The day before Holly Waddington accepted her first Academy Award for the eclectic costume design that animated the characters of “Poor Things,” she shared a stage with her fellow nominees in the category during the 14th annual “Sketch to Screen,” a panel discussion with Oscar-nominated costume designers hosted by the UCLA School of Theater, Film & Television’s David C. Copley Center for the Study of Costume Design.

Waddington described her approach to bringing Bella Baxter, a unique revisionist take on Frankenstein’s creature, to sartorial life as “discordant and slightly shambolic.” Waddington drew inspiration from her experiences as a mother, appreciating the creative freedom and stubbornness that children exhibit in their clothing choices. Those simultaneously whimsical and impeccably structural giant sleeves Bella favors throughout the film gave her a bit of trouble on set, she admitted. Waddington hadn’t initially anticipated the toll the wild childlike movements the character would take on the seams. (Emma Stone’s disarming admission of a zipper malfunction as she accepted her Oscar for the role of Bella Baxter Sunday night seemed oddly appropriate).

2024 Academy Award nominees for costume design
Ben Trivett
Left to right: Deborah Nadoolman Landis, founding director of the UCLA School of Theater Film and Television’s David C. Copley Center for Costume Design, Jacqueline West (“Killers of the Flower Moon”), David Crossman (“Napoleon”), Jacqueline Durran (“Barbie”), Ellen Mirojnick (“Oppenheimer”), Janty Yates (“Napoleon”) and Holly Waddington (“Poor Things”).

On the eve of the Academy Award ceremony, Waddington, whose credits include 2016’s “Lady Macbeth” and the Hulu series “The Great,” and the nominees were led in conversation by the Copley Center’s founding director, costume designer and UCLA distinguished professor Deborah Nadoolman Landis. 

Landis’ deep love of the art form and craft of costume design was threaded through Saturday morning’s discussion as she plied all six nominated designers about their joys, struggles and collaborative experiences with some of the most famous directors in film. This year’s participating nominees included Waddington, David Crossman and Janty Yates (“Napoleon”), Jacqueline Durran (“Barbie”), Ellen Mirojnick (“Oppenheimer”) and Jacqueline West (“Killers of the Flower Moon”).

Emma Stone reads a book in the film “Poor Things”
Searchlight Pictures
Costume designer Holly Waddington built unforgettable and unexpectedly troublesome giant sleeves for the character Bella Baxter in “Poor Things.”

Speaking to an audience of prospective and current UCLA students, film and fashion buffs and international aspiring and professional designers from the previous week’s Critical Costume Conference hosted by the Copley Center, the designers agreed the best part of the job is watching an actor put on the clothes they have so lovingly researched, designed and constructed — and transform into someone else. 

They also shared challenges their craft is facing, including a diminishing number of skilled tailors worldwide. Yates and Crossman laughed over last-minute changes to the “Napoleon” script that added more than 30 new costume needs to the set, yet never made it into the final cut. West learned some frustrating new information about how different fabrics react to being shot with infrared cameras during “Dune: Part Two” filming: Sometimes, black turns into white.

This year’s event, typically held on campus, was held at the recently refurbished Egyptian Theatre, just steps away from the Oscars’ red carpet, presented in cooperation with American Cinematheque and Netflix.