Mary Poppins’ entrance costume — a sleek coat with orange polka-dot lining — embodies the all-important elegance of the iconic English character: a powerful blue coloring, an eccentric patterned interior, and, according to costume designer Sandy Powell, a little bit of sexiness, too.

“She had to be elegant, and [Rob Marshall] wanted chic … he didn’t say sexy because I don’t think — Mary Poppins shouldn’t be sexy — but she is a little bit, isn’t she?” Powell told Variety.

“Mary Poppins Returns” marks the first musical for the three-time Oscar-winning costume designer, whose work spans a host of hit films, including “Shakespeare in Love,” “Carol,” and “Cinderella,” but as a fan of the original, she says aspects of the movie were quite daunting.

“The arrival probably is the most important, and for me it was the most intimidating thing to tackle because you know she had to be instantly recognizable,” she says. “We had to recognize her from the previous ‘Mary Poppins,’ but yet it had to be different and not disappoint anybody.”

Powell says Marshall was fixated on giving the titular character a “chic” look inspired by the American actress, singer, and dancer Ginger Rogers. “He wanted Mary Poppins suddenly to become Ginger Rogers,” she says. The challenge, however, was transitioning Rogers’ flowing skirts into the “Mary Poppins” time period, resulting in a long skirt that concealed pleats to allow for more movement without sacrificing the sleek silhouette.

Star Emily Blunt praised Powell’s designs, especially their ability to reflect her character’s personality so clearly.

“I think the thing I found really exciting about the arrival costume is that it’s sort of representative of really who she is and how I wanted to play her. That amazing duality of the character that I found when I read the books, that she has this rather sort of imperious, put-together, very vain exterior and yet on the inside, there’s a sort of wildness and eccentricity. And so the lining of the coat was this fabulous bright, orange, polka-dot lining and that is so the character,” she says.

Blunt also complimented Powell’s work on the animated scenes of the film, which boast costumes remarkably different than the film’s predecessor. While watching the original “Mary Poppins” as a child — it was the first film she ever saw — Powell says she thought the characters looked a little too separate from their animated surroundings, which inspired the hand-painted costumes that Blunt wears in the sequel.

“We started with the costumes and the color of those, and then the animator sort of followed and built a world around that,” Powell says. “For me that’s just really exciting because that whole idea of those costumes, it was an experiment really, it was a risk I took, and we didn’t know if it was going to work, so to actually see it working is extraordinary.”

More Artisans

  • Barry HBO

    'Barry' Stunt Coordinator Breaks Down That Insane Fight With a Little Girl

    Stunt coordinator Wade Allen details the extensive planning behind the “Barry” Season 2 episode “ronny/lily,” which features long takes aplenty, a Rite-Aid Taekwondo battle and Bill Hader’s Barry getting “his ass kicked by a little girl.” The idea for the episode came about a year ago. “Bill [Hader] and I riffed about how funny it [...]

  • Behind the Choreography of 'So You

    Behind the Choreography of 'So You Think You Can Dance'

    The judges on “So You Think You Can Dance” don’t just critique the performers; they’re judging the choreographers, too. “You have to sit in the audience and smile and hope that [the dancers] kill it. As much as they’re getting looked at, the judges are looking at your stuff, too. All the choreographers are back [...]

Most Popular

  • Tom Hanks arrives at the 26th

    Tom Hanks Explains the Rules Behind Hollywood’s ‘Famous Actors Club’

    Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio have reached a new level of stardom, dubbed the famous actors club by Hanks at the SAG Awards. During an interview with Variety’s Angelique Jackson on the SAG red carpet, Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson quickly greeted DiCaprio as he left a Variety interview a few feet away. “The Catch Me If […]

  • Kang-Ho Song, Lee Jeong-eun, Park So-dam,

    ‘Parasite’ HBO Series Will Reveal ‘Hidden Stories’ About Film’s Characters

    While the world was celebrating the historic win for the cast of “Parasite” at the SAG Awards, director Bong Joon Ho slyly revealed new details about the “Parasite” limited series spinoff currently in the works at HBO. “We have talked about the series while drinking at night, but we haven’t gone into detail,” Bong told […]

  • Marc Malkin, Annie Murphy, Jennifer Robertson,

    Dan Levy on His Groundbreaking ‘Schitt’s Creek’ Billboard

    Growing up and working at Baby Gap, “Schitt’s Creek” star Dan Levy never thought he’d be on a billboard, much less one featuring two men kissing. “The fact that we had a network that supported us enough to put up a three-story billboard of two men kissing speaks volumes for the network. I think it’s […]

Access exclusive content