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Director Rupert Sanders and his producers carefully handpicked an outstanding team of creative department heads, all selected for their level of expert craftsmanship to make the garment expressive enough for the new film ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’. An Academy Award winner for ‘Alice in Wonderland’, ‘Chicago’ and ‘Memoirs of a Geisha’, visionary costume designer Colleen Atwood was given the challenge of presenting the characters to modern audiences through astonishingly intricate and carefully assembled designs.
The designer was a longtime collaborator of Sanders’ on his advertisement work. Says the director: “Colleen Atwood is far more experienced than any of us put together, and I’ve worked with her for a number of years on commercials. It was amazing when she said she’s do it, because the wardrobe is so important to this film.
If it isn’t fantastical enough—but also realistic enough—then it doesn’t help the characters get into their world, and that would be a real downfall. Her wardrobes blend seamlessly into this world, and they speak volumes about the world and the characters.”
Symbolism was crucial to Sanders’ telling of this story, and Atwood translated his vision gorgeously. For example, Magnus’ coat of arms is emblematic of his reign as a good and benevolent ruler during a time in which the kingdom prospered. It was fruitful and alive, and the crest symbolizes peace. The apple on it is an iconic part of the Brothers Grimm’s Snow White story, and the apple tree is an integral part of the film that is symbolically represented.
Atwood starts every film with research via the usual mediums, but she fancies museums in particular to inspire her. Based in London, the Wallace Collection, home to one of Europe’s finest collections of arms and armor (besides the art, furniture and porcelain), was of enormous help to her. Her travels also took her abroad to Istanbul.
She explains: “I spent a couple of days buying fabrics and bits and pieces. It helped me to pull the look of the movie together, and everything that I bought there I used in a relevant way. I still needed hundreds of units of manufactured materials, but it was such a great marketplace for handmade materials. It was very useful for inspiration, and a place to find materials like beautiful woven wool dyed with natural fibers.”
She was excited to work with Sanders on his feature-film debut, and she knew she could honor the audience’s shared memories of the lead character while still telling her own version of the tale. “Snow White was one of the first movies I saw when I was a child,” recalls Atwood. “There were certain things that were magical about the Disney character, and I loved the way she was dressed, but our character could hardly be dressed in red, blue and yellow.”
As Kirsten Stewart’s Snow White is a very physically active character, Atwood designed a modern-looking costume that is customized at various stages of the story. “The outfit Snow White wears for a majority of the movie is made from beautiful green suede that perfectly complemented Kristen’s eye color.
The dress has several layers including legging pants underneath to allow the character to be active and not have us worry about constantly readjusting costumes and stapling skirts to boots,” says Atwood. “The dress starts long, but she eventually gets a makeover from the Huntsman during their travels. Then we reveal a shorter version of her dress with the leggings, which will hopefully appeal to the girls today, but still stay viable within the realm of the story.”
Toward the end of her journey, Snow White goes to battle to fight for her people’s future. As her character changes, so does her costume. To accommodate, Atwood designed a suit of armor suitable for Stewart to wear on horseback and in battle. “When Snow White goes into battle, she doesn’t have time to assemble the proper armor,” comments Atwood.
“So we took different elements of armor to compile an outfit made to look like she was armored.” She adds: “It’s not supposed to look like a slick, pulled-together suit. She can ride and fight in it, but there are very subtle clues that tell the audience that it has been thrown together in haste. There are leg pieces missing and the whole costume is not symmetrical.”
For the award winner, Snow White’s costumes were enjoyable to create. She reflects: “I have a daughter about Kristen’s age, and I wanted to design something that would connect with her age group. I do a lot of period and fantasy work, but I love young women’s clothing.”
The Huntsman basically stays in one outfit for the duration of the story, and all of his garments are made of rough organic materials that a hunter of his station would wear. For the character, Atwood drew her inspiration from what would have been his natural surroundings: the great outdoors. Referencing shapes and fabrics from medieval times, Atwood’s crew sewed together smaller pieces of animal skins. “He has a lot of layers to his clothing,” she says. “Everything had to be useful to him. For example, his big, heavy coat could also be used as a blanket to sleep on.”
The Huntsman couldn’t live up to his name without his signature use of weapons. He carries a double-axe rig and a belt that holds his array of knives. Atwood needed to design the axe rig on his back to enable him to grab his weapons quickly.
Her team eventually settled on a rig that used magnets to secure the axes to the harness, allowing Hemsworth to access them with ease and speed. After a good deal of training with stunt coordinator Ben Cooke, the actor was ready to go.
Image Courtesy of http://www.snowwhiteandthehuntsman.com/