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Culture > Entertainment

Who Should Win the Best Costume Oscar?: A Costume Analysis of “Oppenheimer”

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MSU chapter.

This year the movie to claim the leading Oscar nominations spot is “Oppenheimer ” with 13 to bolster, reflecting both audience and critical acclaim alike for director Christopher Nolan’s directorial prowess, attention-grabbing actor portrayals, and visual and sound design scapes. Yet, what isn’t discussed nearly as much amongst general audiences is the costume design work for the film, which managed to receive an acknowledgment by the academy in the category.

Despite the relative difficulty costume designer Ellen Mirojnick reported with communicating each character’s journeys and their respective demeanors due to the restrictions of the period, her intensive research was able to immerse her within the time  to alleviate some of this trouble. One of the most notable instances of Mirojnick deviating from prescribed fashion fads of the time was deliberately choosing to have the titular Oppenheimer be the only one to don a hat as a method to make him stand out. Other than that discrepancy, Oppenheimer dresses quite similarly to the other men in the period and barely changes his “uniform” of a suit and tie from his time at Berkeley in the 1930s to the 1960s. This signifies his preoccupation with trying to discover and control the fundamental blocks of our universe. Compared to the political force of Strauss, the audience learns to possess a cold approach to his investigation of Oppenheimer’s communist affiliations as the black and white scenes represent his perspective. He thus often appears more professional and put together than Oppenheimer with his pinstripes and silk scarves.

His father’s involvement in the men’s fashion industry shines through however with Oppenheimer’s choice to wear a tie that’s a little short and pull his waistband up a little high. The styling of a jacket and hat that are both too big not only demonstrates his upbringing but also adds to his lonely persona. This stems from a tumultuous history of battling mental illnesses, including anxiety, surrounding his own and his community’s expectations. 

The other two primary subjects for styling in the film were Oppenheimer’s two love interests, revolutionary Jean Tatlock and his wife Kitty. Jean was dressed in more soft, movement-accentuating silhouettes such as flowy dresses to highlight her passion and actress Florence Pugh’s body consciousness. She was also drawn to daring colors like red to convey her passion for advocating for left-wing parties, and her love for Oppenheimer himself. Kitty meanwhile consistently sports structured pieces to inform the audience of her sophisticated background and commitment to presenting herself as a faithful wife to an ambitious and respected scientist. The more fed up she became with her husband, her outfits evolved into being showier and less feminine as she ditched the two-piece skirt suits for pants.

So, do you think “Oppenheimer” is the answer to who should win the Oscar?

East Lansing local Mia Varricchione recently joined HerCampus MSU as one of the chapter members, making this her first semester with the organization. As a freshman at Michigan State University majoring in Professional & Public Writing, she believed HerCampus would give her the opportunity to advance her skill. Besides HerCampus, to bolster her writing portfolio, Mia accepted an internship with the Flint Disability Network in Michigan, where she’ll compose articles and explore intersectionality around disabilities for the non-profit. Mia is also pursuing a second major in Public Policy as she aspires to work professionally under a non-profit in the future, advocating for gender equality and/or climate change awareness. Mia occupies her time mostly with her part-time job, school work and writing HerCampus articles, but when she can, she likes to crochet while watching tv or hanging out with friends.