With the Golden Globes already passed and the Grammys, SAG Awards, and Oscars still to come, you'll no doubt be seeing a lot of "best and worst dressed" lists in the near future. "Costume Contest" is our spin on the awards-season staple; we'll judge other genres' wardrobes in the coming weeks.
Where would fantasy be without costumes? If you're going to have to get weepy over imaginary countries, spells, or vampire laws, you need the credibility that comes with not looking like a hobo who lives behind a costume store.
So who is doing the best job of seamlessly integrating characters with costume? And who is making their gnomes look totally ridiculous? Let's compare three hit fantasy shows and you be the judge:
Michele Clapton was nominated for an Emmy for her outstanding costume designs (armor done separately by Simon Brindle). The lady certainly has earned it! Clapton channels genius when she crafts for the Starks, with medieval draping and intricate natural fibers. Because Game of Thrones is shot in HD, she has the added difficulty of making freshly sewn costumes look authentically lived in, even in high resolution (I'm guessing she throws them in a giant rock tumbler). And they totally do! These cloaks look like well-worn battlefield Snuggies!
However, when the camera drifts into the warmer territory of the Dothraki, the quality drops off. Khal Drogo is hot like fire, but look away for a second and then look right at this and keep a straight face:
Game of Thrones sets the standard for cold-weather wear, but it's hard to bring leather-bound warrior men to life and not invoke Xena, Warrior Princess. With so many motifs to cover and the sheer number of original pieces involved, Game of Thrones is certainly the hardest costume gig on TV. But with a series budget estimated to be around $50 million dollars, Clapton gets plenty of assistance.
Talk about range: Audrey Fisher has not only unerringly captured Viking times, the Inquisition, the Civil War, the 1920s, the 1930s, and present-day sleekness for the vampires, she also brings a real contemporary Southern vibe to the everyday costumes of the imperiled humans of Bon Temps. Fisher dresses her humans in off-the-rack fashions from stores like Kohls and K-Mart, shopping for them as they would for themselves, with the exception of Sookie, whose handmade sundresses and signature Merlotte's shirts have an online following. The very real human clothing helps keep the over-the-top storylines anchored in reality and helps build complicated characters like Lafayette and Pam (all sinister glamour in Fangtasia, all pink off the clock).
At $3 million an episode, True Blood has two-thirds the budget of Game of Thrones and more multiples to make (because costumes get spattered with blood in just about every take and have to be changed). And, in the last two seasons, a whole new genre of creature to costume: fairies. The fay are proving to be the downfall for True Blood's wardrobe. The ready-made evening gowns and sparkling pedicures are a little too "of this world" to convince me of an alternate reality. And what's up with this guy, with the jewelry hot-glued to his chest?
Also, I don't want to scar anyone by bringing it up, but let's not forget the terrible hillbilly teeth on the werepanthers.
Just a half-season in, Once Upon A Time is already a standout in television history for having the most shamelessly indulgent fantasy costumes on network TV. Eduardo Castro has given us an Evil Queen by way of Lady GaGa, a feathery Snow White with a rat's nest wig, and some very questionable looking baddies.
Let there be no mistake: The fairytale flashback costumes are nuts! It's only thanks to the gravitas of the actors that they haven't already been the subject of an SNL skit. Where Castro really shows his skill is in the real-world setting of Storybrooke. He finds subtle ways to make character-specific references in the contemporary outfits of the imprisoned fairytale characters. The vaguely old-fashioned, cozy aesthetic he's created for the townspeople is both suggestive of the show's larger premise and beautifully contrasts with Evil Queen/Mayor Regina. I mean, this is just a bitchy outfit:
Network TV is notoriously tight-lipped about budgets, and while ABC has described Once Upon a Time as a big-budget drama, as a reference, one of the pricier recent pilots on the same network, Sony-backed Pan Am, was estimated at $10 million. Yet Once Upon a Time is filmed largely in front of a green screen/on a sound stage, so I say we give it extra points due to having the lowest estimated budget of the three.
So what do you think? And remember, this isn't a popularity contest or a comparison of content or characters, this is only judging clothes. Which show wears fantasy the best, which show wears fantasy the worst, and why?