1948: Oscar’s First Best Costume Award

Posted by Christina Stewart February 5, 2014 1 Comment 5221 views

It’s Oscar month here at Pretty Clever Films. Surprisingly the Oscar for Best Costume wasn’t awarded until 1949 for work in the previous year. Not only that, but the award was also split into two sub-categories – one for B&W films and one for color. The B&W and color categories were merged in 1957 and 1958, but were split again until 1967 when they were finally combined permanently. Today we’re going to take a look back at the films and designers of the first year of the Oscar for Best Costume design.


There were only a total of six nominated designers covering four films split between the two sub-categories, which is incredible considering over 200 films were released is 1948.  In the B&W sub-category Irene Lentz was nominated for B.F.’s Daughter starring Barbara Stanwych and Van Helfin. Irene would be nominated again in 1960 for her work in Midnight Lace starring Doris Day. However, the award went to Roger K. Furse for his work on Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet. Furse also won for Best Art Direction for the same production. His other noteworthy work includes designing the costumes for Ivanhoe (1952) and The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961). Interestingly, his wife was also an Oscar winning designer for her work in Anne of the Thousand Days (1969).

Still image from "B.F.'s Daughter"

Van Helfin, Barbara Stanwych, and Margaret Lindsay in “B.F.’s Daughter” 1948

Still image from "Hamlet"

Laurence Olivier as Hamlet (1948)

Still image from "Hamlet"

Jean Simmons as Ophelia in “Hamlet” (1948)


In the Color sub-category Edith Head and Gile Steele were nominated for their work on Billy Wilder’s musical The Emperor Waltz starring Bing Crosby and Joan Fontaine. Even though they didn’t win, they won the following year for their work in the B&W sub-category for The Heiress (1949) starring Fontaine’s sister Olivia de Havilland (who won the Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal) and Montgomery Clift. The winners for the Color in 1949 were Dorothy Jeakins and Barbara Karinska for their work on Joan of Arc starring Ingrid Bergman and Jose Ferrer, both of whom were nominated for their performances. Karinska was the designer for the New York City Ballet, and received another Oscar nomination in 1952 for Hans Christian Andersen starring Danny Kaye. Jeakins won two other Oscars for The Night of the Iguana (1964) starring Ava Gardner and Richard Burton, and for Samson and Delilah (1949) which she shared with Edith Head, Gile Steele, Charles Le Maire, Elois Jenssen, and Gwen Wakeling. Jeakins is also know for her work on South Pacific (1958), The Sound of Music (1965), Young Frankenstein (1974) and On Golden Pond (1981). These six designers paved the way for many more to follow and we salute them!

Still image for "The Emperor Waltz"

Joan Fontaine in “The Emperor Waltz” (1948)


Still image of "Joan of Arc"

Ingrid Bergman as “Joan of Arc” (1948)

Still image of "Joan of Arc"

Ingrid Bergman as “Joan of Arc” (1948)




About Christina Stewart

A film archivist by day and a film buff by night. What more needs to be said?

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There is 1 Comment

  1. - February 5, 2014
      -   Reply

    Fascinating. This is where the Oscars shine, in pointing the way toward interesting and noteworthy work.

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