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Colleen Atwood: The Unique Genius Behind Alice In Wonderland’s Costumes

Colleen Atwood: The Unique Genius Behind Alice In Wonderland’s Costumes

It had been a while since I re-watched the works of Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland. This family film classic is an astonishing take on the 1865 Lewis Carroll book “Alice’s Adventures Underground”. With an imaginative book such as this, there are mounds of material that have been reworked and represented over the years. This 2010 masterpiece is a visual phenomenon, bringing a truly creative tale to life. Not only is the cinematic aspect ground-breaking, but the costume design by Colleen Atwood is breathtaking and is something I MUST touch upon.

When viewing your favourite films, you may see past the artistic workings of the costume design. In every movie, there is a design team to bring everything together, all down to the nitty-gritty details. Alice In Wonderland is a vast combination of concepts that inspires many to undertake their version. A version we were lucky enough to be graced with in our lifetime is the genius that is Tim Burton. His specific aesthetic is a marvellous attribution to the film community, which flourished across the Alice In Wonderland film adaptation. Re-watching the movie jogged my memory and fed my fashion appetite.

The Challenge

Oscar Winner Colleen Atwood was the genius artist behind the costume design for the film, working alongside Tim Burton to create a real-life depiction of Alice’s adventures. One of Atwood’s biggest challenges was altering the designs depending on Alice’s size. The character repeatedly shrinks and grows throughout her journey; therefore, her garments change, too. To elaborate stylish yet relevant clothing, Colleen Atwood would add humour and style to the dresses, choosing a corset fit when Alice grew and a draping oversized gown when she shrunk. Whether this was an obvious choice or not, it was pretty genius! 

Atwood chose to represent a vintage line of clothes within the 1800s, relating to when the film was set and when the book was published. These Victorian-styled garments are elegant and classy and to the purpose of background. The gothic and quirky flare consume the adaptations of these ‘old-timey’ costumes, reflecting the queerness of the story. This is an aspect I adore; it is truly an inspiring alteration of old-fashioned clothing.

Confiding in a strict colour scheme, we saw linked looks that featured red, black, white and blue. Four strong colours that blended perfectly when it came to production. The innocence of the calm blues that grew more tattered and dull as the film progressed couldn’t have been a coincidence! Not to mention Alice’s switch from blue to ferocious red was a striking stance.

The Mad Hatter’s Design by Atwood

When it came to the Mad Hatter’s design, it was a close collaboration between Atwood, director Burton and actor Johnny Depp. They formed a concept of a psychedelic twist amongst the strange character, unveiling a quirky look filled with detail and oddity. Throughout the film, Hatter’s coat is set to change colours depending on his mood; they use layers of sheer material sensitive to light. A minor detail that showcases the intelligence behind his design.

A humorous addition to Hatter’s outfit is the mobile bow accessory! If you look closely at the Hatter’s reactions, the bow is erect when he is happy and droopy when he is upset. Petite accessories can be found across Depp’s costumes referencing The Hatter’s occupation, with a collection of sewing tools and excessive ribbon. 

The Red Queen

My favourite piece from the film is the red, white and black dress Alice is gifted upon meeting the Red Queen. This captivating dress is a piece of art that includes many selling points for me. The stripes, dots and hearts form a cluster of shapes and patterns that repeat the reference to oddity. The sheer white material makes a gorgeous blend with the beautiful red fabric. We have a scattered form by the varying lengths, hems and shapes, which is another aspect of the odd nature.

The continuity of the queer features was a must-have for the movie in which Atwood was successful. With all of these attributes combined, it made for an astounding product. 

Colleen Atwood is certainly a favourable designer, and her work is definitely Award-winner-worthy! Her talent has no bounds, and as an audience, we need to appreciate the hard work that goes into the thought and construction of film costumes. It is an important part of television!

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