Charlize Theron’s evil queen costumes for "Snow White and the Huntsman" called for hundreds of hand-cut rooster feathers, thousands of iridescent beetle wings from Thailand and one particularly imposing crown.
The outfits, some of which were on view at an LA pop-up gallery ahead of the film’s opening, represented a host of firsts for Academy Award-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood.
From the leather piping on the pleats of the queen’s wedding gown to the gauzy green metal trim on the beetle-wing dress, the nine-time Oscar nominee and three-time winner experimented with materials for director Rupert Sanders’ dark take on the classic fairy tale.
"The idea of the fairy tale sets you free in a way because you can make it up," Atwood said. "And I love to make up stuff."
She created an armored ensemble fit for a queen by dressing up chain mail with rolled leather and horsehair trim and topping it off with a particularly pointy metal crown.
"We wanted to have a formidable silhouette," Atwood said, "and from a distance it’s spooky with the crown and her height and everything." (Theron stands nearly six feet tall, the designer added.)
In Sanders’ version of the Snow White story, Kristen Stewart portrays the only woman in the land fairer than Theron’s evil queen Ravenna. The queen dispatches a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to kill the young woman, but instead he becomes her mentor and protector.
Atwood took on the project after finishing work on Tim Burton’s "Dark Shadows," starring Johnny Depp. Atwood and Burton are frequent and successful collaborators: Her most recent Oscar was for his 2010 film "Alice in Wonderland," and she earned nominations for her costumes in Burton’s "Sweeney Todd: The
Demon Barber of Fleet Street" and "Sleepy Hollow."
Atwood’s "Snow White" costumes are miles -- and eras -- away from "Dark Shadows."
"They don’t resemble each other in any way," she said, "so it was fun to shift from one to the other and have a whole different world to think about."
And slide right into. "Snow White" director Sanders said Atwood’s wardrobes "blend seamlessly into this world, and they speak volumes about the world and its characters."
Theron agreed. From the wedding dress, with its architectural shoulders that appear to be made from bones, to the twice-embroidered gown that eventually resembles an old, peeling skin, Atwood’s costumes reflect the evil queen’s obsession with appearances.
"Every costume had a feeling of not quite what it seems," Theron said. "In a way, these dresses were like torture devices for Ravenna. I love that because I feel like Ravenna was, in a way, more torturous toward herself than to the people she was killing."
To minimize the actual on-set torture, Atwood employed a team of about 50 people to help the actors in and out of the elaborate costumes.
But the beetle wings remain dangerous. Thousands of the hard, brittle wings decorate the evil queen’s regal dress of silk and metal mesh.
"They’re incredibly sharp, so I had to be careful about how I used them. If you hit them, you can hurt yourself," the designer said. "They’re quite treacherous, which really suited the character."