'Danish Girl's' Delgado hopes to be 1st Hispanic to win Oscar for costume design

Oscar-nominated designer Paco Delgado sits in front of his costume designs for "The Danish Girl."

Oscar-nominated designer Paco Delgado sits in front of his costume designs for "The Danish Girl."  (Mildred Brignoni/Fox News Latino)

Dressing up a man to look and feel like a woman – and for it to be believable to viewers – was the challenge that Oscar-nominated costume designer Paco Delgado was tasked with for the highly acclaimed “The Danish Girl.”

The Spanish-born designer, whose previous films include “Les Miserables” and “The Skin I Live In,” had to dress his leading man Eddie Redmayne and transform him into the film’s leading woman, Lili Elbe, in turn of the century Denmark.

“I think that the most important thing for us was to make Eddie look like a beautiful woman,” Delgado told Fox News Latino recently at the FIDM Museum & Galleries in Los Angeles where his designs are on display ahead of Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony.

Delgado’s work is now being recognized by the Academy and his peers. On Tuesday, he took home the Costume Designers Guilds Award for Excellence in Period Film and on Sunday he is up for the Oscar for best costume design. He will need to beat out Sandy Powel for “Carol” and “Cinderella”, Jenny Beaven for “Mad Max” and Jacquline West for “The Revenant.”

If he wins, Delgado would be the first Hispanic to win in the category. He was previously nominated for “Les Miserables.”

“Being a little kid, I was very good at math and went to university to study physics. So, I didn’t have any idea I would end up becoming a costume designer,” he told FNL. “But I went with the flow.”

“The Danish Girl” tells the true story of Lili Elbe, a transgendered Danish woman who undergoes the first-recorded sex-change operation. Redmayne, who won the Oscar last year for “The Theory of Everything,” plays Lili with partner and artist Gerda Wegener played by Alicia Vinkander.

The transformation starts when Redmayne’s Einar Wegener puts on a dress while standing in for a female model that was late to pose for a painting Gerda was working on. It unmasked Einar’s identification as a woman and began his journey into Lili.

Delgado’s costumes had to express Lili’s transition as she becomes more comfortable in her skin. To do this, he used different vintage frocks that were more restricting – to highlight that it was a man under the dress – before introducing more colors, textures and patterns as Lili embraced her femininity.

To achieve it, Delgado was inspired by Lili and Gerda’s diaries as well as the paintings that Gerda did during her life. The design team also took liberties and sometimes skewed award from the period fabrics or certain lengths and drapes.

“The more important thing is to tell a story,” he said. “And sometimes you have to make decisions that are not completely accurate with the period but they are accurate with the story you want to tell. Also we all don’t follow fashion and we just make decisions for ourselves as the characters might have, we all follow whatever we consider good for ourselves.”

The designer, who was born in Spain’s Canary Islands, revealed that the toughest parts of Lili’s transformation were Redmayne’s very pronounced Adams apple and his bone structure.

He told TheWrap that he worked diligently for over a year with the actor, director Tom Hooper and make-up artist Jan Sewell to create Lili and make her believable to the viewer.

“We put Eddie in a corset and that helped quite a lot… It might have been uncomfortable, but if it helps you become the character, then it’s worth it,” he told the website.

He told FNL that his ethnicity helped him aesthetically.

“I think as a Latino, we learned to appreciate being born with vibrant colors and for all of us Latinos light is very important,” he said. “…and using the way I see colors from natural settings was important for me to design this film.”

Mildred Brignoni is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles.

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