Interview: Costume Designer Colleen Atwood (Into the Woods, Arrow, Planet of the Apes, Alice in Wonderland)


If there is such a thing as a celebrity in the costume designing world, Colleen Atwood is it. Nominated for 11 Academy Awards and winner of three, Ms. Atwood is — quite simply — the most well-known and famous costume designer in the world. Her latest fpm was Disney’s hit musical Into the woods, and we got a chance to chat briefly about the film and her role as a costume designer.

IWM2$: Into the Woods is sort of a fairy-tale-with-a-twist; how did you approach designing the costumes?

Colleen:  Taking the sense of the of the music and genre and pulling together the different tales with texture.

IWM2$: How much of the costume do you design for the character and how much do you design for the actor?

Colleen: They are the same for me.

IWM2$: Did you have a favorite costume from the film?

Colleen: Meryl’s blue dress.

IWM2$: Johnny Depp’s minimalist costume got a lot of buzz on the internet. What was your approach with that one?

Colleen: His wolf was Tex Avery inspired with hand drawn fabric and a sense of fun.


IWM2$: Can you tell us a little bit about the process for designing a costume? How does it start and what does it go through before it becomes a finished, wearable costume?

Colleen: Research, draping, fitting and finally finishing are the main steps.

IWM2$: A lot of people don’t know much about what the costume designer does. What’s a typical work day like for you? Are you on set much?

Colleen: Up at 5am to set – there for start then to workroom to check makes and fit for future scenes, back to set then home for 8pm – super glamorous!

IWM2$: You are arguably the most famous costume designer in the world, what with your name showing up at seemingly every single Oscar ceremony, and with eleven nominations and three wins. How do you decide which projects you’re going to take on nowadays, as I assume you can have pretty much your pick of them?

Colleen: I pick projects where I have a great story to bring to life and a great director.

IWM2$: Are there differences between designing and dressing for men as opposed to women? Women’s outfits often seem much more complicated and nuanced, but I feel like maybe that’s just the illusion.

Colleen: Men’s clothing beautifully tailored can be very difficult to achieve – so the things unseen become very important.

IWM2$: What happens to all the costumes on a movie like Into the Woods once filming is completed?

Colleen: They are in the Disney archive.

IWM2$: Looking back, I understand you designed the iconic Hannibal Lecter mask for Silence of the Lambs? Can you tell us about that?

Colleen: It was originally going to be a dirty white color but the sample came in the raw fiberglass color was amazing so we used it that way.

IWM2$: Finally, what would you like people to know about the role of costume designer that they might not already know?

Colleen: That it is really one of the most creative jobs you can have – it is, however, coupled with huge financial responsibility and accountability – so good to have a sense of practicality.