You don’t have to be a fashionista to appreciate a fabulous costume in a movie, and Into the Woods had some of the most beautiful costumes I’ve seen in theaters this past year! Let’s dive into our interview with Colleen Atwood: The Genius Behind the Designs Into the Woods Movie #IntotheWoodsEvent!
If you’re a fan of costume design, then you’re probably familiar with the beautiful creations of award-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood. If you aren’t – well, prepare to become obsessed because she is one of the most talented, creative gals in the industry!
We met with Colleen Atwood during the Into the Woods press junket last month and became privy to a little insider knowledge on the design process for the costumes seen in Into the Woods. Check it out!
Interview with Colleen Atwood: The Genius Behind the Designs Into the Woods Movie
We Asked: What is your process when designing costumes?
Colleen Atwood: Every project is different, but initially, every project starts with a story. I get the phone call and the script, and I read the script… sometimes when you get a script you sort of see different things right away and sometimes, it’s a different process.
But I start thinking about it and then the next step is usually meeting with a director and having a kind of a conversation about what he’s thinking, because ultimately that’s the person that I collaborate with the most on a film is the director. So you’re there to kind of serve his vision of the story.
And then the next step is… doing research, design, and costume textile development – which I’m huge on because I love the craft. People doing things with their hands is exciting and sort of inspiring for me.
Then I take those things once I’ve put them together and present them to the director. And then as actors are cast in the film and I have meetings with them, I usually show them.
Before I give them clothes at all, I usually try to meet with them and show them my ideas so if they have something they don’t like, that they object to, I kind of figure it out there and sort of talk to them about it.
And get to what the heart of what their feeling is and then I start the actual making of the costumes and fittings and that process.
During our interview with Colleen Atwood: The Genius Behind the Designs Into the Woods Movie, We Asked: This film had so many amazing characters and costumes to go with the characters; which was your favorite to work on?
Colleen Atwood: You know, it’s kind of like children; it’s a weird question to ask, because I never- like one day, some of them are definitely not my favorites [she says, laughing] but I had a great time, of course, with Meryl’s costume because of the textile art that was involved in it.
And it involved not just my ideas, but the hands of a lot of really talented people, mainly women. And then each one has a different beat, so it’s kind of fun.
The thing that makes it great for me – because I kind of bounce around a lot – is that you can go from Meryl’s costume, and walk over to Billy’s costume, and walk over to the baker and his wife’s costume.
The vocabulary is so varied that when you walk around from one [costume] to the other… it’s, it’s nice ’cause they’re so varied and you can always take from one and sort of lend to another when something isn’t working.
We Asked: You compared the costumes to being ‘like your children’; do you cringe a little inside when they’re wearing these amazing designs and the actors are falling down a hill or they’re tripping over things, and the costumes are getting destroyed?
Colleen Atwood: You know, I like the costumes to look like they’re worn, so it doesn’t bother me. I cringe on a different level like, if I don’t have enough of them to be destroyed but I don’t cringe on a artistic level at all.
Especially with a movie like this because of the rehearsal period, I kind of knew what the costumes were going to have to do so I made them to kind of accommodate that.
We Asked: Has there ever been a costume that you were stumped on?
Colleen Atwood: You know, a lot of times for me, when I work on a movie, all the costumes aren’t done the first day of shooting. You’re still continuing making as you’re shooting. So, to me, the costume that kind of stumps me the most is when I know it’s going to be the last costume.
It’s a weird thing; it’s like psychological. You don’t want to let go of that costume or something – it’s like the baby of the family.
Traditionally with me the hardest costume, to kind of say, ‘Oh is it the right thing?’ Like I get more anxiety about that than the first one, you know, it’s, it’s funny.
We Asked: Whose costume would you say evolved the most from your first thoughts to the finished product and why?
Colleen Atwood: Well I’d say Emily’s because she was pregnant. It changed the most of any costume. It had a lot of panels. I was just saying… when I got her, she was just barely pregnant.
And all of a sudden, she got into that fifth month kind of thing. She came to work after a weekend and it was like she’d grown I swear.
