Q&A with Academy Award winning costume designer Colleen Atwood about her work on Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland

"The right costume determines the character, helps the actor feel who he is, and serves the story."

Colleen Atwood on why the right costume is essential for a character.

Rabid Nick: Ms. Atwood, thank you so much for your time today. How do you prepare for a transition from a production like Nine to Alice in Wonderland, with their wildly unique styles?

Colleen Atwood: The transition is fast, you exit one world and enter another, examining new worlds, you quickly move on.


You have worked on a variety of Tim Burton films. What is so attractive about them?

The collaborative process with Tim is a rare gift in the world of film.

For these Tim Burton films, but also for movies like Public Enemies, you designed a lot of costumes for Johnny Depp. Does the process get easier if you know an actor?

The level of trust is an important part of collaboration, so I would say that makes it more relaxed, but it also makes it more of a challenge since you always want change it up and come up with new ideas.

Where did you find the inspiration for the red and white world of Alice in Wonderland?

The Red Queen and White Queen were named in the script, so for the Red Kingdom it was the playing card motif and for the White Kingdom the inspiration was more Nordic meets Louis 14

[image-2]How do you prepare to find the clothes for a movie? Where do you get the inspiration?

Inspiration comes from everywhere: books, art, people on the street. It is an interior process for me.

When do you know when a character is finished?


Which character's costumes did you find the most challenging to design, and which came most easily?

In Alice, the technical side of Alice's shrinking and growing were very challenging. Stayne was originally not a real costume, but we couldn't quite get it right, so we ended up actually making it in order for it to work.

When it came to costuming in Alice, how much inspiration did you draw from the original book?

I gave a sort of nod to the young Alice, then departure...oh and the hat…

How many dresses did you make for Alice and what have inspired you to create them?

Alice had around 8 looks, and multiples of most of them, so there were around 20 hand-made costumes. The script and idea of Alice as an exploring spirit really inspired me.

Apart from the use of color, is there anything different about making costumes for greenscreen scenes?

The greenscreen doesn't really dictate the costume.

Colleen, as we close out this virtual roundtable, do you have any final thoughts on Alice in Wonderland?

Alice in Wonderland was a dream project. The collaboration between Tim and Johnny, along with the amazing cast, made bringing such a historic piece to the world of 3D animation, one of my favorite projects for life.

From the grit and glamor of Chicago to the might and majesty of Memoirs of a Geisha, Academy Award winning costume designer Colleen Atwood has added depth and character to many of Hollywood's most recent hits with her inspired costume choices.

When the iconic blue dress adorned by the title heroine in Alice in Wonderland (out this week on DVD and Blu-Ray) landed on this captivating designer's drawing board, the opportunity to expand an age old image was too intriguing an opportunity to pass up. Rabid Nick Refer recently took part in a Q&A with the Oscar winner, talking Alice, Tim Burton, Johnny Depp and her inspirations.


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