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The most ornate wardrobe of the spectacular ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ belongs, of course, to the vain Queen, Ravenna. While Magnus was a good king who ruled over a prosperous land, his murderess does the opposite. Naturally, that cruelty would be reflected in her heraldry. Ravenna’s crest symbolizes the dark hold over a land that was once fruitful. The tree in her emblem is dead and blackened and bears no fruit.
Costume designer Colleen Atwood and her team had their skilled hands full. “Designing for a character like Ravenna is the film equivalent of couture costume,” she reflects. “Making costumes for someone who is six-feet tall is just awesome, but you can’t have a character like Ravenna without having an actress like Charlize Theron to work the costume. There’s a lot of costume, and it could be overwhelming to some actresses.”
Through Ravenna, Atwood tried to personify evil in a different way: one that also showed a bit of vulnerability. Ravenna wears 12 major costumes within the story, each one handmade and requiring hundreds of hours of labor. To prepare, Atwood discussed the character with Theron at length. The designer says: “She also wanted to have a bit of fun with and not be too strapped in to the cliché of what the evil Queen was. We wanted her to be a person too.
She had royal duties and has some feelings and background about where she came from, but as the story progresses, so does her madness. Her world is crumbling, and as her madness inhabits her, I started to change the materials and the feeling of her clothes. In the beginning, her costumes have a real shape to them, but as we go on, they get more spectral and buglike. It’s my metamorphosis for her.”
A consumer of young maidens’ youth, Ravenna steals her beauty from anything and everything around her. Once that feast is over, her world begins to deteriorate. “When the gold dress and cape transform, we see the transition of Ravenna’s beauty,” shares Atwood. “Ravenna takes her beauty, but Snow White’s beauty is internal and owned, so you see it grow throughout the story. That’s the allegorical contrast between the two kinds of beauty in the story and in the world.”
The Queen’s costumes were nothing short of astonishing. Ravenna’s transformation cape—her raven cloak—took a skilled dressmaker four weeks to make from a concept and pattern designed by Atwood. Each rooster feather was hand-trimmed before it was applied. Ravenna’s raven cloak was a project of love for the craftsperson who made it. And haute couture does not come cheap. The cost: about £20,000. Theron commends her designer, noting that Atwood made sure that “the devil was in the details.”
The actress explains how costuming followed function: “Colleen truly understood the themes of this story, and that it is not just about beauty. Everything had to look a certain way to Ravenna because that’s her philosophy in life. She lives in a man’s world. She’s been told by her mother to believe that men will only allow you to be as good as you possibly can be, if you are beautiful.
“I knew the costumes were going to be spectacular, but Colleen took it to another level,” Theron continues. “I felt like every costume had a feeling of not quite what it seems. In a way, these dresses were like torture devices for Ravenna. I love that because I feel like Ravenna was, in a way, more torturous toward herself than to the people that she was killing.”
Dressing the actress to play the monarch was no walk in the park. As well, Theron, no stranger to immersing herself in the special effects makeup needed for difficult parts, understood that Ravenna’s aging makeup would require two to six hours to apply. In fact, she often had call times at the wee hours of the morning, this all before donning the intricate costumes.
For Snow White and the Huntsman, Atwood’s design team procured materials from all over the world, including beetle shells from Thailand, fabrics from Turkey, sequins from China and chain mail designed in the U.K. but made in India, as well as select jewels from renowned designer Cathy Waterman. Always up for more challenges, the team prepped for their largest day to come on the shoot: one that involved more than 400 extras dressed in medieval clothing.
Image Courtesy of http://www.snowwhiteandthehuntsman.com/