Sandy Powell is no stranger to awards for her costume work. She has received three Oscars for The Young Victoria (2009), The Aviator (2004), and, Shakespeare in Love (1999), as well as nominations for: Carol, Hugo, Cinderella, The Tempest, Mrs. Henderson Presents, Gangs of New York, Velvet Goldmine, Wings of a Dove, and Orlando. So I wasn’t surprised to find out why the costuming for Wonderstruck was so good when I learned Sandy Powell had done the costuming.
The story takes place in New York in 1927 and 1977. All the 1927 scenes are filmed in black and white, and most take place in crowded streets where everyone is dressed similarly and walks at a fast clip. There are some scenes that take place in a theatre where actors are performing a dress rehearsal. The actors wear 18th century style costumes but with a 1920s sensibility of shiny lame and satin fabrics and too much make-up. The look is completely different in texture to the dull monotone scenes of everyday streetwear.
The 1977 scenes are the exact opposite of 1927. Vibrant, saturated colours with individual looks juxtapose the two New Yorks brilliantly. What is so incredibly difficult to figure out is if all the 1977 scenes are recreated or if original clips of film were spliced in – that’s how good the 1977 costuming is. As Sandy Powell would have been about 17 at the time, I suspect she is partially inspired by her memories of 1977 for capturing the feeling of the era. I am about her age, and it looks exactly how I remembered it!
It’s also a good story!