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Disney’s Alice Through the Looking Glass 2016: On Set with the Costume Design Team from Underland

It’s almost time to take another journey to “Underland” with Alice and her fantastical friends. Those of us who love Alice are beyond thrilled the characters are returning when Disney’s Alice Through the Looking Glass movie opens May 27th.

As you’d expect, Underland is as imaginative and colorful as ever. Written by Linda Woolverton and directed by James Bobin, we return to this fantastical world. And a big part of that unique look is seen in the whimsical, wacky and wonderful costumes designed by Colleen Atwood.

Atwood sees the role of costume design as a part of what it takes to help the actors create their characters. “Actually, it’s really a collaboration between costuming, hair, makeup, and the actors,” she says.

Sometimes an actor’s height, body shape or a particular way of moving can really influence the design. “Anne Hathaway has this ‘lighter than air’ quality,” Atwood explains. “The Mad Hatter is all about the hat. And, of course, when Johnny Depp puts it on… well, you can just imagine. Johnny does something magical with costumes. When he puts one on, his character comes to life in front of you.”

“The Mad Hatter is all about the hat. And, of course, when Johnny Depp puts it on… well, you can just imagine. Johnny does something magical with costumes.”

Even while she’s sketching, Atwood and her staff are already hard at work on the actual costumes. “The process is very short these days. It’s boots on the ground from the start,” she says. That means drafting patterns, building costumes of muslin for initial fittings and shopping for fabric. And it’s not always easy to find what they need.

“Sometimes we have to figure out how to take a basic material and turn it into something more interesting,” Atwood says. “For instance, we needed yards and yards of vintage-looking fabric for Alice’s Chinese-influenced costume. We knew we weren’t going to find that anywhere. And even if we did, vintage fabric is very, very fragile. One wrong move and… uh-oh! So, the textile department staff hand embroidered on 70 yards of basic blue silk to create the look we wanted.”

Naturally the fast pace and tight deadlines can lead to some nerve-wracking moments. “When we were creating the costume for the character of Time, Sacha Baron Cohen was extremely busy so we didn’t get him in to try on his costume until just a couple of days before he began filming. It was a bit scary,” Atwood admits. “But when he tried it on, he told me ‘you used all my ideas and your ideas and I’m very happy.’”

“Costume design is always an evolution”

There are ups and downs, of course. Sometimes an idea just doesn’t pan out. Then it’s back to the cutting board – literally. “Costume design is always an evolution,” Atwood says. “Sometimes it takes a few tries, but when you’re in a fitting and you look in the mirror and there is your vision standing in front of you, it’s a great feeling!”

“I’m always a little nervous the first time I see the completed film,” she admits. “I’m pretty self-critical at first, but later I can relax and quit obsessing about things like hemlines, and just have fun. And this film is going to be great fun!”

Disney Visa® Cardmembers, use your Disney Dream Reward Dollars® for vouchers toward movie tickets to head to Underland this Spring.1,2 We’re definitely going there, too. Anyone have a hat we can borrow?