Film & Fashion – Wonderstruck

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.┬áSo 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!

About Jonathan

Jonathan Walford is a fashion historian and co-founder of the Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. The FHM maintains a collection of nearly 12,000 artifacts dating from the mid 17th century to the present. Jonathan has authored various books and museum catalogues, including The Seductive Shoe, Shoes A-Z, Forties Fashion, 1950s American Fashion, and Sixties Fashion.

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2 Responses to Film & Fashion – Wonderstruck

  1. Nancy Nichols says:

    Wow! I’ll look out for this. I’ve loved her work too. (I think I dated that guy in the red jeans and polyester figured shirt…. Nah, my friend was blonder…)
    Terrific post! I can usually spot the historic clips because city people in the 20s-70s were generally thinner. But it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that a costumer with a great eye was able to fool me!

    • Jonathan says:

      Apparently size can be a problem with extras for crowd scenes these days, if the wardrobe relies upon vintage. Also, for scenes with less clothing, tattoos can knock out a lot of extras.

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