And the Frock Flicks 2016 Oscar Goes to…


By now, you’ve probably heard about the 2016 Oscar nominations. The films nominated for Best Costume Design are: Carol, Cinderella, The Danish Girl, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The Revenant. But, we all know the history of the Best Costume Design Oscar shows that the award doesn’t always go to the best designed film — usually it’s the showiest, or the most famous designer, or some other consideration. And, of course, most contemporary films are ignored in favor of historical or fantasy spectacles.

Luckily the Costume Designers Guild has their own awards, which helps to bridge the gap — especially because they have sub-categories, including contemporary film, period (this year’s nominees are BrooklynCarolCrimson PeakThe Danish Girl, and Trumbo), fantasy, and commercials.

Nonetheless, I thought it would be fun to find out who is the Frock Flicks community’s pick for Best Costume Design. Obviously we only care about historical films, so all others are right out. Let’s take a look at the films that were eligible for the award, add our own nominees, and pick our own winners! Whichever one wins the poll, we’ll record a special podcast, and we’ll make sure to review all of the top five on our blog.

Eligible Historical Films for 2016 Best Costume Design

I went through the official list of Oscar-eligible films (yes, there’s an official list!), and here’s ALL the historical (i.e., pre-1970) ones. (And before you ask, CinderellaPan, and Seventh Son aren’t included — because they’re fantasy!)

The Age of Adaline: “A young woman, born at the turn of the 20th century, is rendered ageless after an accident. After many solitary years, she meets a man who complicates the eternal life she has settled into.” Costume designer: Angus Strathie.

2015 The Age of Adaline

The Age of Adaline: flashbacks to 1920s-80s U.S. and England

Bone Tomahawk: “Four men set out in the Wild West to rescue a group of captives from cannibalistic cave dwellers.” Costume designer: Chantal Filson.

2015 Bone Tomahawk

Bone Tomahawk: 1890s western US

Bridge of Spies: “During the Cold War, an American lawyer is recruited to defend an arrested Soviet spy in court, and then help the CIA facilitate an exchange of the spy for the Soviet captured American U2 spy plane pilot, Francis Gary Powers.” Costume designer: Kasia Walicka-Maimone.


Bridge of Spies: 1957 New York, USSR, and East Germany

Brooklyn: “An Irish immigrant lands in 1950s Brooklyn, where she quickly falls into a romance with a local. When her past catches up with her, however, she must choose between two countries and the lives that exist within.” Costume designer: Odile Dicks-Mireaux.

2015 Brooklyn

Brooklyn: 1952(+?) small town Ireland and New York

Carol: “An aspiring photographer develops an intimate relationship with an older woman.” Costume designer: Sandy Powell.

2015 Carol

Carol: 1952 New York, New Jersey, and Iowa

Child 44: “A disgraced member of the military police investigates a series of nasty child murders during the Stalin-era Soviet Union.” Costume designer: Jenny Beavan.

2015 Child 44

Child 44: 1930s and 1950s Soviet Union

Crimson Peak: “In the aftermath of a family tragedy, an aspiring author is torn between love for her childhood friend and the temptation of a mysterious outsider. Trying to escape the ghosts of her past, she is swept away to a house that breathes, bleeds — and remembers.” Costume designer: Kate Hawley.

Crimson Peak (2015)

Crimson Peak: 1887 and 1901 England

The Cut: “In 1915, a man survives the Armenian genocide in the Ottoman Empire, but loses his family, speech, and faith. One night he learns that his twin daughters may be alive and goes on a quest to find them.” Costume designer: Katrin Aschendorf.

2014 The Cut

The Cut: 1914-18ish Ottoman Empire, Lebanon, Cuba, and the U.S.

The Danish Girl: “A fictitious love story loosely inspired by the lives of Danish artists Lili Elbe and Gerda Wegener. Lili and Gerda’s marriage and work evolve as they navigate Lili’s groundbreaking journey as a transgender pioneer.” Costume designer: Paco Delgado.

2015 The Danish Girl

The Danish Girl: 1927-early 1930s Denmark, Paris, and Germany

Effie Gray: “A look at the scandalous love triangle between Victorian art critic John Ruskin, his teenage bride Effie Gray, and Pre-Raphaelite painter John Everett Millais.” Costume designer: Ruth Myers.

Effie Gray (2014)

Effie Gray: 1848-50s Scotland, London, and Venice

Experimenter: “In 1961, famed social psychologist Stanley Milgram conducted a series of radical behavior experiments that tested ordinary humans willingness to obey authority.” Costume designer: Kama K. Royz.

2015 Experimenter

Experimenter: 1961 Boston area

Far From the Madding Crowd: “In Victorian England, the independent and headstrong Bathsheba Everdene attracts three very different suitors: Gabriel Oak, a sheep farmer; Frank Troy, a reckless Sergeant; and William Boldwood, a prosperous and mature bachelor.” Costume designer: Janet Patterson.

