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2015's Favorite Costume Designs

2015 has come and gone already, and it has left us with a wide array of movies to look at: some good, some bad and everything in between.

Here I will not be looking at the quality of the movies themselves but at the quality of their costume design. And in that regard, 2015 has left us with some really good stuff.

This will not be a top 10 because I could not find enough movies with designs that I really loved, and therefore it stayed as a top 7 list. Also, the order is rather random. All of the designs mentioned below are really great on their own and I don't think they can really be properly listed.

And so, I begin.

I - A GOTHIC OPERETTA: Crimson Peak designs by Kate Hawley

Guillermo Del Toro's new movie is, easily, one of the most gorgeous movies released this past 2015. The sets, the photography and, of course, the costume design were stunning to look at. The designs, done by Kate Hawley (who also worked with Del Toro in Pacific Rim), are the perfect combination between historical accuracy and aesthetic choices.

Del Toro's imagination flourished through the hand of designer Kate Hawley, who manages to capture the dark gothic feel of the late Victorian romantic literature, while still remaining as historically accurate as possible.

Color takes the central stage in this reimagining of the Gothic romance literature and creates an entrancing world where every aspect of the image is carefully crafted into perfection.

These designs deserve to be on every best designs list of 2015 if only for daring to use the big late Victorian sleeves that are so often ignored in movies focussing around the early 1900s.

If you want to read more about this movie's design check out my articles about Lucille's character and Edith's.

II- A SPACE ADVENTURE: Star Wars: The Force Awakens designs by Michael Kaplan

Breathing life back into a franchise as iconic and meaningful to so many people as Star Wars is no easy feat. Not even George Lucas managed it back then with his prequels. Because of this, I did not expect this movie to be this high up in the list, but Kaplan's work managed to tap into the original Star Wars universe and still bring something new to it.

Any great Star Wars design has to be simple, yet memorable and feel real, yet alien enough. Is definitely a tough balance to manage.

And Kaplan certainly achieved most of it: it created instant iconic costumes both in Rey and Kylo Ren and successfully reset in track the designs to match the feel and look from the original trilogy.

Plus, bonus points for dressing both female characters in trousers.

For more specific analysis of the designs, check out my articles about Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren.

III- A TALE OF BLOOD AND MIST: Macbeth designs by Jacqueline Durran

Justin Kurzel vision for the classic play of ambition and power is a new brand one and still manages to perfectly convey the intent of the original play. Mist covers the lens, and the gorgeous backdrop of Scotland creates a grander than life scenario. In it, Durran breathes life into these characters through an also grand and spectacular wardrobe.

With two very clear parts in regards to the wardrobe (before being king and afterward) Durran's designs manage to capture the social station of the characters as well as their mental/emotional state.

It certainly takes historical liberties, but by doing so, it manages to create a very plastic and aesthetic universe that works flawlessly with the locations and the cinematography.

And after so many adaptations of the Bard's work with what amounts to high school production costumes, it's a welcome change to see such poignant and well-directed wardrobe.

If you want to read more about the designs for the bard's play check out my article about Lady Macbeth's wedding dress.

IV- A CLASSIC FAIRYTALE: Cinderella designs by Sandy Powell

If there's one thing that Kenneth Branagh knows how to do is to create beautiful images: from Hamlet to Thor, he has always thrived in big detailed sets and productions. This is no exception with Cinderella, whether you like it or not (myself being in the "not liking it" side of the discussion). The movie thrives with spectacular sets and Sandy Powell's wardrobe adds an explosion of color and glitter that is simply amazing.

From the colors to the big shapes, to the fabric, everything in these designs screams classic fairy tale. Especially the ball gown, which has more glitter than in any other movie about Cinderella.

For me, the movie doesn't really work, but even I must face that these are gorgeous pieces of design. And it certainly deserves bonus points for creating one of the prettiest wedding dresses ever worn on screen.

Have a look at Sandy Powell talking about the movie's designs:

V- A PASTORAL: Far from the madding crowd designs by Janet Patterson

The classic novel by Thomas Hardy had already been adapted three times to the silver screen when Thomas Vinterberg decided to do his own take on the novel. The story, set in the late Victorian years, is deeply rooted in the pastoral genre. And the movie takes full advantage of it.

An array of simple gowns, floral prints and gorgeous bonnets constitute the wardrobe for this love story.

Simplicity is the order of the day, closely working with the simplicity of the story itself. It's true that the skirts are always a tad too narrow and the bustles are way too small for the real historical period, but the feeling of the time and place is still there.

Plus, it deserves a lot of bonus points for using real prints in all of her dresses; from checkered prints to stripes to flowers. A lot of movies set in this period seldom use these prints, which were really common back then, both for men and women.

VI- MADNESS ON THE ROAD: Mad Max, Fury Road designs by Jenny Beavan

Fury Road is the bizarre blockbuster of the year for sure. George Miller is back to the Mad Max universe after 30 years and he is back to stay. The movie is a complete adrenaline rush down the insane corners of humanity's mind. An action-packed movie set in a mad world where everything and everyone is reduced to mere property.

This fascinating update of the über-macho franchise is surprisingly refreshing and progressive in its own fascinating way. And all of this shows in the highly bizarre, yet fascinating costume design.

From Furiosa's instantly iconic look and design to Inmortan Joe's disgusting attire, the costumes from this movie are the perfect combination of theatricality and decay, managing to feel like they actually belong in this wasteland.

This movie has one of the best dystopian designs I've ever seen and I can't wait to see what they do next with the sequel.

VII- FORBIDDEN LOVE: Carol designs by Sandy Powell

Todd Haynes has always had an incredible sensibility both story-wise and in the visual aspect of his movies. Carol is, of course, no exception.

The movie takes place in the American 1950s which happens to be the perfect playset for any designer with the backing of the vision of Haynes.

The colors, particularly shine in this love story between Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara. Gorgeous reds splatter the screen in this forbidden romance, creating a beautiful image of the '50s.

But the biggest merit of these designs is to manage to create an identifiable separate identity for both characters only through how they dress.


VII - FAR FROM HOME: Brooklyn designs by Odile Dicks-Mireau

The British-Canadian movie directed by John Crowley has had really good reviews and has surprised the general public. But as another movie set in the American 1950s, it couldn't be kept from comparing it with Carol (in the costume design side of it).

Brooklyn has a much traditional take on 1950's costuming, and it takes fewer risks. That's why I think Carol has the upper hand in regards to costume design.

IX - A STRUGGLE FOR EQUALITY: Suffragette designs by Jane Petrie

Sara Gavron directs a story about the mothers and daughters that gained the right to vote for women. The movie's aim, because of its story, is to feel contemporary and relatable to a modern audience above all. This is visible in the cinematography, in the characters themselves and in the costume design.

The movie takes place in the early 1900s and takes some historical licenses. For instance, a lot of historical aspects of the costuming were simplified in order to give a more modern feel to the movie; the necks were lowered, the sleeves were slimmed down and the hats were considerably reduced in size. I'm not overly fond of that, but the general feel of the period was still there, so it's still good enough for me to like.

All in all, I had to chose between which Carey Mulligan movie I wanted to be on the list, and in the end, I find the designs for Far from the madding crowd way more fascinating.


So, this is my list of favorite costume designs of 2015. Which is yours?


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