• Deborah Yaffe

Costume drama

It’s Oscar night on Sunday, and even though this year will inevitably lack the red-carpet glamor of pre-pandemic times, I will avidly consume every moment of the show.


A year ago, it seemed possible that the most recent big-screen Jane Austen adaptation – Autumn de Wilde’s visually striking version of Emma – would garner a fistful of nominations. But in the end, the movie settled for just two – Costume, and Makeup and Hairstyling.


Ahead of the awards presentation, Emma. costume designer Alexandra Byrne participated in a fascinating Zoom interview with the pop-culture website The A.V. Club. It’s a great chance to learn more about how period films create their effects – about the interplay among research, budget, and serendipity, and about how directors, actors, and designers collaborate in producing what we see onscreen.


Byrne, a six-time Oscar nominee who won for her work on 2008’s Elizabeth: The Golden Age, also designed the costumes for the 1995 adaptation of Persuasion. She’s unlikely to win this year – the Costume Designers Guild passed over Emma. in giving out their precursor awards last week – but her gorgeous and interesting work on this film will endure for Janeites everywhere.

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