WhatIWore: I’ve always been a big fan of period pieces and recently had the chance to ask a few questions to Academy Award Winning costume director Sandy Powell, the costume director of The Young Victoria. If you haven’t seen the film yet, you’ll be in awe of all of the dresses and hairstyles (and the men’s costumes were amazing as well!)
What I Wore: When costuming a well documented historical figure, such as Queen Victoria, how many of the costumes are inspired by your research versus exactly replicated?
Sandy Powell: The only costumes in the film I tried to copy exactly were the wedding dress and the black mourning dress worn after the death of the king. The rest of the dresses I designed myself but based on those found in all the portraits.
WIW: I loved the details, especially the seaming (those shoulders!) and the sleeves! How did you research those aspects of the costume?
SP: All the research in terms of how a period costume is put together is done either by studying portraiture and paintings from the period or by looking at the actual garments.
WIW: Some of Victoria’s costumes were worn twice during important parts of the film (the strawberry dress, dark green/blue dress, cornflower blue dress) and it seemed like those had subtle significance in the plot. Is that something you suggested to the director or he asked you to coordinate?
SP: I would actually decide which dresses were worn in which scenes and some dresses are deliberately repeated to show that she was a real person who wears their clothes more than once! Also it would be impossible and unrealistic to have her in a different dress for each scene as there were so many of them! I do try to choose dresses for the scenes that reflect the mood of the scene in some way, however subtle.
Thank you to Jason for arranging the interview and to Sandy for answering my questions!
And a bonus treat - some of the original sketches along with the final costumes.