Lily James is Cinderella in Disney’s costume live-action feature inspired by the classic fairy tale. And there was no fairy godmother to make this gown, which took 500 hours to make.
It took 270 yards of fabric, more than 10,000 Swarovski crystals, 4 miles of thread (for one petticoat alone) and 3 miles of hems, but Cinderella’s new dress is a dream come true.
“I have to say, it came with the most pressure and highest expectations out of anything I’ve ever done,” says costume designer Sandy Powell.
The three-time Oscar winner for “Shakespeare in Love” (1999), “The Aviator” (2005) and “The Young Victoria” (2010) spent two years coming up with the costumes for Disney’s first live-action film version of “Cinderella,” opening on March 13.
And no look was bigger than the magical gown that lovely little orphan Ella (Lily James of “Downton Abbey”) wears for her grand entrance at the royal ball. Each of the nine versions of the dress used in the film took 18 tailors 500 hours to complete.
Model Coco Rocha is enchanted by the reimagined gown. “It’s beautiful,” she told the Daily News while launching her own Cinderella-inspired clothing line with HSN.
She pointed out the butterflies on the neckline of the new dress, which she incorporated into her own collection. “There is a story there in that it’s transitioning — the poor to riches, hence the butterfly,” she says. “I’m obsessed with ‘Cinderella.’ I watched [the original movie] hundreds of times. I memorized it word-for-word. I’m still a little girl in a woman’s body. And me personally, I would wear this gown out on the street. I love to dress up.”
She’s not alone. Girls around the world have grown up coveting the silvery-blue ballgown and glass slippers immortalized by the 1950 Disney animated movie.
Now the Magic Kingdom’s most memorable princess dress and dazzling heels are not only being brought to life on the big screen for the first time, but also being introduced to a new generation. So Powell was careful to respect the original while playing fairy godmother 65 years later.
For example, after considering every other color under the rainbow for the dress, she simply had to come back to Cinderella’s signature blue.
“There really wasn’t anything else that would have worked as well,” she says, adding, “and if I had gone to Disney with a yellow or pink ballgown, they would have said, ‘It has to be blue!’”
But she couldn’t resist putting her own spin on the shade, so she blended her hues to create an iridescent gown.
“You don’t want to get bored with one solid shade of blue,” Powell explains. “The overriding color on the top layer is cornflower blue, but then there’s other blues and greens and lilacs all mixed together, and they move around each other for a final effect which is like a watercolor.”
The full ballroom skirt is layered with silk crepoline and super-fine polyester over a cage of crinoline. The thousands of tiny crystals add a subtle sprinkle of fairy dust.
“I didn’t want her to look like she was covered in crystals, but I wanted the dress to light up,” says Powell. “You can’t have Cinderella without sparkle.”
Powell also loosened the more-structured 1950 silhouette, which had a fitted bodice and peplum over a full floor-length skirt. The new gown flows more freely. She also cinched the petite actress’s 22-inch waist with a corset to make it look even tinier against the voluminous skirt.
“I wanted a silhouette with a much bigger diameter in the skirt,” says Powell. “The most important thing she has to do in that dress is dance and run away, so it had to move beautifully.”
She shocked Disney purists across the globe by stripping down the original Cinderella’s chic accessories — including cap sleeves, long opera gloves and a black choker necklace — to just an off-the-shoulder neckline covered with tiny butterflies.
“I wanted it to look like a puff of smoke,” says Powell. “She has to stand out, and I didn’t want to do that with her dripping in jewels or looking very ornate. She is supposed to be very simple and pure. It’s about the silhouette and the color and the movement.”
The 2015 Cinderella also lets her hair down, shaking out the original’s French twist for free-flowing golden locks.
“She is the only one at the ball with her hair down, and without any jewelry,” says Powell. “She doesn’t need it.”
But one accessory the Disney princess can’t live without is her enchanting glass slippers — which are brought to life in Swarovski crystal.
“I wanted it to look magical and to actually sparkle, not just be glass and see-through,” explains Powell. “It needed to reflect and refract the light.”
The 1950s slipper featured a low heel with a loafer-like front topped by a sparkly heart. But the 2015 pair kicks things up with 5-inch heels and sparkling butterflies in lieu of bows.
Spoiler alert: James never actually wore these fairy tale heels because the shape of the shoe — and the inflexible crystal — made them useless as footwear. The sparklers were later CGI’d onto the actress’s feet instead.
“They’re very high, super high, impossibly high,” gushes Powell. “Nobody can walk in them.”
But a girl can still dream — which is sort of the point.
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