Behind the Scenes: At the Oscars with Vanity Fair

From the vaults, Feb. 2016.

This week I've had the honor of joining Vanity Fair in Los Angeles to talk all things Oscars. I'm talking with Oscar nominated costume designers, make up artist, directors and actors. The honor is so exciting!

I also got makeup tips from top artists and spent four days of behind the scenes of the Oscars interviewing costume designers, directors and actors and getting a private concert from Emblem3. Quite an experience!

I sat with Sandy Powell, nominated this year for her work on both Carol and Cinderella, and heard about her costume design process.

Sandy shared insight into her design process and some interesting tidbits most aren't aware of regarding movie fashion.

- She rotates wardrobes, but only slightly. In the "real world" we may have a full closet, but tend to wear pieces in phases. We may wear the same 2 or 3 outfits for weeks, then chose other outfits. The same needs to be seen in movies to make them realistic.
- She never starts working on costumes until she's physically met the actor that will portray the character. She needs to get a sense of how the actor feels the role should be executed so she can get a sense of how to dress the character. Only then does she start the process by considering, "Would the character chose this particular cardigan? Would she wash it or take it to the dry cleaner? Would the character select this color and style?"

The story is set in New York City in 1952 and Powell believes that the most important scene for costume design is when Cate Blanchett's character, Carol, meets Rooney Mara's character, Therese, in the department store. Carol is dressed in red, showing confidence, and is wearing a magnificent fur coat created for the movie.

The coat is made of vintage fur however, several coats were cut apart and this coat was designed by Powell and sewn together after the furs were dyed to match. The dye caused the stitching to come apart so after every scene the coat was used in, it had to be stitched back together, making it an arduous item to include. "The coat was necessary as it elevated Carol to a certain class and made an incredible statement about her sense of style so it was worth the pain," said Powell.

All the jewelry in the movie is authentic and vintage from designers including Van Cleef & Arpels, established in 1896, making it quite expensive. The shoes Carol wears in the movie were recreated from original designs in the vaults of Ferragamo, an Italian shoe design house established in 1927. Therese's character wears original vintage shoes from the early 1950s and late 1940s as Mara has tiny feet.

Powell scoured to find vintage undergarments for this film, as she does for all the films she works on. "Undergarments are vital as they impact the way the clothes lay. Pointy bras, for example, change the way shirts will fit an actor. We use as many vintage pieces as we can and also use vintage-inspired pieces that are constructed with the same design if we have to," said Powell.



The dress that Cinderella wears didn't have to be blue, but after Powell tried several colors, she "kept coming back to blue. It's just so vibrant and really fit the character," she said.

Cinderella's dress was named one of "The 100 Most Iconic Dresses of All Time" by Good Housekeeping in April, 2016. Photo credit: Jonathan Olley/Walt Disney Studios

Cinderella's dress was named one of "The 100 Most Iconic Dresses of All Time" by Good Housekeeping in April, 2016. Photo credit: Jonathan Olley/Walt Disney Studios

The dress worn by Cinderella took 500 man hours to make and is made up of layer upon layer of color including yellow, green and blue. The dress has eight versions. One is shorter than the others for the purpose of scenes in which Cinderella is running. One has a larger bottom layer for scenes shot from above so the dress can still be seen. Another dress was made to fit the stunt double.


For the ballroom dance scene, Powell designed more than 100 ball gowns for the cast. While Powell loves dressing men in well cut suits (and especially loves the 19th century period, "the men just looked so sexy!", the men's suits were mostly monochromatic in color as to not take away from the women's colorful ball gowns and were rented.

"The dresses were all created individually, I didn't really follow a color palette. I wanted each dress to be a masterpiece that stood on it's own and the end result was quite dramatic when all the actors came together for the dance scene," she said.

"I also took into consideration that the women attending the ball wouldn't have consulted with each other about what they would wear, so naturally, all the dresses would be different," said Powell.

What do you find most interesting about this "behind the scenes" look into the costume designing for Carol and Cinderella? Share your thoughts in the comments.