Oscars: Read Interviews With the Nominated Costume Designers

Joker, Little Women, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood - costume - Publicity-H 2019
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Hear what inspired the costume masters behind 'Little Women,' 'Joker,' 'Once Upon a Time in Hollywood' and more.

Fashionable films The Irishman, Jojo Rabbit, Joker, Little Women and Once Upon a Time in Hollywood received Oscar nominations on Monday for their sartorial choices. Read The Hollywood Reporter's interviews with the nominated costume designers behind the looks worn by Robert De Niro, Scarlett Johansson, Saoirse Ronan, Joaquin Phoenix and more stars. — Compiled by Lindsay Weinberg

The Irishman — Sandy Powell and Christopher Peterson

The directive from Martin Scorsese — master of the gangster genre — was simple. “Marty told us very specifically these guys are not flashy gangsters and not the ones we are used to seeing. They are much quieter and not as intimidating, and they have to blend into the background and not stand out,” says Sandy Powell. “This is not Goodfellas and it's not Casino.” 

Armed with research on everything from the book I Heard You Paint Houses about Frank "The Irishman" Sheeran, the Mafia and the Teamsters, to archival footage of Jimmy Hoffa and Robert F. Kennedy, the pair first scoured the costume shops, acquiring as much as possible from each decade. “You have these five decades (the action takes place primarily in the '50s, '60s and '70s),” notes Powell, with details such as the silhouette, cut of the suit, ties and lapels being the common denominator.

Jojo Rabbit — Mayes C. Rubeo

Director and star Taika Waititi "was the driving force on the costumes. He was very specific in what he wanted the costumes to be, and we had long intensive conversations about the looks," says Mayes C. Rubeo. "We wanted it to look like wartime through the eyes of a child and do something unexpected."

Referencing the wartime aesthetics of Italian Neorealist '40s films, her goal was that "the movie should be World War II in the summertime with a brightness as seen through Jojo’s eyes. We did not want this to be a [black-and-white] documentary."

Scarlett Johansson wore custom pieces and a few vintage items from Italian costume houses. "Rosie (Johansson's character) had class and taste, and I wanted to portray her in a way that she might have been a friend of Elsa Schiaparelli who would have had the designer do something for her in better times," says Rubeo. "I flew to New York to meet with Scarlett, and she is such an artist and knew exactly who her character was. We decided she should wear pants, as this was an era when pants came into fashion but [were] not accessible to many people."

Joker — Mark Bridges

Forgoing the research of past cinematic Jokers, such as Heath Ledger and Jack Nicholson, costume designer Mark Bridges admits to checking out the purple suit and green shirt donned by Cesar Romero on the original Batman series: "He was my favorite Joker and a product of my misspent youth sitting in front of the television set."

Creating a backstory involved looking at Arthur Fleck's (Joaquin Phoenix) complex character and surroundings. "All of my choices were based on something to say about the person, and I looked at his vaguely outdated worn shirt, polyester pants and acrylic sweater that was inexpensive and might have been bought at a thrift store. I was trying to paint a picture as we learn about this man's life, and my choices also came from his personal appearance and financial status as he is living in a metropolitan area on the low rung, hand to mouth," Bridges says.

Little Women — Jacqueline Durran

U.K. native Jacqueline Durran looked to the vivid works of Massachusetts painter Winslow Homer and soft portraitures of British photographer Julia Margaret Cameron. Director Greta Gerwig's design cue, Durran notes, was that the sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy "lived in genteel poverty."

Character-defining contrasts and color palettes were created for each sister. Durran used a fiery red and indigo blue palette for Saoirse Ronan's Jo, an energetic, creative tomboy and dressed her in corset-free clothes that she could move freely in. "Her evening dress for a party was as plain as it could be and undecorated and even that feels too much for her, as she can't wait to pull it off," explains Durran.

Amy (Florence Pugh) is the most image-conscious of the sisters and adopts impressionist-inspired Parisian fashion in Europe with her aunt. Durran opted for light blue and rich tones for Amy: "She had the boldest costumes as she was the most open, showiest and would make the biggest statement in the group." 

Once Upon a Time in Hollywood — Arianne Phillips

The miniskirts, go-go boots, aviator glasses and denim fashions play a big role in defining the charactersOnce Upon a Time in Hollywood "is a memory film for Quentin [Tarantino], of Hollywood in 1969. Growing up, I would spend holidays in Los Angeles. I immediately related to his descriptions," Arianne Phillips says.

Since Leonardo DiCaprio's character is a 1950s-era Western actor, his turtlenecks and leather jackets were "browns, oranges and mustards," the designer says, while Pitt was clad in Hawaiian shirts, aviators and "denim, part of the 1960s youth culture."

For Sharon Tate as well as icons like Mama Cass, Steve McQueen and the Manson clan, Phillips looked to Debra Tate, Sharon's sister, who served as a consultant. "Coincidentally, Debra was preparing an auction and arranged a loan of Sharon's jewelry for Margot [Robbie] to wear," says Phillips. "It felt like a talisman for myself, Margot and Quentin."