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The Oscar's 2014 Costume Designer Front Runners

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By: Nicole Pratl, Chicago Style and Fashion Examiner

The Academy Awards is known to be the most anticipated award show during award season. The Oscars are the end-game for previous ceremonies such as the Screen Actors Guild Awards and The Golden Globes. But unlike the popular award shows listed above, the Oscars recognizes more than just Best Picture, Series, Actor, Actress, Director and so on. The Academy Awards recognizes Costume Design, which some say to be one of the more unappreciated categories.

What is a motion picture without wardrobe? Costume design is the forefront of any picture. It not only makes an actor or actress turn into their character, but it also tells the story. A lot of time, effort, money and energy goes into costume designs down to the smallest detail. Costume Designers are artists.

The 86th Academy Awards Costume Design nominations are in good company with past winners including: Irene Sharaff for West Side Story (1961) and Cleopatra (1963); Theoni V. Aldredge for The Great Gatsby (1974); Colleen Atwood for Chicago (2002), Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) and Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland (2010); Mark Bridges for The Artist (2011) and last year's winner Jacqueline Durran for Anna Karenina (2012).

This year's nominations are:

American Hustle - Michael Wilkinson

The Grandmaster - William Chang

The Great Gatsby - Catherine Martin

The Invisible Woman - Michael O'Conner

12 Years a Slave - Patricia Norris

David O'Russell's American Hustle (Atlast Entertainment) stars Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper. In an interview with NY Daily News, Costume Designer Michael Wilkinson said the 70's styles inspired his designs, "They had ideas, they lived large and they took risks. Clothes were less structured, had less underpinnings — it was like people didn’t give a damn."

The Grandmaster (Production Block 2 Pictures) directed by Kar Wai Wong, stars Tony Leung Chiu, Ziyi Zhong, and Jin Zhang. Costume Designer William Chang reportedly spent two years collecting beads, ribbons, lace and fabrics for the cheongsam dresses—the haute couture style for Chinese women in the early 1900s.

Director Baz Luhrmann's adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (Warner Bros., Village Roadshow Pictures) stars Leonardo Di Caprio, Carey Mulligan and Toby McGuire. In UK's Vogue Magazine, Costume Designer Catherine Martin worked alongside Miuccia Prada and Brooks Brothers to create the Twenties-inspired costumes. The designer has long been fascinated by the book's time period, due to the social revolution that took place after World War I. Although maintaining the authenticity of original Twenties clothing was important to both Martin and Luhrmann, "The idea of reconnecting audiences with the story was also a key focus."

Director Ralph Fiennes' The Invisible Woman (BBC Films, Headline Pictures) stars Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas and the director himself, Ralph Fiennes. The movie's costume designer Michael O'Conner said this in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, "The inspiration came from Victorian art and painters like Frith who did Derby Day. [We also looked to] Charles Dickens — his writing, his life, the stories he wrote, the way he described people."

12 Years a Slave (Regency Enterprises, River Road Entertainment) directed by Steve McQueen, stars Chiewtel Ejiofer, Michael K. Williams and Michael Fassbender. The picture's costume designer, Patricia Norris, is an 82-year-old costume design veteran being a five-time Academy Award Nominee.

"When it came to designing the costumes, she had little on which to base their wardrobes. Since there are few photographs of slaves available—mostly etchings—Norris, a self-proclaimed history nut, relied on her research and some educated guessing. She had a much easier time researching the fashions of the plantation owners. Basing her designs upon the style of the 1850s—square-toe shoes, for instance, were in vogue—Norris says she took extra care to always make the plantation owners look superior to their slaves. 'I always wanted to make everyone look better than the slaves looked because the white people don’t think they’re proving anything if they don’t.' Norris says that the process was an international one, with shoes and boots imported from Italy, fabrics imported from London, and some vintage pieces for the white cast members found in England. But because so few costume houses carry clothes dating back before 1850, many of the designs were handmade achieving the goal of making the wardrobe look as real as possible. - Vanity Fair

What Culture's Oscar Harding posted his prediction winners for this category as follows:

Will Win: American Hustle

Should Win: 12 Years a Slave

Surprise Win: The Invisible Woman

"What ever you think of the film, its zany costumes certainly stand out," Harding said about American Hustle.

Who is your predicted winner? To find out, tune into the 86th Academy Awards Sunday, March 2nd on ABC.

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