Picture heavy post.
Time for the (very overdue) second post in my designer spotlight series! This time I am focusing on Colleen Atwood. It was hard not to just post costumes from all the Tim Burton films she’s worked on, because their collaborations are always stunning, but I managed to pick just two Burton films for this post. I’ve mostly looked at one costume per film to keep it brief(ish). This post will be just as picture heavy, but may be a little lighter on text than the last one as I’m very tired today.
Colleen Atwood, b. 1948 in Washington, has been working in movies since the early 1980s. She has been nominated eleven times for an Academy Award and has won three times, including for Chicago (2002), which is one of my personal favourites. Her filmography is extensive and includes many of my favourite film costume moments.
I’m going to work backwards, chronologically, through the five films I’ve chosen, starting with Into the Woods. All of the costumes in Into the Woods are gorgeous and evocative but it’s no surprise that Little Red Riding Hood’s costume caught my eye the most. (I also love the wolf’s zoot suit, reminiscent of the wolves in Tex Avery cartoons). Red and light blue is one of my favourite colour combinations and the contrast between the puff-sleeved dress and cape is particularly striking (especially against the darkness of the woods). You can just see some of the details on the hood in the middle image, above, like the cutout designs and soft scalloping around the edge.
Next is Snow White and the Huntsman. While I adore the redesign of Snow White’s look into something quite practical, it’s Ravenna (Charlize Theron) who wears the most elaborate and fun costumes. I absolutely adore her wedding gown, with the skeletal-like cage around her shoulders. While the costume is undoubtedly beautiful, I like that it’s not soft as we usually think wedding gowns should be. It hints at Ravenna’s journey and nature that we see revealed. In an interview, Atwood says ‘there’s always an element of trapped death in her costumes, such as the skeletal cage around her shoulders in her wedding costume.’
Chicago is one of the films for which Atwood won an Academy Award; the costumes are most definitely impressive and memorable. I love the sparkly, spangly ones a whole lot, but it is the dress worn by Renee Zellwegger in We Both Reached for the Gun that I’ve chosen for this post. I just adore all the details on this – the bows, the frilly sleeves and the silky ribbon contrasted against the matte fabric. That soft, dusty blue is a beautiful colour, too.
This black and white dress that Christina Ricci wears at at the end of Sleepy Hollow is so iconic and screams Tim Burton. Even though she only wore it for a short scene, it definitely made the biggest impact on me. I have dreams of recreating it myself, one day.
Black and white stripes always look chic to me, and I love how they’ve been used in this costume. I especially love the detail at the pointed waistline where the stripes alternate above and below the seam. I also love how they fan out over the bustle.
I just love everything about Edward Scissorhands. There’s not one part of this film that doesn’t look amazing. I think some of the costumes are sourced vintage pieces, and there was obviously collaboration with Burton, but once again Atwood outfitted each character perfectly to reflect who they were, including Edward himself, naturally.
Costume designer Colleen Atwood says Edward’s striking appearance is partly Victorian. ”I pulled a lot from the 19th century,” explains Atwood, who used old machinery parts and vinyl to enhance the character’s prefab image. quote from EW.
I was going to write a list of honourable mentions, but, honestly, it would just be too long. Her costumes for films like Big Fish, Mars Attacks!, Dark Shadows, That Thing You Do! among many others are some of my all-time favourites. There are too many to choose from (perhaps I’ll do another post on her, one day).
I’m still trying to figure out how I want to do this series. I need to read and watch more interviews but, this time around, it was all a bit overwhelming. I’m aiming to do one of these posts a month, because I think any more frequently would be too much for me. Up next will likely be Sandy Powell, who has been nominated for two Academy Awards, this year.
Coleen Atwood: Chicago’s Secret Weapon at Movieline