Into The Woods Costume Designer, Colleen Atwood
While in Los Angeles, we interviewed the cast of INTO THE WOODS. That included 3-time Oscar winner Colleen Atwood. She is the creator of all the wonderful costumes that you’ll see when you watch INTO THE WOODS. She brought feeling to the costumes and made each character an individual. I’m going to be honest with you, I can’t sew a button onto anything. If it needs to be sewn, we take it to my mother-in-law. My four-year-old daughter got her own sewing machine for Christmas, so I’m sure I’ll be able to have her sew something for me.
That being said, to see these magnificent costumes that Colleen created is just amazing. She is so talented and the beauty of the costumes comes through in every scene on screen. From Cinderella’s dress to the Witch’s blue dress, they are incredibly detailed and gorgeous. Colleen put so much thought, time, and effort into creating these masterpieces and you should absolutely go see INTO THE WOODS, just to see these costumes. Oh, who am I kidding…just go see this film. The acting, the singing, the costumes all work together in this live action musical.
[Tweet “”Every project starts with a story” – Colleen Atwood #IntoTheWoodsEvent”]
Let’s talk costumes
Cinderella’s costume was the first costume in the house and Colleen watched the rehearsals to see how they were playing the opening scene with they establish who all of the characters are and she went to the “eighteenth century for reference because that time period lends itself well to that kind of comedy.”
It’s exaggerated in a way that really worked with the girls. Cinderella was sort of a nod to that world but with a little bit of a more modern kind of take on it, not so over the top and very peasant and aged down and dirty. What you’d expect Cinderella to be in a way. And then when she has her moment, that costume was sort of based on the fact that the costume was created by her mother.
In the early Grimm fairy tales, the shoes are gold not glass. I wanted it to be gold and of the tree and the willow. I started with more green in it, but I found this great thirties vintage fabric that I had been hoarding for a while. It sort of had the right feeling. I wanted it to be when it went through the forest like a butterfly wing, like when you see a butterfly in the light and it goes in the dark and you don’t see it.
I wanted it to have that kind of flighty quality to it. She had to do a lot in the dress, she runs, she goes upstairs, she goes downstairs. I kept the same sort of silhouette, but I made the shape of it more loose and modern in the sense, and also to get the movement I wanted for the camera.
The Evil Step Mother and Step Sisters
Cinderella’s Prince and Rapunzel’s Prince
During the INTO THE WOODS cast Q&A at the Samuel Goldwyn Theater, Collen said that a lot of her inspiration came from the woods and the forest and the light and dark. We were wondering why the witch’s costume was very blue, even before her transformation.
When you’re doing a film with a lot of dark and you’re using black, it’s really easy for the black to just turn into a flat blob with the digital photography and the lighting. What I did is I put color behind it to make it not just a dead black thing and the blue kind of came forward
It felt good with the night sky and the elements of witchery that went with her. When the transformation happened, we just went to the blue. We wanted the blue, the blue hair, the blue magic of that. It was the same textures, but amplified and put in satin and what she thought was beautiful, everything matched. The hair, the nails, the dress, the jewelry, everything was blue. And she thought that would make her the kind of beauty that her teenage daughter would embrace.
Colleen was asked if Meryl Streep had any input or involvement in her costume.
Well there’s not a aspect of a character development that Meryl isn’t involved in. She is the Meryl Streep.
In fact she understands costumes really well, which doesn’t mean she designs them on any level, but she feels them. And any request she made to her costumes were all sort of related to movement in the costume and what it had to do for her. And she embraced all the textiles in a way that somebody that really knew what it took to make it appreciated it, so it was a really gratifying collaboration to not only work with someone of her kind of amazing talent. But just somebody that kind of just loved going in the room and seeing what everybody was doing and was really great with the stitches. She actually acknowledged they existed, which is really nice for the people that make the costumes, because I always try to get the actors walk through when it’s done, just to give them that gratification.
I had a great time of course with Meryl’s costume because of the textile art that was involved in it. And it involved not just my ideas but the hands of a lot of really talented people, mainly women.
When asked if she cringes a little bit inside when [the actors] wearing these amazing designs are they’re falling down a hill and the costumes are getting destroyed?
I like the costumes to look like they’re worn, so it doesn’t bother me. I cringe on a different level if I don’t have enough of them to be destroyed. But I don’t cringe on a artistic level at all. Especially with a movie like this because of the rehearsal period, I knew what the costumes were going to have to do so I made them to kind of accommodate that.
The Baker and The Baker’s Wife
In a movie like this where you not only have simple costumes but you really only have two costume changes at the most for most of the characters, some not even that, you want to make a costume that’s an iconic costume that defines who the baker and his wife are right away.
They’re the people with the hopes and the dreams and that are just solid, especially the symbol of being somebody that makes bread. Everybody eats it, it’s made with your hands, you’re touching it, so I really wanted them to be of the Earth and really grounded so I used more earth tones in their costumes.
I used iconic Victorian meets fairy tales of the Twenties. They worked a lot, their costumes had to work for them, and they did a lot of stuff in them. I created the fabrics that I created for them out of pieces of material that were of the earth, like linens and mole skin because I felt they were more poorly kind of fabrics.
They held up well and they sold the idea of being peasants. But, peasants with a job, (…) not totally starving. Tracey Ullman [Jack’s Mom] and her son [Jack] were in much worse shape than the baker and the baker’s wife, so their costumes were even more tatty and kind of forlorn.
When asked whose costume involved the most from her first thoughts to the finished product and why, she had a great story about Emily and why her costume had to keep being altered.
I’d say Emily’s because she was pregnant. It changed the most of any costume. It had a lot of panels and when I got her, she was just barely pregnant. And all of a sudden she got into that fifth month (…) and she came to work after a weekend and it was like she’d grown I swear. She’d grown two or three inches! I’m like what happened over the weekend? So, I was continually modifying her costume because her bust was bigger and her belly was bigger, even though she was incredibly small for how pregnant she was. I was continually making the body – the apron bigger. Thank goodness she was in an apron from the start.
And the little jacket, I kept raising where it buttoned and painting it in darker and darker on the side, so you use a lot of tricks of the trade. But, that costume I was continually changing and touching the whole time.
Jack and Jack’s Mom
Little Red Riding Hood
We had one very important question. Since Colleen makes these beautiful costumes as a career, did she make costumes for her kids when they were smaller. You know that you’re dying to know the answer!
It’s so funny, in the early Halloween years, I did a lot of costumes. My favorite was when my daughter was in kindergarten. I made her a giant pumpkin, it was so cute with her little hands coming out and she hated it so much. It was really cute. I love going to see what the kids [are wearing]. What people do for their kids for Halloween is pretty amazing, the low tech and where they go with it is really crazy.
It’s my favorite holiday, needless to say. But, when my daughter got to a certain age, I went through a huge Darth Vader, and then she wanted to be Batman Girl and then I think we had a ninja turtle phase. She was a total victim of the store bought costume, so it was kind of embarrassing really.
Catch up on the other INTO THE WOODS interviews.
INTO THE WOODS soundtrack is now available and I swear it’s addictive! I haven’t stopped listening to it in over a week.
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