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Oscars 2017
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On the scene at the Costume Designers Guild Awards: 'It’s not just shopping'

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Johnny Depp’s Wolf would not be the scheming, menacing predator that he was without his sleazy zoot suit. Ralph Fiennes would not be the extraordinary Grand Budapest Hotel concierge that he was without his tidy purple uniform. The decisions costume designers make affect, well, everything about a film — and the Costume Designers Guild recognized these accomplishments at its 17th annual awards ceremony on Tuesday night.

With Shameless’ Emmy Rossum as its host, the event highlighted costume designers working in film, television, and commercials.

“It’s nice to celebrate with my fellow costume designers,” Salvador Perez said, while speaking with Entertainment Weekly at the event’s red carpet. He is the president of the Costume Designers Guild Local 892, and is the costume designer on The Mindy Project and Pitch Perfect 2. “This is a great night to celebrate costume design and appreciate each other, and make the public aware of what costume design is. It’s not just shopping. It’s character development and storytelling. I think that is lost. Anytime we can bring a little notoriety to costume design, it’s a good thing.”

Awards went to Albert Wolsky for Excellence in Contemporary Film (Birdman), Milena Canonero for Excellence in Period Film (The Grand Budapest Hotel), Colleen Atwood for Excellence in Fantasy Film (Into the Woods), Jenny Eagan for Outstanding Contemporary Television Series (True Detective), Michele Clapton for Outstanding Period/Fantasy Television Series (Game of Thrones), and more. (For a full winners list, click here.)

In addition, four honorary awards were handed out. Dr. Deborah Nadoolman Landis, who curated the Hollywood Costume exhibit, received the Edith Head Award for the Advancement and Education of the Art of Costume Design. Richard Linklater received the Distinguished Collaborator Award. Aggie Guerard Rodgers—who designed for American Graffiti, Return of the Jedi, The Color Purple, and many others—received the Career Achievement Award. Lastly, Naomi Watts received the Lacoste Spotlight Award for her acting accomplishments, as well as her continued support of costume design. (For more information on the honorees, click here.)

After working with costume designer Danny Glicker on HBO’s Looking, Jonathan Groff can attest to that first hand. “[Danny] has so specifically chosen the pieces for the emotional arc of the character that it completely affects the way I play a scene, the way I feel during a scene,” Groff said. “The clothes are so connected to the emotional life of the character.

“If it’s a great costume designer, you’re not noticing the clothes,” he continued. “You’re feeling the emotion of the whole movie. That’s why I think it’s cool to shine a light on them and shower them with awards at a night like this because they so often go unnoticed, especially if they’re really great.”

Janie Bryant, who was nominated for Outstanding Period/Fantasy Television Series alongside Tiffany White Stanton for their work on Mad Men, summed up the importance of costume design best as she spoke to the meticulousness of the job. “People don’t realize that there’s somebody behind the camera who has decided every single piece of clothing that that actor is going to wear and that’s what you, the audience, get the privilege of seeing, whether you realize it or not,” she said. “It’s helping the story to move along. It’s about creating clothing that evokes emotion and tells the story of that character.”

She concluded, simply but effectively: “It’s such an important craft.”

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