Flip through the storybook of costume designer Sandy Powell’s vision of Disney’s eye-catching Cinderella.
By Michelle F. Solomon
Cinderella gets the big-screen treatment by Disney. The live-action fairy tale is in movie theaters this Spring, but it’s the fashions that will make dreams come true.
Oscar winning costume designer Sandy Powell has three Academy Awards lining her shelves for her work and has been nominated seven additional times, but you don’t need a crystal ball to see that Powell will be in line for another statue for her work on the film Cinderella.
For the film, the costume designer said she really was going for a “once upon a time feel” and was influenced by different styles and time periods. Powell poured over designs from the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries and kept coming back to the 19th century, which, she says, “had a sort of fairy tale look to it.”
She then infused the 19th century look with a bit of 1940s glam. The result is pure spectacle — colorful, vivid, and as Powell says, “with easy references as to who is good and who is wicked.”
“Cate Blanchett was the first person cast in the film (as The Stepmother), so I always had her in mind when designing the stepmother’s costumes. The look I was going for was Joan Crawford or Marlene Dietrich does Victorian, as I wanted to make her look intimidating more than anything, and Cate has such incredible poise. She wears every outfit beautifully. It’s a designer’s dream really, because she is one of the greatest people there is to dress. There are only a handful of actors that you can throw anything on and they look fabulous, and she is one of them.”
The Prince had to be dashing and handsome, of course, and fortunately I had a handsome actor to begin with. But as opposed to somber, masculine colors, I put him in light blues and greens and whites, and since he has been in the military we put him in a really beautifully-fitting uniform. And, we added sparkles in order to achieve this incredibly romantic feel.”
The Glass Slipper
“I knew the shape of the shoe that I wanted, which was in fact based on an original shoe from the 1890s that I found in a Northampton show museum — the shoe was impossibly tiny with a five-inch heel and was simply elegant. But I soon realized that the only way we could even attempt to make a crystal shoe was with the help of Swarovski. When we approached them they were, of course, up to the challenge, and thus began a collaboration that took place over months and months with numerous trials and tests. There were numerous technical problems along the way as they had to develop a piece of machinery especially to create it, but eventually
we ended up with a shoe that looked like it was one crystal, which had always been our goal. The day they showed us the shoe was incredible actually — it was a huge relief and very exciting.”
The Ballroom Scene
“The ballroom scene was inspired by a lot of ballroom dances from old-fashioned films. Films like Luchino Visconti’s ‘The Leopard’ and Alexander Hall’s ‘Once Upon a Time,’ so it’s a mix of different elements from different centuries because we were looking for a diverse mix of characters from various social and economic classes since it was supposed to be a ball for everyone. The whole ballroom is an explosion of color, sumptuous, rich, and in some cases, really over the top, as many of the guests are there to impress, and hopefully marry, the Prince. We also wanted to have an element of international flavor, so we dressed princesses from China, Japan, India, Africa and Russia. There were more than 450 extras in the scenes, each one wearing a costume that we designed.
“The challenge was to do all of this and still have Cinderella stand out from the crowd while at the same time, keeping her dress relatively simple. She had to look spectacular as compared to what she had looked like earlier in the story: the most fantastic looking person at the ball, yet dressed the simplest. It’s not the most ornate, or the most glittery, or the sparkliest, or the richest looking gown in the ball, but it had to be the most beautiful. The gown itself is made up of over 270 yards of fabric because there are so many layers to it, more than three miles of stitching, numerous petticoats and more than 10,000 Swarovski crystals, and nine copies were created. We decided very early on that the color should still be blue, as it was in the animated film, but it had to be just the right shade of blue, and that took weeks and weeks to get right.”