Carol and Cinderella offer a fascinating study in contrast for dual Oscar-contending costume designer Sandy Powell. While the wardrobes for Oscar-nominated Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara convey the conservative vibe at the dawn of the Eisenhower era in 1952, Lily James’ strong-willed fairy tale fave dons an unconventional blue gown for the royal ball and gets extra sparkle in her slipper.
“There was a real restraint to the look of [Carol] but then that also really echoes the period and the repression,” Powell explained. “In terms of the costumes, there’s an element of that too. Nothing is ever extreme or extravagant and I use that restraint for the sophistication and elegance for Cate’s character, Carol.”
Like any decade, it’s a transitional period, still dominated by late ’40s fashions (strong-shouldered silhouette and full skirts). But after researching fashion magazines, Powell came up with the proper style for Carol: a softer, more streamlined look with Hattie Carnegie-styled suits, sailor necklines and dresses made with a “wandering” waistline. Colors were muted yet highlighted by a fur coat and red coat. Powell also conveyed Carol’s physicality by accenting her neck, wrist and ankle.
“In contrast, Rooney’s character, Therese, [the aspiring photographer] dresses for comfort and practicality. Her wardrobe has a lot of dark colors and is interchangeable,” Powell added. “I saw her as a beatnik [with lots of plaid]. But she’s still fairly old-fashioned.”
For Disney’s Cinderella, Powell was given complete freedom to be bold with expanse, color and texture. “I went through every possibility for the [19th century] ball gown and came back to blue because it seemed to be the best and most attractive color. But it’s a blue made up of different colors and the dress is multi-layers of very fine fabric.There’s green and lavender and lilac and turquoise. It’s a color that moves.”
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