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Costume Designer Awards

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By Mark London Williams
“I keep having this nightmare,” a man tells his friend, “where I run into Fred Astaire walking down the street. And he looks great and I ask him, ‘My God, Fred, who’s your tailor!?” The man lapses into silence, and his puzzled friend asks, “Well, why is that a nightmare?”
“Because I wake up before he can tell me!”
At the sixth annual Costume Designers Guild Awards, held February 21st, the mystery was not only revealed, but inducted into the Anne Cole Hall of Fame.
The tailor in question was Bernard Newman, the Lucile Ltd.-spawned designer who was brought from Chicago to Hollywood to work on such films as Top Hat and Roberta. Along with Golden Age-stalwarts Howard Greer and Robert Kalloch, the trio represented the opening salvo in an evening that was actually heavier on lifetime/career achievement honors than “envelope please”-style competition.
Richard Hornung, a more recent practitioner of the cloth-wrangler’s craft, was another Cole inductee, and Noel Taylor, still spry in his nineties, accepted his Career Achievement for Television Award, while recalling how he first heard of this “new medium” while attending to a Broadway costume-fitting. James Acheson, whose career spans BBC productions of Dr. Who all the way through Monty Python and the latest Spiderman, accepted the Bulgari Career Achievement in Film with a hilarious tale of getting drunk en route to the Oscars, only to be surprised by winning the design Oscar for Last Emperor and having to make a speech.
Other kudos went to Western Costume’s own head of Ladies Custom Made, Tzetzi Ganev and to tailor Tomas Velasco. Holly Hunter copped the Invicta Distinguished Actor Award, presumably because she wears costumes awfully well.
Durinda Wood won for excellence in contemporary film for her work in A Mighty Wind while the contemporary TV designing award went to Patricia Field for Sex and the City. The fantasy/period TV award was nabbed by Ruth Myers and Terry Dresbach for HBO’s Carnivale, and the award for commercials was handed to Nancy Steiner for work on a Bacardi & Cola ad.
The one truly existential twist – in the sense of something unexpected happening —was that down-under wonder Ngila Dickson appeared to win the award for excellence in fantasy/period film design in a two-way tie—with herself—for work on both Return of the King and The Last Samurai. This impression was given when presenter Geena Davis blinked at the envelope and discovered that only Dickson’s name was there, and not the name of the film she won for. The moment was snatched back out of contention for future Trivial Pursuit status when the CDG issued a statement a couple of days later clarifying that the award was only for her The Lord of the Rings work.

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