'Lincoln' Costume Designer Joanna Johnston Reacts to Her First Oscar Nomination

Joanna Johnston
Jessica Chou

This dress was designed for Sally Field in Lincoln by Joanna Johnston, who used silk taffeta for the dress and accessorized with an antique swan's-down muff and a bonnet with vintage lace.

Johnston, who has worked on several Steven Spielberg films, including "Saving Private Ryan" and "War Horse," watched the noms live at 5:30 this morning and is thrilled with her first nod.

Johanna Johnston actually was wide awake with jet lag this morning after flying from London to L.A. on Wednesday night.

The Lincoln costume designer found out Wednesday night that her next  project —- Steven Spielberg’s Robopocalypse — was postponed indefinitely and was very disappointed because she had been looking forward to the futuristic costumes. She also had "an odd and restless night" worrying about the effect of the cancellation on her crew. 

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So she decided to watch the Oscar nominations live, not realizing that the costume nominations are not announced, just released.

“When they finished, I was about to go online and search when a friend in London texted me with the news. So I got the news via London, even though I was in L.A.,” she said, with a laugh. “But it's fantastic, really, really lovely, and I am thrilled.”

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Johnston also worked with Spielberg on other historical films including Saving Private Ryan, Munich and War Horse.

Of Lincoln's 12 noms, she acknowledges, “I think this is an important film, a serious film, and it captures the emotions of people today. And I think it will endure, and because it's historically accurate, it will also be used in education and for reference. It's not sensationalized or ostentatious.”

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“My work tends to be more subtle than extravagant,” she admits, explaining her criterion for good costume design: "If the film passes before you, and you don’t notice the costumes, then the job is good.”

Johnston hasn’t thought about her Oscar gown yet. She’s still trying to figure out what to wear Thursday night to the Broadcast Film Critics Awards. She’s leaning toward a Marnie outfit over a black Dolce & Gabbana dress.

 But either way, it will be a celebratory night for the Lincoln crew -- which is attending BFCA -- for which Johnston also has been nominated for best costume design.