Welcome to the expanded Oscars edition of Sunday Best, in which we take a look at the year’s nominees in costume design (and sigh briefly over some really lovely costumes).


“Cruella,” designed by Jenny Beavan

Beavan’s 11 Oscar nominations for costume design began in the 1980s, when she was nominated for a string of gorgeous Merchant Ivory movies; she’s a two-time winner, for “A Room with a View” and “Mad Max: Fury Road.” For “Cruella,” the most fashion-y of the nominees this year (its main character is a young fashion designer, played by Emma Stone), Beavan dove into the styles of 1970s London. This voluminous gown plays with the then-popular trend of wearing a military jacket with a skirt, but makes it so much more so. The jacket, Beavan told Vanity Fair, came from a vintage shop in Los Angeles; the skirt, made up of intricate petals, took “an army of students and interns and trainees and makers” to create.

“Cyrano” designed by Jacqueline Durran and Massimo Cantini Parrini

The multitudes of costumes — more than 700 were created — for Joe Wright’s fanciful take on “Cyrano de Bergerac” involved two designers: Durran, an Oscar winner for Wright’s “Anna Karenina” and Greta Gerwig’s “Little Women,” created the gowns for Haley Bennett’s character Roxanne (shown here), while Parrini, a previous nominee for “Pinocchio,” took on the rest. One thing every costume had in common: they were all solid colors; no prints, brocades or lace. This was to minimize distraction: Parrini told the Los Angeles Times, “I really wanted the audience to concentrate on the sequences and scenes of the movie, on the faces of the actors.”  

“Dune” designed by Jacqueline West and Robert Morgan

West (a four-time nominee who was new to the science-fiction genre) and Morgan tackled the challenge of creating hundreds of costumes set in the distant future. “Denis [Villeneuve, the film’s director] wanted to create a world that felt different from existing sci-fi films, so [there are] no aliens, no silver gadgets. Instead, you have a philosophical experience,” said West in an interview with Vogue, noting that she and Morgan were inspired by “medieval references, ancient tarot cards, and alchemy.” A special challenge was the stillsuits, which allow survival in the desert by converting bodily fluids like sweat into water. “They have to look like a functioning water distillery,” Morgan told Vogue, “while allowing the actors to move and do their choreography.”

“Nightmare Alley,” designed by Luis Sequeira

For the two worlds of this film — a seedy 1940s carnival and a chic big city — Guillermo del Toro’s longtime costume designer Sequeira (Oscar-nominated for the costumes of “The Shape of Water”) created two very different kinds of designs. For the carnival clothing, everything had to be aged, “like they had lived in a trunk for 15 years,” Sequeira told Variety. And for the more elegant city clothing, like the sleek ensembles worn by Cate Blanchett as a psychiatrist, he created beautifully fitted garments from fabrics that would catch the light. For this black suit, “even in low light and noir, it was going to sing,” 

“West Side Story,” designed by Paul Tazewell

Tazewell, an acclaimed stage designer (Seattleites have seen his work in the touring production of “Hamilton,” and the “Swan Lake” costumes at Pacific Northwest Ballet), was haunted by some beautiful shadows in recreating “West Side Story”: those of the costumes of the iconic 1961 original film. Though many of Tazewell’s garments are quite different from the original, such as the black dress worn by Anita (Ariana DeBose) for the dance at the gym, director Steven Spielberg requested that he echo Maria’s white dress in that scene, worn here by Rachel Zegler. The red belt, however, is actually Anita’s, who takes it off her dress and gives it to Maria; a symbolic act, Tazewell told Vanity Fair, of ushering her into womanhood, “to be kind of the sister that would carry her into that journey.”