Costume Designers on Top TV and Film Productions Get a Chance to Shine

Feb 26, 2014

It was another big night for TV darlings “House of Cards,” “Behind the Candelabra” and “Downton Abbey” as their respective costume designers, Tom Broecker, Ellen Mirojnick and Caroline McCall took the top prizes at the 16th Costume Designers Guild Awards.

Held Saturday night, Feb. 22, at the Beverly Hilton, in ceremonies hosted by “Scandal’s” Joshua Malina, it’s the gala evening when costume designers in television, film and commercials get the glory for dressing actors who wear their creations in an event known for its relaxed yet festive atmosphere — and one in which the definition of “black tie” is stretched to its creative limit.

The jokes are also flowing — “I’m a 33-inch waist and a 30-inch inseam. Don’t judge,” Malina said in his welcoming remarks, which underscored the integral part costume design plays in storytelling.

Beginning with a clip reel of the year in design, it was easy to appreciate the range of artistry and historical eras brought vividly to the screen in shows including "Bonnie and Clyde,” ”Breaking Bad,” “Boardwalk Empire," “Scandal,” “Nashville” and "Mad Men" and films including "Her," "Blue Jasmine,” “American Hustle," "Philomena," "The Butler” and "The Great Gatsby” that were showcased.

The first award of the night set the bar for excellence, with Mirojnick’s win for HBO’s made-for-television movie “Behind the Candelabra.” Fittingly, in the spirit of the project, she wore a gold sequined cocktail dress and a bracelet with a Liberace charm on it.

In the contemporary television series category, it was Broecker and ”House of Cards” that triumphed over other worthy contenders “Saturday Night Live” — for which Broecker was also a nominee — “Nashville,” “Scandal” and “Breaking Bad.”

In the period/fantasy television series category, the costumes of “Downton” took the prize over entries from "Game of Thrones," "Boardwalk Empire," “The Borgias” and “Mad Men.”

On the big screen, Patricia Norris for “12 Years a Slave,” Trish Summerville for “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and Suzy Benzinger for “Blue Jasmine” were awarded the trophies.

Benzinger’s acceptance speech was notable for the time she took lauding director Woody Allen, with whom she has collaborated for 20 years on a series of his films. “He’s fair, honest and taught me that work is the real reward. Even with all the accolades, we all feel lucky working with him. I respect and adore him,” she said.

Comedy highlighted the festivities even more than usual as writer/producer/director Judd Apatow was honored as a distinguished collaborator and feted by two of his most prominent proteges, Bill Hader and Jonah Hill.

Hill had the well-dressed crowd in the palm of his hand as soon as he mentioned that his mom was a costume designer on the beloved television classic ”Taxi,” before shouting out costume designer Sandy Powell for her work making him into “The Wolf of Wall Street’s” Donnie Azoff, for which he’s Oscar-nominated as best supporting actor.

But it was all about Apatow from that point on, springboarding off a montage of his work in film and television ranging from “Freaks and Geeks” to “Superbad” and “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” to “Girls.” “Most of us you see here started because of Judd,” Hill said. “He saw something in us that no one else did. I’m so grateful for everything he’s done for me. But I’m shocked because I wouldn’t think of Judd in the context of costume design.”

Yet Hill related how much effort Apatow put into costuming the schlumpy high school characters in 2007’s “Superbad,” down to the Richard Pryor T-shirt he wore in his role as Seth.

“This is awkward, because I don’t love Jonah Hill,” Apatow began, to great laughter from the audience, before launching into an anecdote about breaking a button on his jacket before the ceremony and trying to glue it back together with nail polish.

“It’s hard for anyone to take advice from me, wearing cargo shorts and a T-shirt, telling them what’s in fashion. But when I look at the montage, I see that you kicked ass — and how important the wedding gown was in ‘Bridesmaids,’ the costumes in ‘Talledega Nights’ and the green bikini in ‘Girls.’ But maybe my career highlight is trying to hide the bulge in Ben Stiller’s pants.”

The awards ceremony was sponsored by Lacoste, which presented its annual Spotlight Award to actress Amy Adams, who also used comedy to make her points about the value of costume design in fully creating a character.

“They’ve taught me many things, like the importance of always wearing undergarments to fittings and then bringing a lingerie bag to separate your things at the end of the day. No one wants to have to use tongs,” said Adams, who was presented with the award by her “American Hustle” co-star, Jeremy Renner.

Adams highlighted another of her current roles, albeit a smaller and less showy one, alongside Joaquin Phoenix in Spike Jonze’s “Her.”

“On ‘Her,’ costume designers turned me into a hipster. That’s nearly impossible — as I am a nerd,” she admitted. “You’ve also been magicians, therapists, friends and collaborators and it’s an honor to turn your visions into reality.”

Many other familiar faces from current movies and TV shows took part in the ceremony as presenters, including June Squibb and Will Forte from “Nebraska,” Kerry Washington, Mindy Kaling, Debra Winger and Scott Foley.

There was also a memorable appearance by Raquel Welch, who claimed her costume in 1966’s “One Million Years B.C.” is what made her legendary career. “There wasn’t much dialogue. It was all about the bikini,” said Welch, who looked stunning in a black sequined number that showed off her famous curves.

And there was this commentary from Apatow: “My 16-year-old daughter is not aging as well as Raquel Welch.”

Please click here to see the full list of winners in the announcement from the Costume Designers Guild.

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