Women Of Style: Colleen Atwood

The 3 Time Academy Award-Winning Costume Designer Shares Career Advice, Milestone Moments and More
Colleen Atwood Costume Designer

I am so excited this week to share some insight from one of my heroes and the preeminent costume designer in the world – Colleen Atwood. With three Academy Awards under her belt (for Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha and Alice in Wonderland) and a total of 10 Oscar noms, Colleen has played such an integral role in shaping storytelling and cinema – and of course, fashion. Who hasn’t been inspired by one of her incredible creations for Tim Burton? With her dedication to her craft, her leadership within the industry and her very admirable wisdom, she is the perfect embodiment of a Women of Style. – Mandana Dayani

Career

On her first job

"My first costume 'design job' was for the film division of Saturday Night Live, getting costumes for shorts that were made separately from shows."

dark-shadow-sketches
Sketches from Dark Shadows

How she knew what she wanted to do

"I didn’t really 'know' - I studied art and painting, always loved clothes and had to work to make a living. I started doing displays and worked in fashion, and ultimately moved to New York to get into film."

"My career advice: Be strong, be right, be fair."

Her most labor intensive costume

“Some of the costumes for Snow White were labor central. The feather cape was all hand-trimmed feathers individually placed on silk. It took two people two weeks to make.”

The biggest milestone moment in her career

"My first job on a real feature film – Firstborn."

 

snow-white
Sketches from Snow White and the Huntsman.

How it feels to win an Academy Award

"Scary! I am a behind-the-camera person. It is so 'out of body'. I can barely remember it."

Her creative process

"My creative process is pretty random. I absorb material, go into a zone and as I look around, and think, ideas come."

alice-sketches
Dress and sketch for Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland.

What people don't know about being a costume designer

"The long long days, the waking up, dressing crowds. It is not for people who do not want to work very hard; managing lots of people – crew and actors - is sometimes not realized as part of the job."

Why she doesn’t have one favorite project…

“I like the variety of projects that I have been able to work on. A continual shift keeps me excited. The challenge of making costumes appeals to me.”

Style & Personal Life

runway
Runway favorites: Gucci, Alexander Wang and Alexander McQueen.

Her favorite designers

“I am a huge fan of so many fashion designers – McQueen, Alaia, Gaultier, Lanvin, Alexander Wang and Gucci.”

How fashion influences her

“Fashion is fun to look at, and the variety is always inspiring.”

What's on the horizon

“I am designing a handbag collection, and looking forward to doing a collection of clothing in the future.”

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Wardrobe essentials: Oscar de la Renta Tweed Jacket ($2600) DKNY Mini Dress ($395), Tomas Maier Cashmere Turtleneck ($890).

Her fall shopping list

“It’s already winter! I love a bit of cashmere.”

The piece of clothing every woman should own…

“A great jacket can take you through a lot – And the ‘Little Black Dress’ is oft quoted for a reason.”

My after-work ritual: I love reading – it relaxes me.

The advice she would give to her 25-year-old-self

“Stay focused. The world is a great place to love and create. It is still possible to think without the internet.”

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