“Live from the Meryl Streep Ballroom,” said actress Mandy Moore as she began her hosting duties for the 19th Costume Designers Guild Awards, held Tuesday, Feb. 21, in what is otherwise known as the Beverly Hilton’s International Ballroom.
Ms. Streep was not only the elephant in the room, she was actually in the room to receive the guild’s Distinguished Collaborator Award as the capper to the evening, which annually honors costume designers in television, film, music videos, digital media and commercials.
For those with short memories, Streep made a politically divisive speech in the same room last month at the Golden Globe Awards, which eviscerated some of President Trump’s policies, after which he famously tweeted that the woman who holds the record for the most Academy Award nominations is “overrated.” Her presence became a running joke throughout the evening.
Beginning with a video montage of the best works of the past year that were nominated for CDGAs, the artistry of costume design was demonstrated in clips from a diverse array of projects including ”Game of Thrones,” “Lion,” “Captain Fantastic,” “Hidden Figures,” “La La Land,” “Transparent,” “Empire,” “Jackie,” “Westworld,” “Nocturnal Animals,” “Ghostbusters” and “Deadpool.”
Moore, who stars in NBC’s hit drama “This Is Us,” which spans multiple decades that showcase costumes of each era, said she is a costume designer’s dream.
“I’d like to share some fabulous story, but I’m that good girl. I come in with my own undergarments and no jewelry to snag the clothing — and I always, always hang up my clothes,” she said, to knowing laughter from the audience.
The evening’s first award, in the contemporary television series category, was presented to Lou Eyrich for “American Horror Story: Roanoke.” Last year she won in the same category for “AHS: Hotel.”
In the fantasy television series category, the costumes designed by Michele Clapton and April Ferry for “Game of Thrones” took the trophy. Clapton also won the period television series category for her work on “The Crown.”
The three awards for contemporary, period and fantasy film went respectively to Mary Zophres for “La La Land,” Renee Ehrlich Kalfus for “Hidden Figures” and Alexandra Byrne for “Doctor Strange.”
But back to Meryl. In this crowd, it was a well-known fact that she initially wanted to be a costume designer and majored in the subject. “Meryl, if that acting thing doesn’t work out, we will gladly accept you as a member,” said Costume Designers Guild President Salvador Perez. He also noted there was no need for a diversity push in the organization as “we already have the most diverse membership in the industry.”
Industry legend Bob Mackie posthumously inducted Ret Turner into the Guild’s Hall of Fame, describing how they had first met in the NBC costume department. “He had a keen theatrical sense of what worked and he made everyone feel comfortable — and look amazing. That is his gift to all of us,” Mackie said of Turner. He also mentioned that although he designed Cher’s famous feather headdress Oscar ensemble, Turner was the one who actually put her into it.
The awards ceremony was sponsored by Lacoste, which presented its annual Spotlight Award to actress Lily Collins for her support of the craft. Like just about anyone who attends the event, she worried about what to wear. But her biggest concern? “I’m going into a room with Meryl Streep,” Collins said. “There’s no pressure. It’s all excitement and fun. It really is such an honor to be acknowledged by the people who inspire me. It’s humbling.”
Director Christopher Nolan and actress Dianne Wiest presented the Guild’s career achievement award to Jeffrey Kurland, known for urging the Motion Picture Academy to establish a costume design branch and for his work on many of Woody Allen’s films.
“For 18 years I worked on some of the greatest films ever made,” Kurland said of his experience with Allen. “He included me in every aspect of filmmaking. He sharpened my tastes and skills and he taught me the importance of humor in work and in life.”
Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, who star in “Grace and Frankie,” brought their own brand of humor as they presented the award for period film.
“Why us? We weren’t around during any of those periods,” Tomlin remarked. ”We have to hurry in light of what just happened,” Fonda said in response to their coming to the podium after Kurland and Wiest’s lengthy speeches. “Roll the prompter up. We are skipping all that.”
The short form design prize went to Ami Goodheart for “Pepsi: Momotaro Episode Four,” featuring Jude Law. “We had to make 127 costumes in less than three weeks, from scratch, so we had our challenges,” she said.
And then it was Meryl time. But first, a few jokes from James Corden, who co-starred with her in 2014’s “Into the Woods.”
“Jeffrey Kurland wants to come back and thank a few people,” the “Late Late Show” host said as he took the stage. “How nice to be at the Beverly Hilton. Nothing ever happens here.”
He then launched into a hilarious anecdote that he said took place the first time he met Streep, at a London restaurant. “I went up to her and introduced myself as James, but she thought I was a waiter. ‘I’ll have the lemon crusted salmon,’ she said. She’s a complete bitch. She’s the worst. I disagree with everything Donald Trump ever said, but I retweeted that. It’s so great to see her finally being recognized. What is she even going to do with this award? It could be a doorstop for her Golden Globes room.”
Corden continued on a slightly more serious note. “It’s the impact of her work on everyone across the decades, which is astounding. It’s OK that she majored in costume design, but she failed. Now all of you can say that you’re better than her. She is a team player and she invites everyone in. I was nervous to work with her, but she puts you at ease. She takes the work so seriously, but not herself.”
Wearing a full-length, hot pink Valentino gown with striped accents from the designer’s latest collection, Streep walked on stage and hugged Ann Roth, who had made remarks about their working relationship going back to 1983’s “Silkwood.”
A reprise of Streep’s headline-making speech at the Golden Globes was not to be. Instead, she talked about food — and sex.
“I’m so touched, James, if you’re not in the parking lot by now. James and Ann are the two people I’d like most to have as dinner companions,” she said, as she dedicated the award to her mother, “who really wanted to be a costume designer.”
In her brief speech, Streep talked about the role that wardrobe and costume design play in creating and exploring a character. “It’s a happy surprise, a tiny miracle, like a simultaneous orgasm. Don’t tell Ann I’ve had them with other designers.”