British costume designer Sandy Powell has been nominated twice this year for Cinderella and Carol, both starring Cate Blanchett.
Studying at Central Saint Martin’s College of Art and Design, Ms. Powell quickly became in such demand for her stage costumes she left before completing her degree. Soon she was working in film and became a repeat visitor to the Academy Awards. Nominated 12 times she has won for Shakespeare in Love (1998), The Aviator (2004), and The Young Victoria (2009).
For Cinderella, Ms. Powell says she worked closely with Ms. Blanchett who plays the wicked stepmother. The two collaborated and traded images, both women inspired by the glamour of the 1940s.
Carol is based on a semi-autobiographical novel by Patricia Highsmith titled The Price of Salt. The story takes place in New York City in 1952, which Ms. Powell says was a year still influenced by the 1940s. “… 1952 is not the Fifties people think of because it still looks like the Forties. It is a transitional period, so the silhouette was going from the wide-shouldered look of the Forties to the more streamlined look of the Fifties, so it was really really exciting to do.”
Ms. Blanchett’s character, Carol, is a wealthy woman who enjoys fashion so luxuries abound in fur coats, leather gloves, and pearls. Interesting choices were made, such as putting Carol in “sack” dresses a less girly alternative to Dior’s New Look, and the use of rich muted colors.
A little side story – my friend, Helen Uffner runs her own costume shop in Queens, NY. She provides costume pieces to many Hollywood designers as well as for Saturday Night Live and stage productions. She has worked with Sandy Powell a number of times providing costumes for films, including Carol. Helen says:
It so happened that this vintage, heavy 40s beaver coat was originally mine, one of my earliest vintage buys that hung in my closet for decades. It was so heavy and took up so much room I brought it to work.
We actually took a photo of Sandy trying it on and exclaiming this was exactly what she had in mind and exactly the style and shoulders and size and color she envisioned for her actress and it made her day! So it went from my closet to Sarah Paulson’ s shoulders!
You can catch Helen’s vintage fur coat in the car scene when Sarah Paulson (Carol’s friend Abby) in a NYC car scene.
Great story Helen, thank you!
Congratulations to Sandy Powell for her double nomination.
Check back tomorrow and read about Paco Delgado costumer designer for The Danish Girl.