Far From the Madding Crowd (2015)

Far From the Madding Crowd: Early 1870s rural England (Dorset)

Freedom: “Two men separated by 100 years are united in their search for freedom. In 1856, a slave, Samuel Woodward and his family, escape from the Monroe Plantation near Richmond, Virginia … 100 years earlier in 1748, John Newton, the Captain of a slave trader, sails from Africa with a cargo of slaves, bound for America…” Costume designer: Ciera Wells.

2014 Freedom

Freedom: 1856 Virginia, eastern U.S., Canada; 1748 Atlantic ocean between Africa and Virginia

The Hateful Eight: “In the dead of a Wyoming winter, a bounty hunter and his prisoner find shelter in a cabin currently inhabited by a collection of nefarious characters.” Costume designer: Courtney Hoffman.

2015 The Hateful Eight

The Hateful Eight: late 1860s or 1870s western US

In the Heart of the Sea: “A recounting of a New England whaling ship’s sinking by a giant whale in 1820, an experience that later inspired the great novel, Moby Dick.” Costume designer: Julian Day.

2015 In the Heart of the Sea

In the Heart of the Sea: 1850 New England; 1820 Nantucket (a small island in Massachusetts) and Atlantic Ocean

Jimmy’s Hall: “During the Depression, Jimmy Gralton returns home to Ireland after 10 years of exile in America. Seeing the levels of poverty and oppression, the activist in him reawakens, and he looks to re-open the dance hall that led to his deportation.” Costume designer: Eimer Ni Mhaoldomhnaigh.

2014 Jimmy’s Hall

Jimmy’s Hall: 1932 rural Ireland (County Leitrim)

Legend: “The film tells the story of the identical twin gangsters Reggie and Ronnie Kray, two of the most notorious criminals in British history, and their organised crime empire in the East End of London during the 1960s.” Costume designer: Caroline Harris.

2015 Legend

Legend: 1960s London

Lost Birds: “It is 1915 in an Armenian village in Anatolia. Bedo and Maryam return from their secret dovecote only to find an empty house and a ghost village. The children embark on a journey to search for their mother, along with their bird ‘Bacik.'” Costume designer: Ela Alyamac.

2015 Lost Birds

Lost Birds: 1915 Armenia

Love & Mercy: “In the 1960s, Beach Boys leader Brian Wilson struggles with emerging psychosis as he attempts to craft his avant-garde pop masterpiece. In the 1980s, he is a broken, confused man under the 24-hour watch of shady therapist, Dr. Eugene Landy.” Costume designer: Danny Glicker.

2014 Love & Mercy

Love & Mercy: mid-1960s and mid-1980s Southern California

Macbeth: “Macbeth, the Thane of Glamis, receives a prophecy from a trio of witches that one day he will become King of Scotland. Consumed by ambition and spurred to action by his wife, Macbeth murders his king and takes the throne for himself.” Costume designer: Jacqueline Durran.

2015 MacBeth

Macbeth: 9th (?) century Scotland

Mr. Holmes: “An aged, retired Sherlock Holmes deals with early dementia as he tries to remember both his final case and a mysterious woman whose memory haunts him. He also befriends a fan, the young son of his housekeeper, who wants him to work again.” Costume designer: Keith Madden.

Ian McKellen in Mr. Holmes (2015)

Mr. Holmes: 1947 rural England (Sussex), flashbacks to late 1919ish England and Japan

Muhammad: The Messenger of God: “The events, trials, and tribulations of the city of Makkah in 7th century AD.” Costume designer: Michael O’Connor.

2015 Muhammad- The Messenger of God

Muhammad: The Messenger of God: 7th century Arabian peninsula

Queen and Country: “In this sequel to Hope and Glory (1987), Bill Rohan has grown up and is drafted into the army, where he and his eccentric best mate, Percy, battle their snooty superiors on the base and look for love in town.” Costume designer: Maeve Paterson.

2014 Queen and Country

Queen and Country: 1950 England

The Revenant: “A frontiersman on a fur-trading expedition in the 1820s fights for survival after being mauled by a bear and left for dead by members of his own hunting team.” Costume designer: Jacqueline West.

The Revenant (2015)

The Revenant: 1823 Midwestern (U.S.) wilderness

Saint Laurent: “Yves Saint Laurent’s life from 1967 to 1976, during which time the famed fashion designer was at the peak of his career.” Costume designer: Anaïs Romand.

2014 Saint Laurent

Saint Laurent: 1967-76 France

The Salvation: “In 1870s America, a peaceful American settler kills his family’s murderer, which unleashes the fury of a notorious gang leader. His cowardly fellow townspeople then betray him, forcing him to hunt down the outlaws alone.” Costume designer: Diana Cilliers.

