Costume designer Sandy Powell is no stranger to Oscar. She’s one of the most rewarded veterans in her field, having won three statuettes for her work on “Shakespeare in Love” (1998), “The Aviator” (2004) and “The Young Victoria” (2009). And she has reaped bids for “Orlando” (1992), “The Wings of the Dove” (1997), “Velvet Goldmine” (1998), “Gangs of New York” (2002), “Mrs. Henderson Presents” (2005), “The Tempest” (2010) and “Hugo” (2011). She’s back in the running this year with Todd Haynes’s period romance “Carol,” and spoke about her work in our exclusive audio chat. Listen to our podcast below.
Set in 1952, “Carol” tells the story of a shopgirl, Therese (Rooney Mara), who falls in love with Carol (Cate Blanchett), a married woman. Powell touched upon recreating the fashions of the era, which started with a look-book Haynes gave to all of the creatives on the film. “Everything that was going through his mind he compiled into one book which he gave to us, which is a great head-start,” said Powell.
Haynes’s look-book consisted of photographs from the time, which gave Powell ideas for a very specific color palette. “They’re all photographs of street scenes in New York,” she said, “and a lot of them are at night or in rain or in dark, and there were always highlights of color, like spots red or yellow, whether they were in traffic lights or neon signs or taxi cabs. That kept sort of occurring to me that those little highlights of color were in there, and I used that in certain areas.”
Powell then tried to create wardrobes for the characters that would show their backgrounds and development. “For Carol’s character, who is middle class, wealthy, and sophisticated, she obviously could afford great, expensive, fashionable clothes.”
And for Therese, she says, “her appearance is not her real priority. It’s sort of functional, comfortable.” By the end, you see her “kind of change into a more grown-up, sophisticated look obviously inspired by Carol, but not emulating her.”
Powell is an Oscar contender for her work in both “Carol” and the Disney fantasy “Cinderella.” Do you think she’ll win her fourth prize?
“Carol” photo credit: Moviestore/REX