Ann Roth is now the oldest woman to win a competitive Oscar

Costume designer Ann Roth works with Taylour Paige on the set of "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom."
(David Lee / Netflix)

Ann Roth, who earlier this year had tied Agnés Varda and James Ivory as the oldest nominees in Oscar history at age 89, tied Ivory as oldest Oscar winner tonight when she collected the costume design prize for her work on the Netflix drama “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.”

In introducing her work, presenter Don Cheadle said, Roth “reads the script and asks herself questions about the character like, ‘When she goes to bed, where are those clothes? Do they fall on the floor? Does she hang them up?’ From there, Ann builds the costumes which define the character.”

Roth did not appear or give a remote speech upon winning; earlier this month, when she earned the Costume Designers Guild Award for excellence in a period film for “Ma Rainey,” presenter Lana Condor explained the Tony winner and Emmy nominee preferred to let her work speak for itself.


The designer had previously told the Movie Times, though, that she was “a huge researcher” — which meant that, while she pulled pieces from her Oscar-nominated “Places in the Heart” costumes (set in 1931) for “Ma Rainey” (set in 1927), “I can pick out what’s 1931 and not 1927, and I have to take them away. It doesn’t work.”

She also discussed with W Magazine some of the accoutrements beneath the jazz-age exterior: “I made the behind,” she said of helping star Viola Davis’ physique imply the famed singer’s larger size. (She also said she used Aretha Franklin’s measurements, not Rainey’s.)

Her second Oscar win came on her fifth nomination. She previously received nods for “The Hours,” “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Places in the Heart,” and won for “The English Patient” in 1997. Roth has 130 credits as a costume designer on IMDb, starting in 1964. These include “Midnight Cowboy,” “The Birdcage,” “Cold Mountain” and the upcoming “Wicked.”

She has more than 100 Broadway credits and 12 Tony nominations, including for the 1986 production of “The House of Blue Leaves,” 2011’s “The Book of Mormon,” the recent smash Aaron Sorkin adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and her Tony-winning work in 2013’s “The Nance.” Her three Emmy nominations include one for “Angels in America.”

Ivory remains technically the oldest winner, for the adapted screenplay of “Call Me By Your Name,” as he was 89 years, 8 months, 26 days old at the time of his 2018 win. Roth was a mere 89 years, 5 months, 27 days old on winning tonight. Varda remains the oldest nominee, tapped the same year as Ivory and born four months before he was.