Disclaimer: Disney sent me to Los Angeles on an all-expenses paid press trip, in exchange for my coverage of the red carpet world premiere of Cinderella and interviews with cast and Cinderella costume designer Sandy Powell. All opinions are my own.
Photo Credit: Disney
When Disney ambitiously set out to create what is now the #1 film in the world, they sought incredible talent. Academy Award Winning costume designer Sandy Powell was on board with CINDERELLA well before even Lily James was cast as the kind princess. And Sandy Powell is just as vital to CINDERELLA as Lily James or Cate Blanchett. For who is Cinderella without her ball gown?
If Disney was going to get this re-vision of the animated classic right, they’d have to focus on everything from the scenery to costumes, not just the actors……and they succeeded!
While there are those little girls who look at CINDERELLA and dream of being a princess, there are still others who will be inspired to go home and draw, create, dream. Sandy Powell was one of those little girls. And her talent, well, her CINDERELLA costumes speak for themselves.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Sandy Powell just a couple weeks ago, before the world premiere of CINDERELLA to talk about everything from her creative process to colors.
What was your favorite costume to make?
Sandy stated, “They’re all really meaningful to me. And like I said before, it’s like they’re like my children, you don’t have a favorite. I mean, you like different ones at different times of the day. But of course I’m incredibly proud of the ball gown. You can’t not be because that’s the one that took the longest. I spent the longest on it, developing it. And it might not have worked. But it came out exactly how I hoped. So I’m proud of that one. But there are others that I love. I like the men’s as much as the women’s. I like them all.
Sandy stated, “I kind of chose all the color palettes for each of the characters. And I work closely with the people who design the sets. And the set dressing, so that we make sure that nothing clashes with the curtains. And you know all the furnishings. But no, the colors all, all of my doing. And that’s one of the things I really really enjoy more than anything else”.
” I don’t intellectualize it that much. I don’t pick colors for symbolic reasons. I pick colors because they feel right. And because I like them. I, I have a much more instinctive feel about – or intuitive reaction and response to color as opposed to, I’m doing this because it symbolizes this or symbolizes this”.
“But yes, I mean, of course the green does represent envy (referring to the Wicked Stepmother Lady Tremaine) and all her colors were chosen… they’re cool colors. I mean, none of them are kind colors. Or fresh colors or youthful colors, particularly though, I think they’re attractive colors ’cause I wanted her to look like a fashion plate and attractive. But they’re strong, but all of them are kind of bit mean”.
Photo Credits: Disney
How long did it take you to create all the costumes?
Sandy stated, “I was actually working on this for over a year, from start to finish. Till the very last day of the shoot. Actually one of the last things we shot was the wedding scene, and the wedding dress was actually the last thing I designed. And that was really right towards the end of filming. So at least a year from start to finish”.
About the magnificent Fairy Godmother’s costume…..
Sandy stated, “It was an idea I had that was rather ambitious and to be honest, we didn’t have enough time to really develop it. It could have gone a lot further, and been a lot more success—not to say it wasn’t successful. I think the costume as a whole works in the film. But I had this mad idea that she actually literally twinkled, and all over. But in sequences and then sort of choreographed, we got the lighting designed. We got all the circuits made up by this lighting company. But it took a lot longer than I expected. And then we couldn’t actually really construct the costume till we had the lights done”.
“So we were waiting and waiting, waiting for the lights to be finished. We knew the shape of the costume. I had the corset, I had the underpinnings done like the corset shape. And we had all the fabric that need to go on top of it. But that had to be worked in with the lights”.
“So that costume actually ended up being really rather thrown together at the last minute. I kind of didn’t like it, it looks like it’s been thrown together. In a way, I think it’s quite funny that it looks like it’s been thrown together. It looks like she’s made it, you know, thrown it together. And the lights don’t work properly, it’s sort of like the, the magic doesn’t work that well the first time. I think, well actually it’s quite appropriate that it, it’s sort of lit up a bit”.
Photo Credits: Disney
Sandy stated, “I mean, you do something, then you think, I could have done that better. But you know what, you have to leave it.
You leave it?
Sandy said, “You have to, because there’s not enough time or money to actually keep changing it. Because you can always make something better. I mean, you can make every single thing again, you can feel that maybe another color would be better. But you have to trust that the first – usually your first instinct is the right one. And you have to trust it, and you also have to remember that you’re the only one that knows it could be better. [AUDIENCE LAUGHTER] You know? No one else would know, no one else knows. You’re the only one so you have to live, you have to sort of build with it, you have to say, okay, stop. And part of the job of, or one of the hardest parts of the job is knowing when to stop. Knowing, okay, that’s it, I’ve made the decision, move on”.
I’ll say that personally this is advice that I could use (guilty of being a perfectionist)!!!
Photo Credits: Disney
Advice for those wanting to follow in her footsteps (costume design)…
Sandy said, “I’d advise anybody who wants to do costumes, to learn how to sew. And learn how to make them. ‘Cause you’d be surprised, there’s an awful lot of costume designers who don’t know how to do it. And I really don’t know how you can design and how you can talk to somebody else who’s making something, unless you know how to do it yourself”.
“You have to start at the bottom, you have to start at the bottom and be a maker. And actually learn how to construct and sew. So you understand the construction and the engineering, which is what it is”.
On the role of a costume designer…
Sandy shared, “I’d hope the whole role of a costume designer is not to make everybody look pretty. Although it’s nice if they do. And especially in something like CINDERELLA. It’s to make the characters completely believable. Make the characters come to life and help the actors create those characters. So in doing so you hope that the audience goes away with a really strong feeling of who all those characters are. And remember them also as much for how they are, as much as how they look, as to how they are and how they’re acting and all the rest of it”.
CINDERELLA is playing in theaters EVERYWHERE!
See all of Sandy Powell’s costumes in action in this clip:
Missed any of my CINDERELLA posts?
From my first Red Carpet Experience to my movie review, you’ll find everything!