Top 5 Pre-Oscar Best Costume Films

Posted by Christina Stewart February 19, 2014 1 Comment 4516 views

Last week we looked at my Top 5 Best Costume films since the Oscar category came into existence. From 1929, when the Oscars began, until 1948 there was no Best Costume category. This week we’re heading back to these years and looking at my choices for the Top 5 Best Costume films. What are yours?

5 Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) Designer: Orry-Kelly

Gold Diggers is a perfect example of Depression Era worries, fashions, cynicisms, and pluck! You can’t go wrong with a cast like William Powell, Joan Blondell, Ruby Keeler, Warren William, Ginger Rogers, Guy Kibbee, Aline MacMahon, and Ned Sparks, plus the mind-blowing musical numbers of Busby Berkeley. Orry-Kelly’s designs run the range from contemporary 1930’s ready-to-wear fashions to wild, and mostly transparent, musical number costumes.


4 Gilda (1946) Designer: Jean-Louis

“There Never Was A Woman Like Gilda” as the films tagline goes and the same can be said for Jean-Louis’ designs! The combination of Rita Hayworth and Jean-Louis made history with this film and the “Put the Blame on Mame” gown cemented the public’s perception of Hayworth as Gilda. The true elegance of Hayworth’s costumes and character shine through, even as she is trying to play a seductive vixen. Aside from the “Mame” gown, Hayworth’s two-piece “Amado Mio” gown is something to behold. Check out my piece on the film and Jean-Louis here.


3 Swing Time (1936) Designer: Bernard Newman

The film’s Oscar winning song “The Way You Look Tonight” goes for more than just Ginger Roger’s shampoo covered head, but also covers the film’s costume designs. Newman hit the perfect note of working girl fashions of the mid-1930’s. Rogers and Helen Broderick’s everyday wear is stylish and practical. Roger’s dance gowns are as graceful, as they are elegantly, and perfectly suited for the musical mood. Have a look and you’ll wish some of these fashions would make a comeback.


1 Tie between Gone With The Wind (1939) Designer: Walter Plunkett & The Wizard of Oz (1939) Designer: Adrian

1939 was Hollywood’s Golden Year! Even though Gone With The Wind walked off with almost every Oscar, I really feel that had there been a Best Costume category these two films would have tied. Plunkett’s historically accurate costumes and Adrian’s exaggerated fantasy designs would have left the judges no choice. People have forgotten that Oz was nominated for 6 awards, losing out to Wind in the Best Picture, Art Direction, and Cinematography: Color categories, but won Best Original Score. Which one do you think would have taken home the statue? Check out my piece of the restoration of Walter Plunkett’s Gone With The Wind costumes here.



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. InGan
    - February 19, 2014
      -   Reply

    I’ve watched the collection of trailers with the real pleasure. Thanks, Christina. I started to read and watch it, bcs I want to share opinions with my friend, Tatiana Chugai, who is a costume designer.
    In addition, you moved me to explore creativity of the great actress Rita Hayworth. And biography of talented Natacha Rambova as well ..

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