The Magical Cinderella Costume Designer Sandy Powell
This summer Two Sisters in Stitches in partnership with Streetlamp Productions, offers a Cinderella costume designer theater camp. Children will learn that the magic doesn’t only happen on stage. To spark everyone’s imagination and creativity, we’re profiling professional costume designer, Sandy Powell.
Award-winning costume designer Sandy Powell took on Kenneth Branagh's version of Cinderella. How did Powell create the iconic costumes into works of art? First, she starts by reading the script and having conversations with the director. Costume designers need to understand the characters and scenes before developing their costume visions. Directors see a specific image for their characters, and it’s the role of the costume designer to help make the concept come alive. Next, Powell delves into the research and took inspiration from reviewing the princess gown in the original 1950 Disney animation. She looked at nineteenth and eighteenth-period dress which are typically the style of costumes that people in fairytales wear. Last, you need a great team.
It took 270 yards of fabric, 10,000 Swarovski crystals, 4,000 hours and twenty people to create nine copies of the Cinderella’s costume. Dressmakers worked with twelve different layers of material including a top layer of Silk Crepeline and a Jakob Schlaepfer creation of airy Yumissima fabric for the under layers. Rounding out the beauty of the dress, Hiroshima artist, Haruka Miyamoto hand-painted butterflies on the detachable bodice edge.
The fabric is one aspect of the design. For anyone who has seen the movie, you’ll remember the colors that Sandy Powell selected for the film. The ballroom gown layers were hand-painted in watercolor shades of pale blue, turquoise, lilac, white, and lavender. Also, Powell chose vibrant colors that would be appealing to the young audience. Bright yellow and pink fabric made the stepsister dresses stand out. For those two characters, Powell focused on the importance of their ugliness coming from within rather than being seen on the outside. With Lady Tremaine, she selected a distinctive green fabric.
Even professionals worry how their costumes might work out. The Fairy Godmother dress provided a unique challenge. How do make a dress light up? Powell worked with Philips lighting company to design a system that could put 4,000 LED lights in the dress. At the time, Powell worried that it might not work out. In the end, the dress came across beautifully on film.
What advice might Powell have for young costume designers? In her interview with Christa Thompson, Powell said, “I’d advise anybody who wants to do costumes, to learn how to sew, and learn how to make them.” Two Sisters in Stitches couldn’t agree with Powell more because if you understand how to construct a costume, then you’ll know how to fix a problem when the outfit isn't working out.
Why not let your child explore the world of Cinderella through the eye of a costume designer? Enroll your child for one week of camp. Campers will grow their skills in costume design, machine sewing, hand-stitching, painting fabric, and collaboration in theatrical work. For more information, contact Two Sisters in Stitches.
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