She’d grown like two or three inches, I’m like ‘What happened over the weekend?’ And so I was continually kind of modifying her costume because, you know, her bust was bigger and her belly was bigger – even though she was incredibly small for how pregnant she was.
So I was continually making the body and the apron bigger. Thank goodness she was in an apron from the start!
And the little jacket, I kept raising the kind of where it buttoned and kind of painting it in darker and darker on the side, so you kind of use a lot of tricks of, of, uh, the trade. But, but that costume I was continually changing and touching the whole time.
We Asked: I read that Meryl went to school for costume design, so did she have any input or involvement in her costumes?
Colleen Atwood: There’s not an aspect of character development that Meryl isn’t involved in. She is the Meryl Streep. But, in fact, she understands costumes really well, which doesn’t mean she designs them on any level, but she feels them.
And any request she made to her costumes were all sort of related to movement in the costume and what it had to do for her.
She embraced all the textiles and stuff in a way that somebody that really knew what it took to make it appreciated it, so it was a really gratifying collaboration to not only work with someone of her kind of amazing talent, but somebody that kind of just loved going in the room and seeing what everybody was doing.
And, you know, she was really great with the stitches; like, she actually acknowledged they existed, which is really nice for the people that make the costumes. A lot of times, I try to like get the actors to kind of walk through when it’s done, just to give them that gratification.
But they’re reluctant to do it, and Meryl was just so kind and generous in that way.
We Asked: You mentioned that a lot of your inspiration came from the woods and the forest and the light and the dark. But Meryl Streep’s costume was very blue. Why those blues?
Colleen Atwood: Well the reason – as a writer pointed out to me – since it was the blue moon, I go ‘Yeah, that’s like the blue witch, the blue moon.’ But also when you’re doing a film with a lot of dark and you’re using black, it’s really easy for the black to just turn into a flat blob with the digital photography and the lighting.
So I wanted to put color behind it to make it not just a dead black thing and the blue kind of came forward and it felt good with the night sky and the elements of witchery that went with her.
And then when the transformation happened, we just went to the blue. We wanted the blue – the blue hair, the blue magic. And it was sort of the same textures, but amplified and put in satin and sort of what she thought was beautiful.
Everything matched – the hair, the nails, the dress, the jewelry – everything was blue. She thought that would be the kind of beauty [the witch’s] teenaged daughter would embrace.
We Asked: What would be one of the costumes for which you have the fondest memories?
Colleen Atwood: Edward [Scissorhands] was the first movie like that I ever got to do. So, I think that costume for me will always be kind of close to my heart. And, more recently, I love the red queen from the last Alice [in Wonderland].
Editor’s Note: Colleen just finished working on the new Alice in Wonderland: Through The Looking Glass, the sequel to the 2010 film with Johnny Depp.
And in the next [Alice in Wonderland] I just finished, she takes it to a whole other level. So, I think that that’s a fun costume and a fun kind of character that sticks with me. But I have other costumes that I’ve gotten to do over the years that I really like.
I really like the stuff I got to do on Lemony Snicket’s a long time ago, which wasn’t like a hugely famous movie. But, I got to do really good work on it, and the Huntsman most recently, I had a blast with Charlize’s costumes.
More from our interview with Colleen Atwood: The Genius Behind the Designs Into the Woods Movie
We Asked: I’m curious – as a mom, did you make costumes for your kids?
Colleen Atwood: You’d think right? It’s so funny – in the early Halloween years, I did a lot of costumes. My favorite was when my daughter was in kindergarten, I made her a giant pumpkin; it was so cute with her little hands coming out and she hated it so much.
But it was really cute. But I love going to see what people do for their kids for Halloween – it’s pretty amazing, the kind of low tech and where they go with it is really crazy.
But it’s my favorite holiday, needless to say. But, when my daughter got to a certain age, I went through a huge Darth Vader phase, and then she wanted to be Bat Girl and then she – I think we had a ninja turtle phase. She was a total victim of the store bought costume, so it was kind of embarrassing really.
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Thank you to Louise of MomStart.com for her photos of Colleen Atwood, and a HUGE Thank You to Disney for bringing me out to LA for the Into the Woods event! I attended as part of an all expenses paid media trip, but all opinions are my own.