Oscars: How Well Do the Costume Designers Guild Awards Predict the Best Costume Design Winner?
By: Carson Blackwelder
The Costume Designers Guild honored three films across its three cinema-focused categories last night as Oscar voting came to a close: Mary Zophres for La La Land, Renee Ehrlich Kalfus for Hidden Figures, and Alexandra Byrne for Doctor Strange. With only Damien Chazelle’s modern musical of those three nominated in the best costume design category at the upcoming 89th Academy Awards, what are the chances that this film will ultimately go on to win this Sunday?
Nominees in the best costume design category at this year’s Oscars year include: Allied’s Joanna Johnson, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them’s Colleen Atwood, Florence Foster Jenkins’ Consolata Boyle, Jackie’s Madeline Fontaine, and La La Land’s Mary Zophres. As we creep ever closer to the big night, The Hollywood Reporter’s Scott Feinberg predicts that Fontaine — who was at least nominated by the DGA — will accept the trophy. If this comes true, Fontaine will take home her first-ever Oscar for her first-ever nomination and beat out the likes of Atwood, one of the category’s living legends, and Zophres, who is attached to the buzziest film of the year.
The Costume Designers Guild Awards have been handed out since 2000, honoring the best in film, television, and commercials each year. On the movie side there are three categories: Excellence in Contemporary Film (which La La Land won), Excellence in Period Film (which Hidden Figures won), and Excellence in Fantasy Film (which Doctor Strange won). Originally the period and fantasy categories were combined but, starting with the 2006 ceremony, they officially split and gave us the current setup. The Costume Designers Guild itself was established by 30 people in 1953 but now boasts a membership of approximately 875 across the industry.
When it comes to the CDGAs predicting the eventual winner of the best costume design Oscar, they’ve gotten it correct nine times out of 17 years they’ve co-existed thus far: 2002’s Chicago, 2003’s The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 2005’s Memoirs of a Geisha, 2008’s The Duchess, 2009’s The Young Victoria, 2010’s Alice in Wonderland, 2012’s Anna Karenina, 2014’s The Grand Budapest Hotel, and 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road. That means that, if we’re looking at this as a percentage, the CDGAs have gotten the Oscar winner right about 53% of the time — so nothing outrageous here.
Not a single year has gone by since the CDGAs were established that at least one of the films they honored weren’t at least nominated in the best costume design category. Prior to the fantasy category being added, there was only ever one film recognized by the CDG that went on to be nominated or win the related Oscar. After its implementation, that number of overlaps was almost split evenly by one or two occurrences recognized by both. This is pretty solid that they’ve always thought similarly but a little surprising that they didn’t agree more often — but the reason for that may come from the differing makeup of the CDG and the costume designers branch of the Academy.
What is perhaps most interesting in regards to how the best costume design category at the Oscars is that the costume designers branch — the second-smallest branch of them all — is only responsible for the nominations. That means that, to get the five official nominees each year, this branch weighs in on the best of the best. Then, to determine the winner, the entire Academy votes on the winner. The costume designers branch makes up just 2% of the whole Academy, having just 132 members as compared to the 7,373 of the overall group — per data from December 2016.
It won’t be long until we find out if La La Land is able to become the latest film in agreement between the CDG and the Academy Awards. The film — which stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone — faces some tough competition in this category as it attempts to join the ranks of the movie with the most Oscars to its name. Tune in February 26 when we’ll find out which very talented costume designer earns bragging rights this year.