Oscars Predictions: Best Costume Design – Are ‘Mank’ and ‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ the Early Frontrunners?

Clayton Davis
·9-min read

Variety's Awards Circuit is home to the official predictions for the upcoming Oscars from Film Awards Editor Clayton Davis. Following Academy Awards history, buzz, news, reviews and sources, the Oscar predictions are updated regularly with the current year's contenders in all categories. Variety's Awards Circuit Prediction schedule consists of four phases, running all year long: Draft, Pre-Season, Regular Season and Post Season. Eligibility calendar and dates of awards will determine how long each phase lasts and will be displayed next to revision date.

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UPDATED: Dec. 27, 2020

This race is more open than in previous years with no “obvious” contenders taking a leading position. Ann Roth’s work on “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” could be the favorite, with her becoming the oldest Oscar-nominee of all-time. “Mank” and “The Personal History of David Copperfield” could be the ones to battle it out with “Emma” emerging as a dark horse. Can a familiar face like Sandy Powell (“The Glorias”) be a default selection for the branch? 15 previous nominations suggest she could be.


  1. "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom" (Netflix)
    Ann Roth (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: 4 nominations, 1 win (1996's "The English Patient")
    DIRECTOR: George C. Wolfe
    SYNOPSIS: Chicago, 1927. A recording session. Tensions rise between Ma Rainey, her ambitious horn player and the white management determined to control the uncontrollable "Mother of the Blues". Based on Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson's play.
    STARRING: Chadwick Boseman, Dusan Brown, Jonny Coyne, Viola Davis, Colman Domingo, Taylour Paige, Michael Potts, Jeremy Shamos, Glynn Turman

  2. "Mank" (Netflix)
    Trish Summerville (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: David Fincher
    SYNOPSIS: 1930s Hollywood is re-evaluated through the eyes of scathing social critic and alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz as he races to finish the screenplay of Citizen Kane for Orson Welles.
    STARRING: Tom Burke, Lily Collins, Joseph Cross, Charles Dance, Monika Gossman, Ferdinand Kingsley, Jamie McShane, Tuppence Middleton, Toby Leonard Moore, Gary Oldman, Tom Pelphrey, Amanda Seyfried, Sam Troughton

  3. "The Personal History of David Copperfield" (Searchlight Pictures)
    Suzie Harman, Robert Worley (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Armando Iannucci
    SYNOPSIS: A modern take on Charles Dickens's classic tale of a young orphan who is able to triumph over many obstacles.
    STARRING: Dev Patel, Hugh Laurie, Tilda Swinton, Peter Capaldi, Gwendoline Christie

  4. "Mulan" (Disney Plus)
    Bina Daigeler (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Niki Caro
    SYNOPSIS: A young Chinese maiden disguises herself as a male warrior in order to save her father.
    STARRING: Yifei Liu, Donnie Yen, Gong Li, Tzi Ma, Jet Li, Jason Scott Lee, Yosan An, Rosalind Chao

  5. "Emma." (Focus Features)
    Alexandra Byrne (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: 5 nominations, 1 win (2007's "Elizabeth: The Golden Age")

    DIRECTOR: Autumn de Wilde
    SYNOPSIS: In 1800s England, a well meaning but selfish young woman meddles in the love lives of her friends.
    STARRING: Anya Taylor-Joy, Callum Turner, Mia Goth, Josh O'Connor, Johnny Flynn, Tanya Reynolds, Bill Nighy


  1. "One Night in Miami" (Amazon Studios)
    Francine Jamison-Tanchuck (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Regina King
    SYNOPSIS: A fictional account of one incredible night in 1964, where four icons of activism, sports and music – Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown and Sam Cooke – gathered, discussing their roles in the civil rights movement and cultural upheaval of the ’60s.
    STARRING: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom, Jr., Joaquina Kalukango, Nicolette Robinson

  2. "The United States vs. Billie Holiday" (Hulu)
    Paolo Nieddu (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Lee Daniels
    SYNOPSIS: Follows Holiday during her career as she is targeted by the Federal Department of Narcotics with an undercover sting operation led by black Federal Agent Jimmy Fletcher, with whom she had a tumultuous affair.
    STARRING: Andra Day, Trevante Rhodes, Natasha Lyonne, Garrett Hedlund, Rob Morgan, Da'Vine Joy Randolph, Tyler James Williams

  3. "News of the World" (Universal Pictures)
    Mark Bridges (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: 4 nominations, 2 wins (2011's "The Artist" and 2017's "Phantom Thread")

    DIRECTOR: Paul Greengrass
    SYNOPSIS: A Civil War veteran agrees to deliver a girl, taken by the Kiowa people years ago, to her aunt and uncle, against her will. They travel hundreds of miles and face grave dangers as they search for a place that either can call home.
    STARRING: Tom Hanks, Helena Zengel, Elizabeth Marvel, Mare Winningham, Michael Angelo Covino, Ray McKinnon

  4. "Judas and the Black Messiah" (Warner Bros.)
    Charlese Antoinette Jones (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Shaka King
    SYNOPSIS: The story of Fred Hampton, Chairman of the Illinois Black Panther Party, and his fateful betrayal by FBI informant William O'Neal.
    STARRING: Lakeith Stanfield, Daniel Kaluuya, Dominique Fishback, Jesse Plemons, Martin Sheen, Dominique Thorne, Algee Smith, Lil Rel Howery, Jermaine Fowler

  5. "The Glorias" (Roadside Attractions and LD Entertainment)
    Sandy Powell (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: 15 nominations, 3 wins (1998's "Shakespeare in Love," 2004's "The Aviator" and 2009's "The Young Victoria")

