Hillary Atkin

Celebrating Costumes as ‘Symbols of Truth’

Feb 21, 2019

It was time. Women have hosted the majority of this season’s awards shows. Alicia Keys at the Grammys. Aisha Tyler at the Directors Guild Awards. Chelsea Peretti at the Writers Guild Awards. Sandra Oh (with Andy Samberg) at the Golden Globes.

But no matter how skillfully they handled their shows or how many of their jokes landed, none can be compared to Kate Walsh when it comes to a very specific aspect of the job — what they wore.

Appearing first as Glinda the Good Witch of the North from “The Wizard of Oz,” the “Private Practice” actress literally changed into six different iconic film and television costumes as she nimbly hosted the 21st annual Costume Designers Guild Awards, held Tuesday night at the Beverly Hilton.

Walsh, who currently stars in “The Umbrella Academy” and “13 Reasons Why,” quickly ditched the voluminous pale pink Glinda gown and its tall crown and scepter for a pair of scrubs as the ceremonies got under way in the hotel’s International Ballroom, where a number of the season’s awards shows have taken place.

But it’s the only one where black-tie attendees waved placards demanding pay equality that had been placed on every seat.

The overwhelming majority of the CDG’s more than 1,000 members, who work around the world in motion pictures, television, commercials, music videos and new media programs, are women.

“There is pay inequality compared to our closest creative peers and I wonder if it’s because 85% of us are women,” said Guild VP Catherine Adair. “On my watch, I say ‘Time’s up.’ We are integral to the creative process and our salaries should be equal.”

She went on to introduce one of the evening’s honorees, activist Betty Pecha Madden, who joined the CDG, Local 892 (part of IATSE International), in 1976 after being hired to design the costumes for “The New Mickey Mouse Show.” In addition to designing for dozens of other shows over the years, she’s also responsible for Michael Jackson’s iconic white suit in the “Smooth Criminal” music video.

The night’s other honorees included Glenn Close and Ruth E. Carter, both of whom are up for Academy Awards — and prolific producer Ryan Murphy, whose Half Initiative has made major inroads in creating more opportunities in front of and behind the camera for women, LGBTQ and people of color.

“He’s a rare producer that’s a brand,” said actress Sarah Paulson, who has starred in a number of Murphy’s productions, as she presented him with the Distinguished Collaborator Award. “Ryan has made TV exciting and meaningful that’s created such an extraordinary fandom worldwide by reminding us that we are connected.”

Award-winning designer Lou Eyrich, a recipient of one of the night’s competitive awards for “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story,” said she first met Murphy 20 years ago on “Popular” and asked herself, “Who is this guy?”

They’ve been partners ever since. “He is involved in the complete look of every character. Ryan gets costume and how central it is to storytelling. What defines him is his huge and tender heart,” Eyrich said. “He still is as precise about every detail. He drew Oscar-level talent to TV — and changed the face of TV.”

In his acceptance speech, Murphy reflected upon how in 1999 he wanted to showcase gays, minorities and women and had to overcome discrimination himself. Now, he’s in a position to effect real change.

“Two years ago I made Lou a full producer on all my shows,” he said. “It should be the industry standard.”

Carter, who’s Oscar-nominated for designing the costumes for “Black Panther,” received the career achievement award for her extraordinary body of work, much of it in partnership with director Spike Lee. The honor was presented by actresses Danai Gurira and Halle Berry.

Berry had the audience in stitches as she recalled working on her first film with Lee and Carter, 1991’s “Jungle Fever,” in which she described her role as a “crack ho wearing a nasty-ass bra and a miniskirt.”

“Ruth would argue that it was a costume, that it helped me be the best crack ho.” Berry said. “She is strong, kind — and opinionated.”

Carter reflected on coming to Los Angeles in the 1980s and how she stuck with her career goals despite the fear. “It was before the invention of Spanx, and for that alone, I accept,” she said. “I love Chanel, Dior and McQueen, but I also love playwrights and poets. Knowing that you are creating art that’s bigger than yourself. Spike showed me bravery through filmmaking. The costumes were symbols of truth that will stand the test of time. And 50 years after Stan Lee created it, it was an incredible opportunity to bring ‘Black Panther’ to life and show the perseverance and hope that each character represents for the past, present and future of the black experience.”

Walsh first “honored” Close by coming on stage in an Alex Forrest outfit from the psycho-sexual thriller of 30 years ago, “Fatal Attraction,” complete with curly blonde wig — and a long knife.

Michael Chiklis, with whom Close starred in her first TV role on “The Shield,” lauded the actress as she was given the Spotlight Award.

“In a town where everyone is trying to be original, Glenn Close is. She is singular,” he said, and listed some of the recent awards she’s received for “The Wife.” Bringing it back to costumes, he said that she saved almost every costume she’s worn for the past 35 years — some 800 pieces — and donated them to Indiana University where they are preserved as works of art.

“I’m privileged to have undergone hundreds of hours of being draped and trimmed, as stitch by stitch my character would emerge after rigorous attention to detail,” said Close, who reflected on her roles in films including “Dangerous Liaisons” and “The World According to Garp.” “My collaborations with costume designers are as important as those with writers and directors — sometimes, even more so.”

Here is the full list of winners:

Excellence in Contemporary Film

“Crazy Rich Asians” (Mary E. Vogt)

Excellence in Period Film

“The Favourite” (Sandy Powell)

Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Film

“Black Panther” (Ruth E. Carter)

Excellence in Contemporary Television

“The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” (Lou Eyrich & Allison Leach)

Excellence in Period Television

“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Donna Zakowska)

Excellence in Sci-Fi/Fantasy Television

“Westworld” (Sharen Davis)

Excellence in Variety, Reality-Competition, Live Television

“RuPaul’s Drag Race” (Zaldy Goco)

Excellence in Short Form Design

Childish Gambino — “This is America,” music video (Natasha Newman-Thomas)

Spotlight Award

Glenn Close

Distinguished Collaborator Award

Ryan Murphy

Career Achievement Award

Ruth E. Carter

Distinguished Service Award

Betty Pecha Madden

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