If anyone understands the symbolic power of clothing, it’s costume designers. For the 20th edition of the Costume Designers Guild Awards, which was at the Beverly Hilton on Tuesday, the typically colorful crowd joined in solidarity with the Time’s Up and #MeToo movements and wore black.
Costume designers Arianne Phillips (“Kingsman: The Golden Circle”) and Ellen Mirojnick (“The Greatest Showman”) helped organize their guild colleagues to illustrate unity and support for victims of sexual harassment but also to bring attention to related, persistent issues.
“Time’s up for equal pay. Time’s up for inclusion of all women and marginalized people to be safe in the workplace,” said Phillips, noting that the costume designers guild is 84% women, but female costume designers earn nearly a third less in union-scale base wages than the predominantly male production designers. “Time’s up on that,” she said.
The drumbeat for change continued as Ane Crabtree accepted the award for excellence in contemporary television for the dystopian “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which depicts a world where women are valued only for their fertility. Removing her elbow gloves at the podium, Crabtree unveiled messages on her palms that read “Time’s Up” and “#MeToo.”
“There’s been an assault on women’s rights,” she said. “We are part of the change.”
Themes of unity, respect and compassion threaded through the ceremony, notably when actor Doug Jones presented director Guillermo del Toro with the Distinguished Collaborator award.
“He loves stories where the voiceless and the invisible triumph and become the heroes,” said Jones, who has played 11 of the director’s monsters, including the amphibian “asset” in “The Shape of Water.”
The serious issues didn’t dampen creativity or the designers’ fashion flair. Costume designer Beth Morgan, a nominee for “Glow,” demonstrated the power of great accessories with a vintage belt of seahorses suspended atop coral baubles. In a black crystal-encrusted On Aura Tout Vu corset and a glittery eye patch, short form nominee B. Åkerlund wore the work of a half-dozen emerging fashion designers.
Nadine Haders, nominee for “Get Out,” designed her dress as a tribute to the film about race relations; it was belted and lined with stripes of black and white. Jennifer Johnson, who won the contemporary film award for “I, Tonya,” afforded herself the prerogative of her profession — getting her vintage tulle gown from the vast selection at Western Costume Co.
Luis Sequeira, who won the award for excellence in period film, honored his designs for “The Shape of Water” with a blue pocket square printed with the same wallpaper pattern as a notable hallway from the film set.
To present Joanna Johnston with the career achievement award, Sally Field brought visual aids to the stage. Field spoke of how intensely Johnston searched to get her Mama Gump hand-knitted pink bed jacket in “Forrest Gump” and how she made a quilt from the many costumes in “Lincoln.”
Unfurling the quilt, Field said, “Each one of these squares is from one of the costumes that Mary Todd Lincoln wore. They are exact replicas. This not only represents the fashion insanity of Mary Todd Lincoln, but it also represents the exquisite artistry of Joanna Johnston.”
The Spotlight Award recognized Kerry Washington for bringing attention and awareness to her many costumes, especially those in seven seasons of “Scandal,” by costume designer Lyn Paolo. Veteran jewelry designer and metalworker Maggie Schpak was presented with the Distinguished Service award for the work of her Studio Art Metal Shop, maker of everything from tiaras to Rocky’s champion prizefighter belt.
Though the guild awards are often a predictor of the eventual Oscar champ, the designers recognized a wide variety of work in this year’s winners, which includes the following seven competitive categories:
Excellence in Period Film
“The Shape of Water” — Luis Sequeira
Excellence in Contemporary Film
“I, Tonya” — Jennifer Johnson
Excellence in Sci-Fi / Fantasy Film
“Wonder Woman” — Lindy Hemming
Excellence in Contemporary Television
“The Handmaid’s Tale” — Ane Crabtree
Excellence in Sci-Fi / Fantasy Television
“Game of Thrones” — Michele Clapton
Excellence in Period Television
“The Crown” — Jane Petrie
Excellence in Short Form Design
Pink: “Beautiful Trauma” Music Video — Kim Bowen