The Oscar for Best Costume Design has always been a niche award, designated mainly for period movies. Perhaps it’s because the nomination committee has a penchant for nostalgia or — more likely — because the dress of bygone times has a special place in our imaginations.

For a costume designer to set the right tone garb-wise, a sharp eye and a keen creative sense are both needed. A large part — arguably the largest part — of creating a believable movie, especially one set in the past, is the costume design; if even one piece of clothing is out of place or anachronistic the entire illusion falls apart.

Among this year's highly deserving nominees, Michael O’Connor is honored for his work in the second film adaptation in ten years of Charlotte Bronte’s Victorian novel, Jane Eyre, about the orphaned Jane (Mia Wasikowska) who becomes a governess at Thornfield Hall and falls in love with the standoffish master of the house, Mr. Rochester (Michael Fassbender). These types of movies always attract praise not just for their insightful stories but also for their attention to authenticity. Keep an eye out for classic Victorian era clothes, including plenty of broaches and bonnets. This is O’Connor’s second Oscar nomination for costume design. His first resulted in a win for his work in The Duchess (2008).

Next up is W.E., co-written and directed by Madonna. While the movie has gotten less-than-enthusiastic reviews, the costume design is impeccable. Set in the 1930’s, W.E. tells the true story of the scandalous affair between King Edward VIII and American Wallis Simpson, which resulted in Edward’s abdication of the throne. This movie has potential. If anyone knows how to pick a costume designer, then it’s the Material Girl herself, and her choice, Arianne Phillips, has got industry cred. Phillips was nominated in 2005 for her work on the Johnny Cash biopic, Walk the Line. However, the first few decades of the 20th century seem to be a popular time period among the other nominees, so W.E. has its work cut out.

Two movies, The Artist and Anonymous, feature first-time nominations for their costume designers. The Artist, which is up for 11 nominations, is a favorite among this year’s Oscars. It tells the story of silent film actor, George Valentin, as he confronts the arrival of “talkies” and his relationship with up-and-coming dancer, Peppy Miller. Although this is costume designer Mark Bridges’ first nomination, he has worked on Oscar nominated films such as There Will Be Blood, Magnolia and Boogie Nights.

Anonymous, a political thriller set in Shakespearian England, follows the old premise that the Bard was a fraud. Among all the other nominees, costume designer, Lisy Christl, is the newcomer, but a movie like Anonymous is ripe with opportunity and could provide the break Christl is looking for. For sure, Anonymous is the underdog, but who doesn’t love an underdog?

Of course, the real powerhouse of the five is Martin Scorsese’s Hugo, nominated for a cumulative 11 Oscars. This will be costume designer Sandy Powell’s tenth nomination. She has won three Oscars in the past for her work in Young Victoria (2009), The Aviator (2004), and Shakespeare in Love (1998). More so, Powell is in her element with the director, Scorsese, who’s enlisted her skills for numerous movies, including The Departed, Gangs of New York (which garnered another nomination), and Shutter Island. Clearly, Powell is the most experienced of the group and knows her way around a sewing machine. If there’s any one to beat it’s her.


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