Costume Design Emmy: ‘Empire,’ ‘Gotham,’ ‘Transparent’ battle in first-ever contemporary category

empire gotham transparent

This year’s Emmys include the introduction of an award for Best Contemporary Costume Design. In previous years, costume prizes were divided between series, movie/miniseries and variety. Starting this year, they’re separated by era: contemporary and period/fantasy. Who will Emmy voters choose in this inaugural contest?

Will Taraji P. Henson (‘Empire’) make Emmys history?

Voters could go the glamorous route by picking FOX’s “Empire,” which has arguably the showiest costumes on TV, taking place as it does in the high-fashion world of the New York music business. It has two nominations in this category: one for Paolo Nieddu‘s work in the pilot episode which establishes the characters’ styles, and another for Rita D. McGhee‘s designs in “The Lyon’s Roar,” which places the emphasis on its costumes by setting the action at a lavish white party.

While another FOX drama series, “Gotham,” is also set during the present day, the heightened reality of its comic-book universe lends itself to bolder costuming by Lisa Padovani. She is the only designer in this category to have been previously nominated; she earned four bids before for her work on “Mad Men” (2008) and “Boardwalk Empire” (2012-2014). “Gotham’s” nominated episode, “Under the Knife,” also has the benefit of glamour, taking place at the Wayne Enterprises’ Charity Ball.

FOX is recognized one more time, for its comedy series “The Mindy Project,” which contends for the episode “San Francisco Bae,” designed by Salvador Perez. The episode features Lee Pace as a former flame of Mindy Lahiri (Mindy Kaling) and also includes flashbacks to their first night together.

But those shows will have to do battle against two of this year’s most nominated programs: Amazon’s comedy series “Transparent” and HBO’s miniseries “Olive Kitteridge.”

Transparent” reaped 11 nominations in all for its freshman season, and contends in this category for the episode “Symbolic Exemplar.” Not only does costume designer Marie Schley have to transform Jeffrey Tambor into a transgender woman, she also has to style the character for a talent show she anxiously participates in while her children misbehave in the audience.

And “Olive Kitteridge” has 13 nominations in total. Its designer Jenny Eagan previously earned a bid from the Costume Designers Guild for her work on the miniseries; she contends for part two, “Incoming Tide,” which features the wedding of Olive’s son Christopher (John Gallagher Jr.) and the return of troubled Kevin (Cory Michael Smith).

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Meet the guy who won our contest to predict the Emmys last year — and learn how he did it and how you can be our next Gold Derby superstar. 

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Photo: Taraji P. Henson in “Empire.” Credit: Matt Dinnerstein/FOX

Photo: Erin Richards and Milo Ventimiglia in “Gotham.” Credit: Jessica Miglio/FOX

Photo: “Transparent.” Credit: Beth Dubber/Amazon

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