November 29, 2015
Margot Wilson is the dressmaker behind The Dressmaker.
She designed the striking outfits for Kate Winslet’s internationally successful designer who returns home to settle some scores in the hit film, set in rural Australia in the 1950s.
What interested Wilson when she read the script was simple: the clothes.
“It was this woman coming from France who had studied couture dressmaking and was coming to this town to change it,” she said. “Recreating that period interested me greatly.”
Wilson, who created one of her favourite dresses from a roll of red silk moire that she bought in Milan more than 25 years ago, considers Winslet a terrific model for her fashions.
And not just because she was professional enough to take a sewing course then collaborate closely with the costumes team.
“She had the perfect shape for that period,” Wilson said. “When you’ve got a woman with that sort of figure, it’s like sculpting the fabrics over that body.”
Now Wilson and Marion Boyce, who designed the rest of the clothes in The Dressmaker, are nominated for best costumes at the first instalment of this year’s Australian Academy of Cinema and Television Arts Awards on Monday.
Like the main televised awards nine days later, the industry prizes seem like a showdown between two films that could hardly be more different.
Jocelyn Moorhouse’s The Dressmaker is a comic drama delving into Australia’s past, while George Miller’s high-action Mad Max: Fury Road is set in the post-apocalyptic future.
The fourth Mad Max movie also has a chance the Oscars next year – particularly for best editing, production design, visual effects and, if there is any justice for overcoming years of obstacles to deliver an acclaimed film, direction.
The one Australian certainty for an Oscar nomination in January is Cate Blanchett for the lesbian romance Carol.
But before the awards season gets that far, the AACTA industry dinner launches the Australian festivities.
While some of the industry awards are easy calls – Fury Road should win best editing, original screenplay, cinematography and sound – best costumes and production design will be a close competition with The Dressmaker.
But Fury Road production designer Colin Gibson believes there is a dark horse in both categories – the little-seen cult drama Partisan.
“I thought they did a very good job,” he said. “It was a great idea and it had a beautiful European sensibility and storytelling.”
But Gibson did concede that with The Dressmaker and Mad Max, the main awards did seem to be a showdown between “Australian gothic vs the apocalypse”.
While Triple J broadcaster Matt Okine decried the lack of female comedians nominated at the ARIA Awards, Gibson noted that that both Mad Max and The Dressmaker were feminist films with strong female characters.
And like a batch of other films this year, including Last Cab To Darwin, Oddball and Paper Planes, they had been successful in cinemas.
“I’m thrilled that there’s such a variation,” he said. “We don’t have six quirky comedies or five coming-of-age films; we have such a wide span of stories and production levels.”
Wilson, who has also created costumes for The Thin Red Line, Lantana and Bran Nue Dae, thinks it will be hard to separate the contenders in the design categories.
“The work was equally hard on both those films,” she said.
The industry awards ceremony also includes the first television, documentary and short film prizes.
Vying for best light entertainment series are four shows from the ABC – Dirty Laundry Live, Judith Lucy Is All Woman, Julia Zemiro’s Home Delivery and The Weekly With Charlie Pickering.
All the nominees for best children’s television series are also from the national broadcaster – ABC 3’s Little Lunch, The New Adventures of Figaro Pho, Nowhere Boys and Ready For This.
The field for best feature length documentary is particularly strong this year.
That Sugar Film, a hit about the effect of sugar on health, is up against Only The Dead, on journalist Michael Ware’s harrowing Iraq war experiences, Gayby Baby, about the children of gay parents, Sherpa, set on Mt Everest during the tragic climbing season last year, and Women He’s Undressed, on Hollywood costume designer Orry-Kelly.