Impressive Costumes by Colleen Atwood

By Sara Corceiro | 2014/01/26 - 20:17:27


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If you're a regular moviegoer, most likely you've already seen the amazing work of Colleen Atwood. With three Academy Awards on her shelf (for Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha and Alice in Wonderland), Colleen's name is mandatory when it comes to movie costume design and she has definitely defined how a wardrobe can create a story within a story.

Born in Yakima, Washington, Atwood started her career in fashion as a style advisor in the early 1970s. In 1980, she left her hometown to study art at the New York University. In that same year, an opportunity came and she began working as a production assistant for the movie Ragtime, were she was able to pair with a costume designer. After that, Colleen continued to work as a costume designer for theater and film, but the turning point came when she met Director Tim Burton. Edward Scissorhands was the first of many collaborations between the two.

By working regularly with a director like Tim Burton, Colleen Atwood is able to create dramatic, intricate pieces, usually with uncommon materials and racy prints. Deep reds and bold stripes seem to be a must when working with Burton and we might say she had an important role in the creation of the gothic aesthetic that defines the director's style.

Her use of unusual materials took a very interesting path with Snow White and the Huntsman. Ravenna's extravagant pieces were created with a panoply of unique materials that can really define the character's evil personality: metal chains that look like entwined snakes cover a full bodice, glazed parchment paper gives shape to huge shoulder cages, quills and skulls adorn the neckline of a somber black dress.

For Colleen, color and texture can be important elements to emphasize a mood in a scene and key factors to understand the character's personality or intents. In Edward Scissorhands, the contrast between Edward's dark victorian leather suit and the colorful 1960's pop garments worn by the rest of the cast do accentuate how misplaced the main character is. This antagonism also plays a huge part in Sleepy Hollow. The soft, creamy pallet worn by the character portrayed by Christina Ricci seems to contradict the dark fate that haunts the village. Among a decadent, gloomy set of characters, Katrina Van Tassel seems to be defined by that difference.

Because a movie is, above anything else, a story that needs to be told, Colleen Atwood does feel the responsibility to support that task with a full wardrobe that speaks for itself. Whether through color contrasts or unusual scales and materials, this costume designer does not fail to express the character's mind through unique, stunning garments. 
Colleen Atwood
Colleen Atwood for The Hollywood Reporter Oscar Icons 2013 issue
THR
Edward Scissorhands
Edward Scissorhands
20th Century Fox
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street
Warner Bros.
Christina Ricci in Sleepy Hollow
Christina Ricci as Katrina Van Tassel in Sleepy Hollow
Paramount Pictures
Sleepy Hollow
Sleepy Hollow
Paramount Pictures
Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland
Walt Disney Pictures
Alice in Wonderland
Alice in Wonderland
Walt Disney Pictures
Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman
Charlize Theron as Ravenna in Snow White and the Huntsman
Universal Pictures
Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman
Charlize Theron as Ravenna in Snow White and the Huntsman
Universal Pictures
Memoirs of a Geisha
Memoirs of a Geisha
Columbia Pictures
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events
Paramount Pictures
Chicago
Chicago
Miramax
Chicago
Chicago
Miramax

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