2014 The Salvation

The Salvation: 1870s western US

Serena: “In Depression-era North Carolina, the future of George Pemberton’s timber empire becomes complicated when he marries Serena.” Costume designer: Signe Sejlund.

Serena 2014

Serena: 1930s North Carolina

Set Fire to the Stars: “An aspiring poet in 1950s New York has his ordered world shaken when he embarks on a week-long retreat to save his hell-raising hero, Dylan Thomas.” Costume designer: Francisco Rodriguez-Weil.

2014 Set Fire to the Stars

Set Fire to the Stars: 1950 New York

Son of Saul: “In the horror of 1944 Auschwitz, a prisoner forced to burn the corpses of his own people finds moral survival upon trying to salvage from the flames the body of a boy he takes for his son.” Costume designer: Edit Szücs.

2015 Son of Saul

Son of Saul: 1944 Poland (Auschwitz concentration camp)

Stonewall: “A young man’s political awakening and coming of age during the days and weeks leading up to the Stonewall Riots.” Costume designer: Simonetta Mariano.

2015 Stonewall

Stonewall: 1969 New York

Suffragette: “The foot soldiers of the early feminist movement, women who were forced underground to pursue a dangerous game of cat and mouse with an increasingly brutal State.” Costume designer: Jane Petrie.

2015 Suffragette

Suffragette: 1912 London

Testament of Youth: “A British woman recalls coming of age during World War I — a story of young love, the futility of war, and how to make sense of the darkest times.” Costume designer: Consolata Boyle.

2014 Testament of Youth

Testament of Youth: 1914-18(ish) England, Malta, and France

Trumbo: “In 1947, Dalton Trumbo was Hollywood’s top screenwriter, until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs.” Costume designer: Daniel Orlandi.

2015 Trumbo

Trumbo: 1947 Los Angeles

Victor Frankenstein: “Told from Igor’s perspective, we see the troubled young assistant’s dark origins, his redemptive friendship with the young medical student Viktor Von Frankenstein, and become eyewitnesses to the emergence of how Frankenstein became the man — and the legend — we know today.” Costume designer: Jany Temime.

2015 Victor Frankenstein

Victor Frankenstein: late 19th century England

The Water Diviner: “An Australian man travels to Turkey after the Battle of Gallipoli to try and locate his three missing sons.” Costume designer: Tess Schofield.

The-Water-Diviner 2014

The Water Diviner: 1919 Australia and Turkey

Woman in Gold: “Maria Altmann, an octogenarian Jewish refugee, takes on the Austrian government to recover artwork she believes rightfully belongs to her family.” Costume designer: Beatrix Pasztor.

woman in gold 2015

Woman in Gold: flashbacks to 1907 and 1930s-40s Europe

Now, Vote for Your Top Five!

(We’re asking you to pick five, to try to let some of the lesser-known films get a chance).

As you decide on your votes, here’s our suggested scoring guide:

  • Are the costumes accurate to, or appropriately evocative of, the period?
  • How well do the costumes evoke characters and/or themes of the film?
  • Are the costumes well-executed? (Materials, fit, etc. Don’t forget that budgetary limitations are real!)

Remember that you’re NOT voting on which movie you liked best overall, or had the best story, or the best acting, or the best script, etc. You’re looking at costume design specifically. The deadline to vote is February 26 at midnight.


About the author



Kendra has been a fixture in the online costuming world since the late 1990s. Her website, Démodé Couture, is one of the most well-known online resources for historical costumers. In the summer of 2014, she published a book on 18th-century wig and hair styling. Kendra is a librarian at a university, specializing in history and fashion. She’s also an academic, with several articles on fashion history published in research journals.

10 Responses

  1. Kathleen Norvell

    My votes (in no particular order):Carol, The Danish Girl, Far from the Madding Crowd, Trumbo, Suffragette.


  2. Alisa

    Okay, okay….I voted for five. But the only one I REALLY vote for is Crimson Peak. All the others are blah in comparison.

  3. Veronica

    Our own Chantal Filson (Bone Tomahawk) is an active member of the costume community here in LA. No pressure, just sayin’.

    • Sarah Lorraine

      We’ll be posting a podcast interview with her at some point… We recorded it last fall, but for various reasons (namely, my shitty recording equipment), it took us a while to get it up to listenable standards.

  4. Adina

    I can’t be the only person who’s upset that Mad Max won the best costume oscar. Out of the nominees, I though it should have Been Cinderella-sure the costumes weren’t anything super unconventional of original, but they were so well done and so beautiful.

  5. Susan Pola

    I was shocked, disappointed, angry when MM won. What was the Academy thinking? The beauty of Sandy Powell’s Cinderella, the sheer Pre-Raphaelite-ness of Ruth Myers’ Effie Grey, Paco Delgado’s Danish Girl, the red gown in Kate Hawley’s Crimson Peak. And they chose merde. Don’t understand why. I might give up on watching them.