It makes sense that a movie with a fashion-centric plot would contain plenty of stunning outfits. Such was definitely the case with Phantom Thread (2017) and Cruella (2021), both of which featured work from costume designers who nabbed Academy Awards for Best Costume Design. It wasn’t a first for either of them. Cruella designer Jenny Beavan had previously won for A Room With a View (1985) and Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), while Phantom Thread’s Mark Bridges also won for The Artist (2011).
If there’s any unifying feature among the costume designs in those disparate films—and the many others honored with the Best Costume Design Oscar—it’s that they all stay meticulously true to their respective settings. For some designers, that means hewing to historical accuracy, as Sandy Powell did for 2009’s The Young Victoria and Ann Roth did for 2020’s Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Others are tasked with helping build a fictional world, like Colleen Atwood did for 2010’s Alice in Wonderland and Ngila Dickson and Richard Taylor did for 2003’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.
When viewed together, the last 20 years’ worth of Oscar-winning costume designs are a dazzling fusion of history and fantasy—which you can see for yourself in the illustration below, created by USDish. (Click the image to open it in full in a new tab.)
- Babylon // Mary Zophres
- Black Panther: Wakanda Forever // Ruth Carter
- Elvis // Catherine Martin
- Everything Everywhere All at Once // Shirley Kurata
- Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris // Jenny Beavan