Growing up in Yakima, Wash., Colleen Atwood dreamed of becoming a painter. But she found a different medium for her artistry in fabric, designing costumes for more than 50 films — ranging from The Silence of the Lambs to Little Women, Mission: Impossible III to Cabin Boy — and picking up three Oscars (and six other nominations) along the way. For Snow White and the Huntsman (out June 1) Atwood made almost 2,000 costumes. The detail on each one is extraordinary — she says she trimmed one of the dresses worn by Charlize Theron’s evil-queen character in real beetle wings (”They’re from Thailand and are the kind people eat”) and constructed a cape entirely out of feathers. ”It’s exciting when you put the clothes on the actors and you see them start to feel the characters,” says the designer, who lives in Pacific Palisades, Calif. ”It’s something you’ve done together. It’s a good journey.” Here Atwood shares the stories behind some of her most memorable looks.
Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
Atwood says she incorporated ”elements of death” into each costume she made for Charlize Theron’s evil Queen Ravenna. ”This dress has a front that’s made out of chains that are all twisted and manipulated like snakes, which we attached to the corset. And it’s surrounded by tiny bird skulls,” she says of the outfit. ”We had this idea to drape those chains off her crown, like she’s trying to cover up her neck wrinkles [even though Theron herself doesn’t have any]. It gave it another creepy edge that we liked.”
Married to the Mob (1988)
”We had a ball making this movie. It was a great time to be in New York. It was the crazy ’80s and we were in the East Village,” says Atwood, who roamed the entire city to get a feel for costumes that might be worn by characters like the mobster’s widow played by Michelle Pfeiffer. ”The smock is one from a beauty salon,” says Atwood, ”and everything else is downtown garb you used to be able to buy on the street for cheap.”