News & Runway

Colleen Atwood Showcases Her Costumes for Alice In Wonderland

Disney is unveiling a a first-of-its-kind exhibition at LA’s Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, featuring original costumes designed by the brilliant Colleen Atwood for Tim Burton’s recently-released film, Alice in Wonderland

Atwood calls her collaborative process with Burton “a rare gift in the world of film,” and it will come to fruition when hats and selected props from the film are set on display.  Even more exciting will be the chance to see Johnny Depp’s original Mad Hatter fighter garment, a few of Mia Wasikowska’s Alice dresses, and Helena Bonham Carter’s Red Queen dress up close. 

Atwood’s inspiration comes from everywhere, she says – “books, art, people on the street” – and she’s received two Academy Awards for her talent, the first in 2002 for Chicago and the next in 2005, for Memoirs of a Geisha. 

While Atwood may never be at a loss for inspiration, designing for Alice was no small feat.  “Alice had around eight looks, and multiples of most of them,” Atwood says “so there were around 20 hand-made costumes.” 

Times are certainly changing, and the introduction of CGI – Computer Generated Imagery – added new details into Atwood’s creative proves.  “The CGI element was interesting because so much of my process is in the actual draping on a body,” Atwood says, “I swatched all the virtual fabrics, trims and buttons to help in the visual process and give continuity to the world.”  The technology might be new, but it didn’t prove to be Atwood’s most challenging set to work on; she says Planet of the Apes was the most difficult movie of her career.  

In the whirlwind that is her life as a costume designer, constantly going from one movie and look to the next, what does Atwood think about her own style? 

Like so many designers, she’s fond of black, but tries “to add a little white around my face,” she says.  “I wear jeans a lot for work because they are good for a 14 hour day, which is my norm.” 

It’s a good thing Atwood admires Burton so much – she calls Alice in Wonderland “a dream project” – because she’s currently working on his next film, Dark Shadows.  It’s a gothic horror tale with vampires, witches, werewolves, and ghosts, and is slated for a 2011 release.