Costume Design Awards Absent From Emmys

Natalie Chinn, Contributing Writer

Calvin Klein, Chanel and Dior received praise after their looks were featured on the 69th Primetime Emmy Awards red carpet, but the ceremony lacked recognition for the designers who dressed actors for their roles on the big screen. Costume designers were quietly awarded a week before the Emmys went live on Sunday, Sept. 17 at the Creative Arts Emmy Awards.

A hodgepodge of miscellaneous awards, the Creative Arts Emmys honors those who work behind the scenes, such as makeup artists, sound editors and casting directors. The Costume Design and Supervision category consists of three awards: Contemporary Costumes for a Series, Limited Series or Movie; Period/Fantasy Costumes for a Series, Limited Series or Movie; and Costumes for Variety, Nonfiction, or Reality Programming. Among the nominees this year were “House of Cards,” “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Dancing with the Stars” and “Portlandia.” Each nomination focused on a specific episode with outstanding wardrobe and acknowledged the set’s Costume Designer, Assistant Costume Designer and Costume Supervisor.

The award for Contemporary Costumes went to “Big Little Lies,” an HBO mini-series about a scandalous Californian community of mischief and murder. “Big Little Lies” took home a total of eight Emmys. The Period/Fantasy award was presented to “The Crown,” a Netflix original about the life of Queen Elizabeth II. This award was one of the show’s three Emmy wins this year. The last award, Variety, went to “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” a competition for the title of America’s Next Drag Superstar. RuPaul was awarded a total of two Emmys.

Although these awards cannot fit within the strict time schedule of the main ceremony, the artistic and technical talents of the Creative Arts Emmys deserve higher acknowledgement, especially in departments like costume design, which have the ability to make or break a show.

Costume design helps determine the realism and tone of television and film. It has the ability to make a show feel relevant and fresh or transport the audience 100 years into the past. What would “Gossip Girl” be without the headbands and high fashion? Without costuming, the show would lose its energy and Upper East Side feel. Similarly, “The Crown” would lose its historic accuracy without its detailed garments and accessories made by costume designer Michele Clapton, who also designs for “Game of Thrones.” For “The Crown’s” winning episode for costuming, Clapton completely recreated Queen Elizabeth’s wedding gown, in addition to her bridesmaids’ and Queen Mary’s dresses.

Costuming also helps create strong personalities and inspiring characters. Perry Meek designed a drag costume for Lady Gaga’s appearance in “RuPaul’s Drag Race,” changing her appearance into something completely new. This can also be seen in “Big Little Lies,” in which Alix Friedberg designed garments to fit her strong female characters. Friedberg also proved how tirelessly designers work to help directors bring their vision to life. For “Big Little Lies’” winning episode, the wardrobe department was constantly on hand to repair clothing and keep everything looking fresh, as the cast was not working with any doubles.

For little acknowledgement, designers put everything they have into their work. In the future, it would be amazing to see costume designers receive the recognition they deserve at the Emmys’ main ceremony. The Oscars have been awarding the Best Costume Design for years, and it’s about time the Emmys caught up.

A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Sept. 25 print edition. Email Natalie Chinn at [email protected].