Thread By Thread: Costumes on Screen

Mirror, Mirror

Rachel Weiz posing as Snow White in Annie Leibovitz’s ad campaign for Disney

Blame it on the Royal Wedding or more likely the desire for escapism in the current world state of affairs, fairy tale are en vogue once more. Hollywood has churned up a host of modern re-tellings of classic fairytales for audiences. In Fall Television line up alone there are three shows that include fairy tale characters in a new setting. As for movies, even the studio that set the fairytale on film standard, Disney,  is keen on the trend, looking to produce an unnamed film about Cinderella with Amanda Seyfried attached at the titular character.  Joe Wright is signed on to direct a version of The Little Mermaid and French director Catherine Brelliat has released her own version of Sleeping Beauty to rave reviews at the Venice Film Festicval. So that’s new versions of Aurora, Cinderella, Ariel, and we’re not even going to mention the aptly named Beastly that is the interpretation Belle’s tale. Snow White proved herself to be the fairest of them all is lined up with three interpretations coming out within the next year.  

Re-interpretation can be a difficult thing to balance for fairytales. You certainly want the character to still be recognizable to the audiences but also offer a fresh take while most importantly remaining   pretty. Snow White’s tale in its most recognizable form was introduced in the Grimm Brother’s tome of fairytales. Her looks are described  before her birth even, when her mother picks her finger while sewing at her window her blood falls upon the snow collected on the windowsill causing her to wish for a daughter with skin as fair as snow, lips as red as blood and hair as black as the ebony window frame.  Her clothes themselves are never described, with the except of the fact that  a la Bellatrix Lestrange she is almost strangled by a corset, a plot point left out of most modern interpretations. So let’s take a look at the apple loving princess costume interpretations.

Snow White and The Seven Dwarfs

The quintessential Snow White interpretation

Alright so it’s not really a costume per say but Disney set the bar for how Snow White should look with his groundbreaking first film.  While technically aged 14 in this interpretation Snow White’s body is actually based on a grown woman. Her head was drawn to be slightly larger as to relate her to the dwarfs she befriends. Her signature ebony hair is styled into a shoulder bob and was actually considered too dark upon first rendering, causing animators to go back and add wisps of light gray to hair. Disney and his team of animators decided to go with a traditional German look in the 16th century for her dress in homage to the land of the story’s origin. She does have dainty yellow slippers that are more in line with 1920s women’s shoes than any classic shoes. Her dress features a full yellow skirt and a fitted blue bodice with contrasting blue and red puff sleeves, topped off by a high white collar. She also dons an half length blue cape lined with red to match her signature red bow in her hair. This look is what majority of modern audiences sees as Snow White and expect the character to be seen within the same color scheme in subsequent interpretations.

Fairest of Them All

Red is commonly used in Snow White costumes as an allusion to her fruit of downfall and the blood that is shed in the story of her.

A live action made for TV film of the story was produced several years ago with a fairly decent cast called Fairest of Them All.  Kristin Kruek of Smallville and Noxema commercial fame was cast as Snow White and fits the bill perfectly looks wise. Costume designer Nancy Bryant tackled the challenge of dressing the princess for the film. Drawing upon the deigned Disney color palate Bryant clothed Kruek in red medieval inspired gowns. Forgoing the blue, Bryant traded yellow in for gold and added a delicate gold snow flake wreath crown on her head. Bryant also made sure to include embroidered snowflakes on her costumes to remind viewers of her namesake. The costumes come off as very rich and pop on screen against the earthen colors around her.

Bryant even included a white collar in reference to the original Disney design.

The Brothers Grimm: Snow White

Snow White appears almost sickeningly sweet in a bubblegum pink bodice with leafed embroidery and puffy minty green sleeves paired with a floral patterned full skirt.

The movie studio Relativity is currently filming an adaptation of Snow White, which tells the story in a more comedic way and follows the Grimm Brothers tale more closely. The film does feature a more modern mind set Snow who even gets to join in on some sword fighting as she fights for her throne. Additional plot twists come in the fact that Prince Charming doesn’t just swoop on at the last second to save the day with a kiss but is a pawn in the play for power between Snow White and her Wicked Stepmother. Up and coming actress Lily Collins was chosen for the titular role, and famed Japenese costume designer Eiko Ishioka was chosen to design the films costumes. From the promotional photo released of Snow White Ishioka has maintained the basic silhouette that Disney established and played up the sweetness of the character in bright colors and abundant flower prints and embroidery. The looks of the character so far suggest the film may be taking a caricatured approach to the classic story for laughs and looks.

Snow White and The Hunstman

While not your common Princess , Atwood included nods to the original tale in the shield Snow White carries.

Universal Studios is also launching its own version of the tale in Snow White and The Hunstman. Meant to be a trilogy the film tells the story of Snow White as a runaway Princess who was trained in the art of war by the very huntsman who was sent out by her wicked stepmother to kill her. Academy Award  winning costume designer Coleen Atwood serves as the films costume designer. Gone are Snow White’s usual girly dresses and instead in dressed in fitted lace up pants and what appears to be a medieval inspired blue overcoat beneath a set of silver armor. Atwood’s distinctive look can be seen clearly in the promotional photo of Kristen Stewart as Snow White. From the pictures we can even see that Snow White has a dark brown mane instead of her usual black hair. The film certainly will present and new Snow White to audience, hopefully much to their enjoyment.

Once Upon A Time

Snow White dons a Modern take on a Mid-Victorian silhouette for her wedding day.

In ABC’s new fall show, Snow White gets her Prince and a happy ending…for a while. After the birth of her child Snow and Prince Charming find themselves transferred into our own reality via a curse, their memories of their fairytale lives erased until their full-grown daughter returns to break the spell.  The show will feature flashbacks to their “idyllic” pasts, and a fanciful realm must be created. ABC choose Costume Designer Eduardo Castro , who had previously worked with the company on Ugly Betty, to design the characters in both realities.  The show opens in the fairytale world and we get to first see ingénue Snow White in her famous enchanted sleep. From trailers it appears as if Snow sticks to her signature color in her wardrobe too. The dresses she dons are fanciful and detailed and are modeled after  19th century gowns.  Castro also makes nod to another version of the Snow White story (A non-Grimm version!) in which the Prince wishes for a bride with skin as white as snow, etc after hunting and killing a snow goose, by placing feathers on various gowns seen. Viewers can expect to see some correlation in the characters modern day costumes to their fairytale lives. The show offers multiple interpretations of the same characters in both realities, a fun and exciting challenge for Castro!

An expectant Snow White takes on more of a Romantic Regency look than her earlier design.

The trendsetting mouse himself, Disney, is even jumping on the re-interpretation bandwagon and is in pre-production for a kung-fu style telling of the story called Snow and Seven in which Snow White is a Asian princess who runs away to a monastery to train under seven monks to challenge her wicked stepmother to the throne. Classic fairytales and their themes have and will continue to arise again and again in our culture, each time capturing a new audience.

This entry was published on September 27, 2011 at 4:35 pm. It’s filed under Entertainment, Sep. 2011 and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

4 thoughts on “Mirror, Mirror

  1. I’m looking forward to a different take on Snow White characters. I’ve been enjoying Once Upon a Time and am looking forward to the movies.

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