It's rare that contemporary costume design in a film makes you sit up and take notice. Sometimes while watching a movie I'll think to myself "Hey, that's a cute dress!" or "How can she run in those heels?" or "How the hell can that character afford this wardrobe?!" but it is few and far between where I look at contemporary design and feel admiration and appreciation for the costumes as a whole.Inception
is one of those films. From start to finish I am in awe of designer Jeffrey Kurland's work. He had the difficult task of creating costumes for a largely corporate world set five minutes in the future and that could have resulted in everyone wearing futuristic suits of the same cut. Instead, the looks in this film are modern takes on classic silhouettes which magically equals fashion forward somehow. There are a few great stand out pieces, some subtle referencing of fashion archetypes that serve as characterisation shorthand, and there are a lot of unglamorous everyday looks that give authenticity to the characters' lives.
Clothing, especially the suits, is a huge part of the Inception
fandom: there has been a tonne load of suit!porn, writers generally mention what the characters are wearing, it frequently informs the characterisation (especially of Arthur, but also Eames), and there has been a lot of fantastic art drawn to showcase the characters' outfits. There have even been a couple of great guides with hackthis
's tutorial How to dress your man/character
's essay on Dressing Arthur
. Fandom, on the whole, loves Kurland's work.
You want to know who isn't loving it? The critics who hand out awards for such things. Now I never expected Kurland to win any awards because contemporary design is rarely recognised when there are period and fantasy films to contend with. Any film featuring kings and queens of the past is a shoe-in for a nomination (crowns! ceremonial robes!); add in films about classic literary figures or based on the work of classic literary figures (corsets! frock coats!), musicals (sequins! fringe!), fantasy epics (armour! tunics!), and sci-fi (uniforms! shiny!), and contemporary design starts to look like something you could buy at the mall.
The last time a film with contemporary design won the Oscar for best costumes was 1994 and as that film was The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert
it still featured a high quotient of sequins and fringe. The Queen
and The Devil Wears Prada
were both nominated in 2006 and the former had the benefit of royals and being a biopic, while the latter was actually about contemporary fashion and its importance, and they still couldn't win (losing out to Marie Antoinette
Warner Brothers has done some campaigning on Kurland's behalf (see here
for the 'For your consideration' ads) but, generally speaking, in order to win the big awards (or even get nominated for them) you need to build up momentum by getting recognition from the smaller, earlier awards. And as of this posting Kurland has received just one nomination for his work. This is in the contemporary category of the Costume Designers Guild Awards (because they do have specific categories for contemporary design as well as period and fantasy) and will face stiff competition from Black Swan
, which has also been nominated for a BAFTA. The award ceremony will be held on the 22nd of February.
So the purpose of this picspam is to examine the work that went into these costumes, tease out what they say about the characters, and generally just heap praise upon Jeffrey Kurland because, dammit, someone should.( And hey, if you don't like Inception but you do like good looking men in suits then just sit back and enjoy the pretty. )