If there's one red carpet of the awards season that knows how to push a black-tie dress code to the limit — and look amazing every inch of the way — it's the one leading into the Beverly Hilton's International Ballroom where the Costume Designers Guild Awards are held each year just before the Academy Awards.
This year's attendees arrived at the Feb. 23 gala clad in kilts, nattily attired in jacquarded metallic tuxedos, sporting bedazzled "American Horror Story" T-shirts layered under formalwear and skirts of swaying silvery fringe. Hair varied from pale blue coifs that offset silver-colored cocktail dresses to candy corn orange, and heads were crowned with veils, towering headpieces and purple porkpie hats.
In addition to bestowing three awards for television, three for film and one for short form design, which covers works that are 15 minutes or less, the evening honored a couple of colorful characters — as well as a woman whose career is built on color. That would be master dyer Edwina Pellikka, who was presented with a distinguished service award.
"I was working with an actress who needed her silk charmeuse dress dyed the exact shade of purple as her telephone," said Costume Designers Guild President Salvador Perez by way of introduction, "And she did it. There were never problems with Edwina — only solutions."
Fittingly, Pellikka took to the stage to accept her award in a blue dress that perfectly matched her eyeglass frames.
Filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, who was honored with this year's distinguished collaborator award, explained that he had put all the characters in "Reservoir Dogs" in black suits and skinny black ties "because every guy looks better in a black suit" — a statement said without a trace of irony by Tarantino, who attended the black-tie gala in a rumpled pullover sweater, button-front shirt and jeans.
In accepting the award, he shared an observation: "Our films and our costume designers, we haven't gotten officially recognized for our costumes. We haven't gotten any Oscars, any Golden Globes or even any Costume Designers Guild awards. But we do have something else. We have Halloween parties! Every Halloween I'll see a black guy and a white guy dressed as Vincent and Jules [from "Pulp Fiction"]. I've seen Djangos. I've seen Mia Wallaces. I've seen women in bloody wedding dresses and yellow tracksuits [from "Kill Bill"]. And I consider that the greatest award because it means the costumes have pierced the consciousness of the audience."
Ellen Mirojnick, a costume designer whose work on the film "Wall Street" influenced many a male wardrobe, was honored with the guild's career achievement award, a presentation that included several pre-taped congratulatory messages from some of the actors she'd worked with over her long career, including longtime collaborator Michael Douglas as well as Sharon Stone who, in turn credited Mirojnick with putting together, at the last minute, her memorable 1996 Academy Award ensemble built around a black Gap T-shirt.
"The dress I was going to wear had been backed over by the FedEx truck," Stone said in the video, "and I decided to have Ellen Mirojnick kidnapped. When she showed up, she opened my closet and said, 'We can do this.'"
The night's other winners included Lou Eyrich in the contemporary television series category for "American Horror Story: Hotel," Mirojnick for the period TV series category for "The Knick," and Michele Clapton in the fantasy TV series category for "Game of Thrones."
Julie Vogel won in the short form design category for the Dos Equis ad "Most Interesting Man in the World Wins on Land, Sea & Air"; Jenny Eagan won in the contemporary film category for "Beasts of No Nation"; "The Danish Girl" costume designer Paco Delgado won in the period film category; and the statuette for excellence in fantasy film went to Jenny Beavan for "Mad Max: Fury Road."
If we had to pick one sartorial standout of the night, it would be Cate Blanchett, who also was one of our favorites at the Oscars.
On hand to receive the Lacoste Spotlight Award (named in honor of the French luxury brand, the event's longtime presenting sponsor), Blanchett took to the stage in a form-fitting, custom-made, black Atelier Versace chain-mail gown, accessorized with a sparkly stunner of a diamond bib necklace from Tiffany & Co.