Oscar ballots were sent to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, or better known as the Academy members, on Friday, Jan. 5.  We’ll be using the next week to remind the voting membership of our favorite films and performance of 2017 that they should consider when filling out their ballots!  If you missed one, then please click on the “Circuit Considerations 2017” tag.  You can also check out the “Best of 2017” column where the Editor cited the year’s best.  Oscar ballots are due on Friday, Jan. 12.

When it comes to period films, good costume design is one of the most essential parts of capturing the right tone. And particularly in a film like Sofia Coppola‘s “The Beguiled,” costume becomes part of the plot.

Stacey Battat has worked with Sofia Coppola before. The two collaborated on “The Bling Ring,” “Somewhere,” and the TV special “A Very Murray Christmas” for Netflix. But “The Beguiled” marks Battat’s first effort at designing costumes for a specific historical period.

“The Beguiled” is adapted from both the novel by Thomas Cullinan and the 1971 script from Albert Maltz and Irene Kamp. It takes place at a school for girls in Virginia during the Civil War. Their relatively peaceful, isolated existence is disrupted when an injured Union soldier arrives in need of help.

Costuming is a vital part of the story. These ladies can’t wear fancy designer gowns or something off the rack. It doesn’t match their lifestyle and doesn’t fit within their means. Instead, Battat took great care to create an aesthetic that was feminine and pretty, but also practical and realistic. The girls and their teachers would have no one to dress up for, and so they ditch the hoop skirts and corsets one might expect to see from the time. The colors are muted, and the fabrics are livable. These are women who fend for themselves, doing all of the work indoors and out. They need to be able to live and work in these clothes.

Upon close inspection, there are additional, surprising details that might escape notice. The panels in several of the dresses, for example, are slightly different in color. There are imperfections in the lengths of skirts. Panels are added to one costume to demonstrate alterations to a growing child’s wardrobe. All of these touches add to the reality that these girls and women lived in a time and a place where they would have sewn their own clothes, mending and caring for them to make things last as long as possible.

In addition to their everyday wear, a particularly tense dinner scene saw each of the ladies dressing in their finest for their special guest. This scene further highlighted the reality that, although they did own a few nice things, they were far from living in luxury and instead inhabited a world of mending and making do. This scene does, however, also showcase the fact that these women come from a variety of circumstances and backgrounds. Some from families with considerable means. Some that do not.

The costume design in “The Beguiled” is well thought through and impeccably researched. It is more than just a few pretty dresses for some beautiful young women. The costumes represent a very lived in, war-torn, worn out life. This costume design deserves closer inspection and recognition for the thought and care that went into it.

Who are your picks for Best Costume Design at the Oscars? Share with us in the comments.

CLICK THE CATEGORY TO SEE THE OSCAR PREDICTIONS:

MOTION PICTURE | DIRECTOR |
LEAD ACTOR | LEAD ACTRESS | SUPPORTING ACTOR | SUPPORTING ACTRESS | 
ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY | ADAPTED SCREENPLAY | ANIMATED FEATURE |
PRODUCTION DESIGN | CINEMATOGRAPHY | COSTUME DESIGN | FILM EDITING | MAKEUP & HAIRSTYLING | SOUND MIXING | SOUND EDITING | VISUAL EFFECTS |
ORIGINAL SCORE | ORIGINAL SONG |
FOREIGN LANGUAGE | DOCUMENTARY FEATURE |

ANIMATED SHORT | DOCUMENTARY SHORT | LIVE ACTION SHORT |