If you ask my daughter what she loved best about the live-action film Cinderella, the costumes will be her response every time! The Cinderella’s ball gown was her favorite. That amazing flowing dress delivered everything we love about Cinderella and her story. It was gorgeous, sparkly, soft and feminine. In the theater, everyone was on the edge of their of seats mesmerized by the Prince and Cinderella’s first dance. The glistening gown floated across the floor, twinkling in movement and creating a breathtaking scene between the two actors.
Designer Sandy Powell was the mastermind behind the glorious, timeless costumes which transported us to Cinderella’s fairy tale kingdom. We take a closer look at the radiant dress with Powell as she explains the details and fabrics she used to create it.
“The dress had the most expectations. It had to do so much: it had to be breathtaking and stand out from everyone else at the ball yet it had to be simple. it had to be really simple because it’s Cinderella, I didn’t want her to be weighed down with embellishments and jewels.”
Powell’s primary concerns with the ball gown was movement and color. Above anything else Powell wanted the dress to move with the character. “The most important things Cinderella does in the film is dance and run away in it. So it had to look lovely when she’s doing both of those things, especially running away at night,” says Powell. She imagined the dress at night, floating behind Cinderella as she flees the party. One of her original ideas was to have it light up from within, but she wasn’t literally going to do that. She wanted the entire feel of the dress to be light in movement, as well as tone and also deliver movement in the color choice.
The dress design is simpler than it looks and the fullness comes from the crinoline cage which gives the dress it’s classic silhouette. Over the top of the cage there were a couple of petticoats with lots of frills on the bottom and inside. The viewers get to see the bottom frills when Cinderella dances and jumps. Five to six additional layers of very fine fabrics cover the top of the petticoats.
Powell provided us with in-depth detail on the many fabrics necessary to create movement in the simple dress design. The top layer is a silk crepe which is a little bit heavier than a chiffon, but not quite as wafty. The layers beneath that fabric are a new type of polyester fabric which is really light. It’s like smoke, it just glides and are green, blue, lilac and a silvery color. In addition to those colors, the base layer of the dress was a cheap fabric of an iridescent pale white color. She added a little bit of blue to it and the light bounced off of this layer.
This “simple dress” was made out of 270 yards of fabric and more than 10,000 Swarovski crystals. Eight dresses were created for filming needs.
I’ve always wondered how designers feel about seeing their costumes shrunk down to children’s sizes. Is it exciting? Strange? Powell laughs, “It is terrifying but I had that in mind. I knew that whatever I did with that ball gown and that shoe, I knew that there would be strange mini versions whether it was for dolls or small people.”
It’s not a surprise that Swaroski created the iconic glass slipper. Powell looked into glass blowers and people experts for advice. She also visited museums to study glass and it’s colored variations. She began to wonder whether it had to be clear. Upon noticing how light struck the cut glass crystals on a chandelier, she instantly knew that the shoe had to absolutely light up. “The only place to go for crystal is to go to Swarovski. I was already working with them because they provided every single sparkly thing in the film. Even the men have crystal on them. I tend to use lots of tiny ones where you can’t really see it but the lights hit them,” Powell says. The shoe is stunning and I think every princess needs a mini sized one!
Sandy also shared that she can’t design a costume until she knows who will be wearing it. If possible she likes to meet the actors before designing so she can get their feedback. She admits to having emotional attachments to her costume creations. “I don’t like it when a film ends and they all go away,”she says. All of her costumes are her favorites. They are all her babies.