You might remember Jenny Beavan as the short, spunky woman who wore a bejeweled leather jacket as she collected the Oscar for Costume Design in 2016. In a nod to her work on Mad Max: Fury Road, Beavan emblazoned the iconic Immortan Joe symbol on the back of her grungy ensemble that night for all to see as she marched onto the Dolby Theatre stage.
Since then, Beavan has been hard at work crafting costumes that are bound to be even more unforgettable than those we saw on Tom Hardy, Nicholas Hoult and Charlize Theron. As costume designer for Cruella, she’s the one in charge of dressing not only Emma Stone as the titular villainess, but also Emma Thompson, who plays Cruella’s fashion industry boss-turned-rival. Because of all the references to clothing in the prequel’s script, Beavan had to dream up more than 30 punk looks for London in the 1970s.
It sounds like a lot, but Beavan’s costume experience of 40-plus years is as good a background as they come. As we warm up for Cruella, track Beavan’s career development—and the network of great movies it has left behind—here are some of the best movies featuring the work of costume designer Jenny Beavan.
Beavan had an Emma Thompson phase in the early ’90s, and you won’t hear us complaining about it. Within just a few years, the two of them collaborated on three romantic period pieces: Howards End, The Remains of the Day and the warm, elegant Jane Austen adaptation Sense and Sensibility. Beavan’s costumes in all of these (and especially those in the last) capture all the romance and posturing that come with courting.
More than 30 years before her Oscar win for Mad Max: Fury Road, Beavan got off to a great start, winning in the same category for what was only her second-ever feature film costume credit. It’s easy to see why: The costumes worn by a teenage Helena Bonham Carter are distinctive enough to warrant recognition all on their own, and that’s saying nothing of how sharp and well-to-do Daniel Day-Lewis and Maggie Smith look in this high-society romantic drama.
All of Beavan’s previous period piece work seems to have culminated in Gosford Park, perhaps her most decadent display of costume design. Its costumes do a great job of illustrating the stratified classes in this murder mystery, but we think it’s the chicness of the cast and characters—Helen Mirren! Kristin Scott Thomas! Maggie Smith!—that makes this one so notable.
Guy Ritchie’s reimagining of the beloved fictional detective packs a playful visual punch, and part of that is thanks to Beavan’s costume work here. We love the contrasting outfits that Jude Law (as Dr. Watson) often sports next to Robert Downey Jr. (as Sherlock). And we also think that Rachel McAdams’ costumes make her look just as dashing.
It really does take only a quick review of Beavan’s prior filmography to appreciate just how much of a risk Mad Max: Fury Road was for her. But damn did it pay off! The tattered, filthy, postapocalyptic garb worn by the sweltering residents of The Citadel is burned into our minds.