The making of Cinderella’s wedding gown

Cinderella Dress Now and Then

It is common knowledge that the wedding dress is, arguably, the most important item for a wedding, but what happens when that dress is just as iconic as the matching glass slipper?

Walt Disney released Cinderella sixty-five years ago, but the magical fairy tale is headed back to the silver screen on March 13th as a live-action romance. This seeming trend of turning animated films into live-action movies has been catching flame quickly, but how does one compare the lively sparkling wedding dress of Cinderella’s animated dress to the new film version?

Costume designer Sandy Powell draws inspiration from the 19th century and the 1950s in order to reappropriate the look of the characters for director Kenneth Branagh’s remake. Powell is a three-time Oscar winner, and states she “wanted the costumes to be bold and have an explosion of color as if it were a picture book. But at the same time, I, [Powell], wanted the clothes to be true to each character and believable.”

Of course, what is “believable” in a fairy tale is often stretched far into the realm of not plausible. However, Powell put the “believe” in unbelievable. In Cinderella, Powell’s work has included a twelve-layer ball gown, a single dress that had more than 550 hours devoted to its creation, and eight pairs of shoes that are crafted from Swarovski crystal – none of which are worn by Cinderella herself.

“Creating the wedding dress was a challenge. Rather than try to make something even better than the ball gown, I had to do something completely different and simple,” Powell says. “I wanted the whole effect to be ephemeral and fine, so we went with an extreme-lined shape bodice with a long train.” The need for extravagance is often overstated in fairy tales; however, unlike the jaw-dropping, show-stopping blue ball gown Cinderella (Lily James from Downton Abbey) wears when she attends the Prince’s (Game of Thrones Richard Madden) ball, the wedding dress is much simpler – if you can believe that.

Powell’s dress design is beige in color, long-sleeved, and made of a silk organza gown with a floral print – highly representative and archetypal of the simplicity of the princess-to-be, “I wanted her to stay modest and pure even though she was going to be a part of royalty.” Of course, if you change the integrity of Cinderella then you do not have the same storyline as the animated wonder.

How many people did it take to complete Cinderella’s wedding gown? Get this: sixteen people and a total of 550 hours. It took a month and a team of seamstresses to painstakingly cut, sew, and stitch together the to-the-floor-length gown. After that was all said and down, then a team of artists hand painted the intricate flowers onto the gown.

Sounds like a magical finished product right? Wrong.

During the photoshoot, James stood too close to a small electric heater and the dress caught on fire. “It was a disaster! The entire top layer was completely burned and it had to be redone. It wasn’t like, ‘Is Lily O.K.?’ All we were concerned about was the dress, because only one wedding dress was created due to time and budget,” says Powell.

I suppose you can say Powell really is a fairy godmother in this aspect because the entire top layer of the dress had to be reconstructed. I wonder if she ever considered using a team of helpful mice the second time around?


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