The best thing about movies is their ability to transport us to another world. That’s due, in part, to the actors, set designers and most importantly costume designers. Without their combined passion and skill, movies would not be the same.
Since we’re in the business of Halloween costumes, it’s hard to ignore the talented men and women behind the looks. And finally, in 1949, costume designers started to earn recognition from the Academy. Since the first Oscar was awarded, there have been many iconic designers that were recognized for their work. This infographic will highlight seven of the top costume designers to have received the Academy Award for Best Costume Design.
First awarded in 1949, the Academy Award for Best Costume Design has been awarded to many great costume designers. To be eligible for the award, the costumes must have been conceived by the fashion designer, among other requirements. Here is a look at the top 7 designers to have received the Oscars as well as a glimpse at the reigning designer.
Notable Films: Roman Holiday (1954) & Sabrina (1955)
Bio: Born on October 28, 1897, in California, Edith Head got her start as a costume sketch artist at Paramount Pictures. She remained at Paramount for 43 years before moving on to work at Universal Pictures, where she remained until her death in 1981. In addition to movies, Head designed costumes for TV and was even asked to design a woman’s uniform for the United States Coast Guard.
Notable Films: West Side Story (1961) & An American In Paris (1951)
Bio: Irene Sharaff was born in Boston on January 23, 1910. In her youth, she worked as a fashion illustrator and her debut production was a 1931 Broadway production of Alice in Wonderland. In 1993, she received the TDF/Irene Sharaff Lifetime Achievement Award, which is now bestowed annually to costume designers who have achieved great distinction in theatre, film, opera or dance.
Notable Films: Chicago (2002) & Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
Bio: Born in 1948 in Washington, Colleen Atwood began her career as a fashion advisor there. It wasn’t until a chance encounter with someone’s mother who was designing sets for Ragtime that she got her start in the movie business. She worked as an assistant to a costume designer until finally earning her first film credit for A Little Sex.
Notable Films: Marie Antoinette (2006) & The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Bio: Milena Canonero was born in Turin, Italy in 1946. After studying art, design history and costume design in Genoa, she moved to England and began working on small theatre and film productions. Her first major film credit was A Clockwork Orange, after having met Stanley Kubrick on the set of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Notable Films: All About Eve (1950) & Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing (1955)
Bio: Charles LeMaire, born in 1897 in Chicago, started out as a vaudeville performer. He started his career as a costume designer with Broadway productions but he turned to films in 1925. Over his 37 years in the business, he worked on nearly 300 films. He was also instrumental in convincing the Academy to institute the costume design Oscar. In 1985, he died of heart failure.
Notable Films: Shakespeare in Love (1998) & The Aviator (2004)
Bio: Sandy Powell was born on April 7, 1960, in London, England. She studied at the Central School of Art in London but left before completing her degree due to offers of work from Derek Jarman and others. In 2011 for her service to the film industry, Powell was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire.
Notable Films: Joan of Arc (1948) & The Sound of Music (1965)
Bio: Born in California in 1914, Dorothy Jeakins got her start working on WPA projects and as a Disney artist. She was spotted by Victor Fleming while working at I. Magnin and went on to share the Oscar for his film, Joan of Arc with Barbara Karinska. She never signed a long-term contract with any major studio during her 39-year career and retired in 1960. She passed away in November 1995.
Ruth E. Carter
Notable Films: Malcolm X (1992) & Black Panther (2018)
Bio: Ruth E. Carter was born on April 10, 1960, in Springfield, Massachusetts. In her nearly 30-year film career she has over 40 films to her credit. After moving to Los Angeles, she met Spike Lee while working at the Los Angeles Theater Center. She went on to work on a number of Lee’s films, as well as films for Steven Spielberg and John Singleton. In late 2019 a retrospective traveling exhibition of her work will travel to museums worldwide.
*most awarded living designers