I have already covered some of the costumes from the opulent Mirror, Mirror on Thread By Thread but with an Oscar nomination the film understandably deserves a more in depth look. This film is costume designer Eiko Ishioka last film as she passed away from cancer and was even undergoing chemotherapy while working on the film. The elaborate fantasy costumes in this film remain a testament to her creative brilliance and understandably have earned her a nomination for an Academy Award. “She was not well during the movie; she was undergoing chemotherapy. But Eiko had only two gears: full-out or no gear at all. Her work kept her alive—it was her reason for being,” director Tarem Singh says of Eiko’s work on Mirror, Mirror.
The film is set in a fantasy realm, something which allowed Ishioka to freely create costumes without ties to a certain period. She turned then to classic fairytale motifs, everything got bigger, more exaggerated and became richer in color and many of the costumes harkened back to animals, something not often found in the real world. To create this elaborate Fairy Tale setting Ishioka had to create over 400 costumes, alter another 600 costumes in addition to creating unique masks, hats, jewelry and more at 4 major New York costume shops: Tricorne costumes, Jennifer Love Costumes, Carelli Costumes and Eric Winterling Costumes, in addition to her own shop in Montreal.
Looking at the first costume we see heroine Snow White in, it is the most “traditional” of the gowns it has the classic Disney Snow White silhouette but breaks away from tradition in the details. Snow may be a princess trapped inside the castle but her connection to nature is evident in the embroidery on her pink bodice as well as the flowers printed on her bright yellow skirt. The gown evokes nature and Snow’s desire to belong to it once more but also displays her sheltered life in that the colors she believes are in nature do not exist when she actually goes there.
In contrast the film gown we see the wicked Queen in is a sumptuous golden peach embroidered gown that reflects the Queen’s golden throne. The gown is large and imposing yet beautiful, reflective of the Queen’s reign and personality. The Queen imposes her power on her subjects by making them dress as decorative battleships, with literal model battle ships on their head.
Snow then literally decided to flee the castle donning a saffron yellow cape lined with pink silk which matches her gown beneath. “That is one of the most beautiful moments in the movie. She is like a ‘50s Technicolor character stepping into a black and white film,” Singh says of the outfit. In the forest we also encounter the charming Prince Alcott, he and his companion are then robbed by none other than Snow’s future friends, the Seven Dwarves. Whilst cavorting as bandits the dwarves don all metal masks that cover half of their faces, as well as unique stilts which spring up to give the dwarves advantage over their victims. Each dwarf has their own unique look though, all seven’s costumes are made of the same textured brown fabric.
After being rescued by Snow, Prince Alcott meets the Queen, where he is barely clothed and rather comically in old fashioned undergarments whilst having the Queen lust after him. The Queen is much to her own distress, dressed in a mustard yellow gown with a large ruffled neck, making her look very much like Elizabeth I. The Queen then throws an elaborate costume ball in order to woo the young prince. Upon returning, Snow hears of the ball and dons a beautiful white bustled ball gown complete with wings and a swan headpiece, all representing Snow’s desire to fly away from her step mother’s terrible world. The other guests are all similarly dressed as animals in white. The Queen breaks all the rules by appearing in and elaborate jewel tone red peacock inspired gown. She is escorted by Prince Alcott who also breaks the rules by wearing a black surcoat complete with red lining which matches the Queen’s gown, and is made a further fool by donning a rabbit eared top hat.
After finally “fleeing” the castle for good, Snow meets up with the Seven Dwarves who take her in. Ready to embrace the life of a do-good bandit Snow dons the more freeing black pants with a off the shoulder billowing blue shirt complete with a black corset embroideries with silver leaves. The whole outfit is more swashbuckling; Snow is empowered to take control of her kingdom and he clothes reflect that attitude. Once Prince Alcott comes along dressed in a deep purple sporting an Edwardian silhouette cut suit rather than the 18th century sported at court, showing his freshness to Snow’s world, she proves a worthy match to his own swashbuckling skills.
Meanwhile the Queen is busy with her own plotting to marry the young prince and her costumes grow more nefarious. The shoulders become more pronounced and sharp, most fabric in her costumes are in the shape of sharp blades. This motif of danger even continues onto the Queen’s wedding gown made of layers of points, which I covered here.
After finally defeating the wicked Queen and reuniting with her father, Snow married Prince Alcott. Her wedding gown forgoes the traditional white, and instead harkens back to the medieval period when brides wore blue. Ishioka designed the gown so Snow would look like a present, a reward to the audience for cheering her along. The voluminous orange bow on her dress was originally designed to be in red but was changed to orange to avoid comparisons to the Disney version. Snow’s red lips and donning of a beautiful tiara signify her transformation from a sheltered girl, to a Princess ready to reign and fight for her country.