One Costume Designer Added Color to Both ‘Carol’ and ‘Cinderella’

Cinderella Disney
Courtesy of Disney

Costume designer Sandy Powell’s credit appears on two 2015 releases that are generating awards buzz; Todd Haynes’  “Carol” and Kenneth Branagh’s “Cinderella.”

Since Cate Blanchett stars in both films, Powell used her spare time on the Walt Disney Pictures fairy tale to get a head start on the Weinstein Co. indie drama, which had less than eight weeks of prep.

“I began with the underwear,” Powell says of Blanchett’s early fittings. “It was really beneficial to be seeing her every day, and be thinking about ‘Carol’ at the same time.”

Beyond Cinderella’s beautiful ball gown, worn by Lily James, and the iconic glass slippers, the designer relished the opportunity to conceive the look of Blanchett’s character, Cinderella’s wicked Stepmother.

“She’s the baddie, which of course is the best person to dress in any film, because they are extreme,” Powell says. “I didn’t want her to be in black all the time, but I think every one of her costumes has an element of black in it. It’s the same silhouette for every outfit, but different colors, different fabrics.”

Set in 1952 New York, “Carol” is pretty much the flip side of showy “Cinderella,” with more restrained costumes. Therese, played by Rooney Mara, mostly wears navy, black and gray. Blanchett’s clothes are more muted. This was unusual for Powell, who is a fan of intense color, but for Haynes, the choices were necessary to set the tone of the period.

“The bright accents would be restrained and collective,” Haynes says. “Sometimes there would be that salmon scarf to accent a gray silk outfit. Yes, Carol wears a red coat with a red blouse in one scene, but usually these flourishes of intense color are very select, and stand out somewhat from the overall palette of the film.”

Says Powell: “There are highlights of color, like coral with her scarf and hat, lips and nails. That color for me is ‘Carol.’ ”

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