Colleen Atwood, three-time Oscar winner and Tim Burton’s right-hand gal, has been the mastermind behind some of the silver screen’s finest costumes. From Sweeney Todd and Planet of the Apes to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and the forthcoming Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, there’s nothing this talented lady can’t create. Just in time for Alice Through The Looking Glass dropping on DVD, we chatted with the acclaimed costume designer about the sartorial stylings of our two fave Alice characters, along with some of her other blockbuster looks.
Alice‘s The Red Queen is such an iconic character—what went into creating that look?
The idea of making the costumes so her head looked bigger than her body was the starting point for that costume; I had to create a costume that Helena [Bonham Carter]’s body was almost compressed in. Plus, inspirations of actual early playing cards and some of the early illustrations for the Red Queen.
It is my understanding that John Tenniel never illustrated Time in the Lewis Carroll books. How did you create the look of that character?
Actor Sacha [Baron Cohen] had a lot of ideas about how he wanted the character to look, but the main inspiration was loosely based on a giant grandfather clock silhouette. I wanted him to be really long, narrow and looming above Alice so he looked very intimidating when we saw the two of them together. I put huge platforms on him, added a very tall hat, and expanded his shoulders with a shoulder hoop to give him the scale of a giant old clock. Sacha contributed to the rest. There’s a jewel piece he has that’s made from elements of deconstructed time pieces and jewellery that he wears on one hand. He has a piece that we had made by a jeweller that he wears on his chest; they added to it with visual effects, and it represents his heart. We actually made a real piece that incorporated all different concepts of time throughout history that he wears as a medallion.
A Look Back At Four Of Colleen Atwood’s Most Iconic Films
Memoirs of a Geisha
My whole experience of working on Memoirs of a Geisha was an incredible cultural experience. I went to Japan several times and I visited the museums and talked to many great artists skilled in kimono-making. Then I had the task of taking what was in the book and screenplay and making costumes for the beautiful girls who were in the film. Just being able to be part of creating that world was one of the best things I’ve ever gotten to do.
The idea of the character, who Edward Scissorhands was, came from one of Tim’s early cartoon drawings. I just made it a little more human and real. I have to say, I think that I made that costume work.
Because of the intensity of the dancing in the film, we didn’t use vintage costumes. For the dancing sequences, we recreated the looks, so they were delicate but they were strong at the same time. Everyday I said a silent prayer that they didn’t self-destruct while the girls were dancing away in them.
I used a lot of [period] materials and dresses that I remade from old ones. The combination had a very authentic heart to it. I also liked the idea of using a dress on one character and then using it on the other because they were sisters.