    DIRECTOR: Julie Taymor
    SYNOPSIS: The story of feminist icon Gloria Steinem's itinerant childhood and its influence on her life as a writer, activist and organizer for women's rights worldwide.
    STARRING: Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Timothy Hutton, Lorraine Toussaint, Janelle Monáe, Bette Midler


  1. "Promising Young Woman" (Focus Features)
    Nancy Steiner (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Emerald Fennell
    SYNOPSIS: A young woman, traumatized by a tragic event in her past, seeks out vengeance against those who cross her path.
    STARRING: Carey Mulligan, Bo Burnham, Laverne Cox, Molly Shannon, Clancy Brown, Jennifer Coolidge, Max Greenfield, Alison Brie, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Connie Britton, Chris Lowell, Adam Brody, Sam Richardson

  2. "The Prom" (Netflix)
    Lou Eyrich (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated
    DIRECTOR: Ryan Murphy
    SYNOPSIS: A troupe of hilariously self-obsessed theater stars swarm into a small conservative Indiana town in support of a high school girl who wants to take her girlfriend to the prom.
    STARRING: Meryl Streep, Jo Ellen Pellman, James Corden, Nicole Kidman, Ariana DeBose, Kerry Washington, Keegan-Michael Key, Andrew Rannells. Tracey Ullman

  3. "Ammonite" (Neon)
    Michael O'Connor (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: 3 nominations, 1 win (2008's "The Duchess")

    DIRECTOR: Francis Lee
    SYNOPSIS: 1840s England, acclaimed but overlooked fossil hunter Mary Anning and a young woman sent to convalesce by the sea develop an intense relationship, altering both of their lives forever.
    STARRING: Kate Winslet, Saoirse Ronan, Fiona Shaw, Gemma Jones, James McArdle

  4. "The Trial of the Chicago 7" (Netflix)
    Susan Lyall (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: 1 nomination (2013's "Nebraska")

    DIRECTOR: Aaron Sorkin
    SYNOPSIS: The story of 7 people on trial stemming from various charges surrounding the uprising at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.
    STARRING: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Keaton, John Carroll Lynch, Eddie Redmayne, Mark Rylance, Alex Sharp, Jeremy Strong

  5. "First Cow" (A24)
    April Napier (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Kelly Reichardt
    SYNOPSIS: A skilled cook has traveled west and joined a group of fur trappers in Oregon, though he only finds true connection with a Chinese immigrant also seeking his fortune. Soon the two collaborate on a successful business.
    STARRING: John Magaro, Orion Lee

  6. "Wonder Woman 1984" (HBO Max/Warner Bros.)
    Lindy Hemming (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: 1 nomination, 1 win (1999's "Topsy-Turvy")

    DIRECTOR: Patty Jenkins
    SYNOPSIS: Rewind to the 1980s as Wonder Woman's next big screen adventure finds her facing two all-new foes: Max Lord and The Cheetah.
    STARRING: Gal Gadot, Kristen Wiig, Chris Pine, Pedro Pascal, Robin Wright, Connie Nielsen

  7. "Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey" (Netflix)
    Michael Wilkinson (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: 1 nomination (2013's "American Hustle")

    DIRECTOR: David E. Talbert
    SYNOPSIS: Set in the gloriously vibrant town of Cobbleton, the film follows legendary toymaker Jeronicus Jangle whose fanciful inventions burst with whimsy and wonder. But when his trusted apprentice steals his most prized creation, it’s up to his equally bright and inventive granddaughter — and a long-forgotten invention — to heal old wounds and reawaken the magic within.
    STARRING: Forest Whitaker, Madelen Mills, Keegan-Michael Key, Hugh Bonneville, Ricky Martin, Phylicia Rashad, Anika Noni Rose

  8. "The World to Come" (Bleecker Street)
    Luminita Lungu (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Mona Fastvold
    SYNOPSIS: Abigail is a grieving wife whose life changes with the arrival of a new neighbor, Tallie. As the two women fall in love against the backdrop of the 19th century Northeast, their connection intensifies, inciting jealousy from their husbands.
    STARRING: Katherine Waterston, Vanessa Kirby, Casey Affleck, Christopher Abbott

  9. "Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)" (Warner Bros.)
    Erin Benach (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: Never nominated

    DIRECTOR: Cathy Yan
    SYNOPSIS: After splitting with the Joker, Harley Quinn joins superheroes Black Canary, Huntress and Renee Montoya to save a young girl from an evil crime lord.
    STARRING: Margot Robbie, Ewan McGregor, Rosie Perez, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Jurnee Smollett, Chris Messina, Ella Jay Basco, Ali Wong

  10. "Radioactive" (Amazon Studios)
    Consolata Boyle (costume designer)

    OSCAR HISTORY: 3 nominations (most recent for 2017's "Victoria & Abdul")

    DIRECTOR: Marjane Satrapi
    SYNOPSIS: It tells the true story of Marie Curie and her Nobel Prize-winning work that changed the world.
    STARRING: Rosamund Pike, Sam Riley, Katherine Parkinson, Sian Brooke, Aneurin Barnard, Simon Russell Beale, Anya Taylor-Joy

† = no release date scheduled / could be delayed / may not be eligible
†† = could be campaigned in lead or supporting categories / original or adapted screenplay categories

The Academy Awards, better known as the Oscars is Hollywood’s most prestigious artistic award in the film industry. The most awarded films in Oscar history are “Ben-Hur,” “Titanic” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King” at 11 statuettes. The most nominated films in Academy history are “All About Eve,” “Titanic” and “La La Land” at 14. “La La Land” is the only film of the three to have lost best picture. The biggest Oscar “losers,” meaning most nominated and walk away with zero awards are 1977’s “The Turning Point” and 1985’s “The Color Purple” at 11 each.

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