Lizzy Gardiner (born 1966) is an Australian costume designer, who has been working in Hollywood since the early 1990s. Noted for her originality, she is best known for her American Express gold card dress which she wore to collect her Academy Award for Best Costume Designer at the 67th Academy Awards in 1995 for her work on The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Her highest profile film was Mission: Impossible 2 in 2000 for which she designed the costumes.
Life and career
Gardiner was born in the rural city of Dubbo, in western New South Wales, and lived there until she was sent to boarding school for six years. She left Australia after finishing high school and moved to Italy, where she studied fashion and costume design for three years at the Accademia di Italiana in Florence.
After graduating she returned to Australia and began working in the Australian film and TV industry, working on the soap opera E Street. Whilst working on E Street in 1993, she began working with Tim Chappel. Together they designed outlandish costumes for Stephan Elliott's Australian LGBT comedy film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. Amongst the bizarre costumes they designed for the film was a dress consisting of many pairs of pink flip flops. She studied Australian drag queens and their clothes and commented, "I love the fact that you can do things without much budget."
Their costumes won the Academy Award for Best Costume Design at the 67th Academy Awards, Best Costume at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA), and Best Costume Design at the Australian Film Institute Awards. The Motion Picture Guide 1995 Annual, covering the films of 1994, said, "The Oscar-winning costumes by Lizzy Gardiner and Tim Chappel are wildly inspired and range from the bizarre to the simply indescribable."
She gained worldwide attention at the Academy Awards in 1995 when she picked up her award wearing an unusual dress consisting of 254 expired American Express Gold cards. The dress had originally been made for that film but was unauthorized by American Express. However, after the dress was worn by Gardiner herself, American Express saw its marketing potential and was keen to showcase it throughout its travel offices in the United States. The dress was auctioned off for charity in March 1999 for $12,650, with the proceeds going to the American Foundation for AIDS research. It has been cited as amongst the worst Oscar gowns of all time.
Subsequent films which Gardiner worked on include Bound (1996), Welcome to Woop Woop (1997), Gone Fishin' (1997), Woundings (1998), Theory of the Trojans (1999), Eye of the Beholder (1999), Mission: Impossible 2 (2000), Effie: Just Quietly TV series (2001), Stealth (2005), The Great Raid (2005), Ghost Rider (2007), The Ruins (2008) and Burning Man (2011).
In answer to queries about her working on the gay film The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and the lesbian thriller Bound, starring Jennifer Tilly and Gina Gershon, back-to-back (Gardiner identifies as straight) she said, "It just never occurred to me that sexuality is an issue. Australia has grown up dramatically in the past five years. Besides, we're a nation of convicts. So we're all sort of rogues."
Gardiner has a biographical entry in the book 1001 Australians You Should Know.
She was selected as one of the entrants to the Who's Who in Australia 2012 edition.
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