true for Best Costume Design.

Time and time again, that Oscar has gone to the most lavish, most over the top, most period costumes in the mix even if the film has little to no support among other academy branches. 

This year, “The Great Gatsby” fits that description and Oscar champ Catherine Martin (“Moulin Rouge!,” 2001) is favored to pick up a bookend for her extravagant roaring Twenties flapper fashions. This film from her husband Baz Luhrmann was shut out everywhere save for a second bid by Martin (along with set decorator Beverly Dunn) for Best Production Design; they are favored in that race too.

Martin leads this race by an overwhelming margin, with 17 of our 22 Experts, all seven Editors, 16 of the Top 24 from last year and 70% of All Users predicting her to prevail. 

Her closest competition is first-time Oscar nominee Michael Wilkinson who recreates all those Seventies looks in “American Hustle.” He has the backing of four Experts and four of the Top 24 as well as 25% of All Users which translates into odds of 5/1. 

Five-time also-ran Patricia Norris contends again for the antebellum clothes seen in “12 Years a Slave.” With 5% of All Users in her corner, she has odds of 33/1. 

William Chang Suk Ping reaped his first bid for the stylish martial arts costuming on display in “The Grandmaster. He has odds of 33/1. 

Rounding out the race with odds of 50/1 is Oscar winner Michael O’Connor (“The Duchess”) for his work on the Victorian costumes on display in “The Invisible Woman,” Ralph Fiennes‘s biopic about Charles Dickens.

You might expect the two Best Picture nominees in this race — “American Hustle” and “12 Years a Slave” — to be doing better. However, in the past decade this award has gone to just three films in contention for the top prize: Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor (“Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King”) in 2003, Sandy Powell (“The Aviator”) in 2004 and Mark Bridges (“The Artist”) in 2011. 

As detailed below, the seven other winners were for films that may have been snubbed for Best Picture but had elaborate, detailed period dress to catch the eye of voters.

2005Colleen Atwood won for “Memoirs of a Geisha.” Although her competition did not include any Best Picture nominees, Arianne Phillips was a strong contender for “Walk the Line,” which had five Oscar nominations and won Best Actress (Reese Witherspoon). “Geisha” won three of its six below-the-line bids (Art Direction, Cinematography, Costume Design).

2006: Milena Canonero won the only Oscar race for the bodice-ripper “Marie Antoinette” over, among others Consolata Boyle for Best Picture nominee “The Queen,” which won Best Actress for Helen Mirren.

2007: Alexandra Byrne won for the lavish “Elizabeth: The Golden Age” over Jacqueline Durran for “Atonement,” which was nominated for six Oscars including Best Picture.

2008: Michael O’Connor won for “The Duchess” (yet another period piece) over Best Picture nominees “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” (Jacqueline West) and “Milk” (Danny Glicker).

2009: Sandy Powell won another Oscar, this time for art-house costume drama “The Young Victoria.” There were no Best Picture nominees in contention that year.

2010: Colleen Atwood returned to the Oscar stage, this time for “Alice in Wonderland.” Best Picture champ “The King’s Speech” (Jenny Beavan) and Best Picture nominee “True Grit” (Mary Zophres) didn’t stand a chance against Tim Burton’s extravagant fantasy reboot.

2012: Jacqueline Durran prevailed for “Anna Karenina,” another lavish period costume drama. “Les Miserables” (Paco Delgado) and “Lincoln” (Joanna Johnston) were both formidable Best Picture competition, but couldn’t overcome Oscar’s proclivities for hoop skirts, bonnets and tulle.

What do you think is going to win Best Costume Design? Vote below using our easy drag-and-drop menu. Come back and change your predictions as often as you like till Oscar night, March 2.

5 thoughts on “Why ‘The Great Gatsby’ is so far ahead in Best Costume Design Oscar race

  1. Arianne Phillips was a strong contender for “Ray,” which had five Oscar nominations and won Best Actress (Reese Witherspoon).
    Did Reese when an Oscar for Ray? I thought it was Jamie Foxx. Or is “Ray” supposed to be Walk the Line?

  2. Sharen Davis was nominated as a Best Achievemnent in Costume Design for “Ray” in 2005. Arianne Philips was nominated for “Walk The Line” in 2006 !!!!

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