Exclusive Interview with CINDERELLA Costume Designer Sandy Powell

Photo Credit Louise of MomStart.com

CINDERELLA wouldn’t be the #1 Movie in the World if it were not for the amazing talent both on the screen and behind, including the work of Costume Designer Sandy Powell! While in Hollywood for the World Premiere of CINDERELLA, I had the chance to meet and interview Sandy Powell with other fellow mom bloggers. What an amazing opportunity!

Photo Credit Louise of MomStart.com
Sandy Powell Photo Credit Louise of MomStart.com

Disney invited me to Los Angeles on an all-expenses paid press trip, in exchange for my coverage. All opinions are my own.

One of my favorite parts of the movie was the midnight transformation back to reality. One set of characters really struck me, the coachmen! They were lizards before the transformation, so seeing them transform back into lizard form was quite hysterical! I had to ask Sandy Powell about this costume creation!

My Question! I really enjoyed the footmen transformation at midnight. How did you combine the formal footman style while keeping the lizard look. How did you incorporate all of that?

Hear Sandy Powell’s response:

CINDERELLA Lizard Coachman

Sandy Powell:    Oh, the lizard.

Yeah, it, it was an interesting process, that. Because, uh, it did actually start with the costume, so I had to do a costume that looked like a  footman, and how can I make that lizard-like? So I used the texture of the fabric, the fabric was like, it was a, it was a fabric that we dyed, we dyed first of all like the greens and the yellows. And over the top was a lace. Like a silver lace which gives that sort of, uh, scaly effect, effect. And then that was put over the top and then again it was painted again once the costume was made. It was like a tail coat but where the tail’s a little bit more exaggerated. And then the gloves were green and they were dyed with the yellow too. So it was actually all clothes. And then that gave the visual effects department something to build on. Then they designed their lizard, but based on my costume in a way. We – I never knew which way it was to be anything, whether they, they would do a lizard but I would have to turn into a costume or vice-a-versa. But it started out as a costume, then turning into – using reverse. Yeah, it was interesting, the first time I got something like that.

Q:    Can you tell us a little bit more about the Fairy Godmother’s costume, what went into that.

Sandy Powell:    Uh, it was an idea I had that was rather ambitious and to be honest, we didn’t have enough time to, to really develop it. It could have gone a lot further, and been a lot more success—not to say it wasn’t successful. I think the costume as a whole works in the film. But I had this mad idea that she actually literally twinkled, and all over. But in sequences and then sort of choreographed with either the or go what she was doing that – we got the lighting designed. We got  all the circuits made up by this lighting company. But it took a lot longer than I expected. And then we couldn’t actually really construct the costume till we had the lights done. So we were waiting and waiting, waiting for the lights to be finished. We knew the shape of the costume. I had the course, I had the underpinnings done like the corset shape.

CINDERELLA Fairy Godmother Sandy Powell Sketch
CINDERELLA Fairy Godmother Sandy Powell Sketch

 And we had all the fabric that need to go on top of it. But that had to be worked in with the lights. So that costume actually ended up being really rather thrown together at the last minute. Kind of, I kind of didn’t like it, it looks like it’s been thrown together. In a way, I think it’s quite funny that it looks like it’s been thrown together. It looks like she’s made it, you know, thrown it together. And the lights don’t work properly, really. And –


Yeah. It is, it’s sort of like the, the magic doesn’t work that well the first time. I think, well actually it’s quite appropriate that it, it’s sort of lit up a bit. But then, and what happened was, the technician who – the technician who designed it, I mean,  it’s like four or five or six circuits of lights all lit like a big and a bit, another bit. And she had to carry it, have a battery pack strapped underneath. And then each of those circuits had to be plugged into the battery pack to make it work. And this is when she had the guy up her skirt every day, literally blocking every – and you couldn’t do that until she was in the dress. Uh, and then he would operate it from a computer. Like fa– you know, she’d be on the , it’s like he’d be sat here with the computer, sort of like turning the lights on and off. And in world we needed a lot longer to rehearse the scenes. And with the dialogue. And we didn’t have the luxury of that. So we kinda stood it a bit.

Q: I just love the color. And the symbolism like with the Lady Tremaine train from the green, and, can you talk more about the symbolism in the colors?

Sandy Powell: Uh, I can, but do you know what? I don’t intellectualize it that much. I don’t really think about – I don’t pick colors for symbolic reasons. I pick colors because they feel right. And because I like them. I, I have a much more, uh, instinctive feel about – or intuitive reaction. Uh, and response to color as opposed to, I’m doing this because it symbolizes this or symbolizes this. But yes, I mean, of course the green does represent envy. Uh, and all her colors would, were chosen, uh, they’re cool colors. I mean, none of them are kind colors. Or, or fresh colors or youthful colors, particularly though, I think they’re attractive colors ’cause I wanted her to look like a fashion plate and attractive. But they’re, they’re strong, but all of them are kind of bit mean.

CINDERELLA Evil Stepmother
CINDERELLA Lady Tremaine Sketches and Costume by Sandy Powell

Q:    What was your favorite costume to make?

Sandy Powell: I mean, they’re all really meaningful to me. And like I said before, it’s like they’re like my children, you don’t have a favorite. I mean, you like different ones at different times of the day, or depending on they are. Uh, but of course I’m incredibly proud of the ball gown. You can’t not be because that’s the one that took the longest. It, uh, thank you. But the [SOUNDS LIKE: bull gun] took the longest. I spent the longest on it, developing it. And it did – and it might not have worked. But it came out exactly how I hoped. So I’m, I’m proud of that one. But there are others that I love, I love – you know, I like the men’s as much as the women’s. I like them all.  Or they wouldn’t be there.

CINDERELLA Ball Gown Sketch by Sandy Powell
CINDERELLA Ball Gown Sketch by Sandy Powell

What a talented women with such vision and creativity. Sandy Powell even gave advice to people who have the dream to be a costume designer some day.

Q:    What advice do you have for a young girl who wants to follow in your footsteps? That loves designing, loves costumes. What advice would you give them?

Sandy Powell: I’d advise anybody who wants to do costumes, to learn how to sew. And learn how to make them. ‘Cause you’d be surprised, there’s an awful lot of costume designers who don’t know how to do it. And I really don’t know how you can design and how you can talk to somebody else who’s making something, unless you know how to do it yourself. You have to start at the bottom, you have to start at the bottom and be a maker. And actually learn how to construct and sew. So you understand the construction and the engineering, which is what it is.

We ended the interview with a group photo!


Check out all of the amazing costumes of Sandy Powell in CINDERELLA in theaters now! Find your local theater here.

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Follow my entire CinderellaEvent journey with more interviews.

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Founder and Lead Blogger at Akron Ohio Moms
Cindy is the top Akron Blogger with her own take on awesome brands for families, where to vacation for families, a beat on local activities and family fun, a knack for getting moms to share , and a house that is always 2 weeks away from a complete remodel!
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