'Cinderella' gowns, sets, and one impressive glass slipper: Inside scoop
Lily James as Cinderella (at left, in blue) with Richard Madden as the Prince
James, exiting her enchanted coach
"We had men with paints and brushes and gold leaf," says director Kenneth Branagh, "and every day we'd go in and look at [the carriage] blossoming. When it arrived on set there was a collective gasp."
A fantastical Fairy Godmother frock
Costume designer Sandy Powell was initially concerned that her costume for Helena Bonham Carter was too obvious. "It's like you gave a child a pencil and said, 'Okay, draw a fairy godmother,'" she says. "But I think it works." The voluminous, Swarovski-studded gown is more regal than the plain purple cloak worn by Cinderella's bibbidi-bobbidi benefactor in the animated film. And a touch more magical, too, thanks to 4,000 tiny LED lights wired to a battery pack the actress wore around her waist. "Helena enjoyed enormously the idea that a man had to get under her dress and turn her on," Branagh says.
Cinderella's ball gown
"I wanted the dress to look like a moving watercolor," says costume designer Powell of Cinderella's ball gown, shown here in an early sketch. "It's made of lots of different fabrics, lots of layers, and I used several different colors, which built up to make the moving blues."
Lady Tremaine's ball gown
The silk charmeuse dress that Cate Blanchett's Lady Tremaine wears to the ball is acid green—a visual reflection of her polluted soul. It was inspired by "'40s Dior with a bit of 19th century thrown in," says Powell. The Oscar-winning actress loved it, with one exception: "Navigating my way around a Portaloo was a particular challenge," Blanchett quips.
A ballroom fit for a princess
Seeking inspiration for the ballroom set, production designer Dante Ferretti says he "looked at a lot of French architecture, like the Louvre, the Palais Garnier, and the Hotel de Soubise, which all had these great long staircases." The grand room (seen here in a digital rendering) ultimately included a balcony big enough to accomodate a 36-piece orchestra and curtains made from 3,000 meters of embossed velvet and silk. Blanchett, for one, was impressed. "My jaw hit the floor," she says. "There was no need to suspend disbelief because it was extraordinary. I was ready to move in!"
The glass slipper
Made of Swarovski crystal, the famous footwear was more prop than costume. It was so delicate that Cinderella herself, Lily James, never wore it. "You had the fear of God whenever you held it," James says.
"Quite often, there's a lot going on in the men's costumes," Powell says. Madden's prince (right with Derek Jacobi as the king) wears white military garb that nods to the animated version. "All the embroidery was done using silver bullion in Pakistan, and it was also embellished with tiny crystals, barely visibly, to reflect the light."
Powell had one primary goal when designing the wardrobe for Cinderella's stepsisters (played by Holliday Grainger and Sophie McShera): Make them look silly. "I wanted really obvious, bright colors," she says.