Full of Whoa . . .
When Academy Award-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood signed on to Wednesday, the 12-time Emmy-nominated series from creators and showrunners Miles Millar and Alfred Gough, she knew she wanted to craft contemporary looks for the title character of Wednesday Addams, the delightfully devilish only daughter of famously macabre parents Morticia and Gomez Addams played by Emmy-nominated actor Jenna Ortega.
“Wednesday’s style is sort of a combination of outsider fashion mixed with a kind of classic stability of style,” says Atwood, who recently received an Emmy nomination for her work on the series. Giving new meaning to the phrase “black comedy,” the designer updated Wednesday’s notoriously dark wardrobe to reflect the now-adolescent character’s evolution, while staying true to her personality. “It was a real combo of designer [apparel] mixed with clothes for people that age . . . she was kind of cool and hip.”
A longtime collaborator of Tim Burton, who directed Wednesday’s first four episodes and served as an executive producer, Atwood also created compelling costumes for the show’s stellar array of supporting characters, including the adults in the teenage heroine’s life. Working with her fellow Emmy-nominated team including co-designer Mark Sutherland, Atwood developed a range of silhouettes to complement Addams family matriarch Morticia as well as the women Wednesday encounters once she heads off to Nevermore Academy, a school for outcasts.
Here, Atwood tells Queue about her approach.
“I did Chicago with Catherine, so I’ve known her for a long time. I know her body pretty well from that show, and to her credit, it has stayed the same. She looks fantastic. With the Morticia dress, I was really trying to figure out how to keep the silhouette but maybe change materials. I did it in two or three different fabrications, one of which was leather, which looked really great, but it was too much for her. It just didn’t feel like a mom. It was too presentational. I had a satin version of it that was pretty good that we liked. The crepe version was probably closest to the original, and it had the right feeling for us. It was softer, it was gentler, and it was more approachable. I had this thing I’d done before with bonding a metallic [fabric] and a leather together, and then twisting and stitching it. My cutter was fooling around with that on the table, just randomly, and I saw it there and said, ‘Ooh, let’s put that on the dress.’ I pinned it up on the dress and it helped bring the shape in a little bit visually. It just gave it something so that it wasn’t a solid block of black all the way down. We changed the neckline from the original shape to suit Catherine, and that was her costume.”
“[Principal Weems’s look] was mainly [inspired by] The Birds — there was just something about Tippi Hedren and Gwendoline that connected, to me, visually. Gwendoline and I were thinking that this person would be somebody in the town that kept up with Glamour magazine and really cared about fashion. She was an ambassador for a very expensive, exclusive school, so her character would have to dress for events, be presentational. It wasn’t like she was a frumpy teacher in a great blazer. We didn’t really want to go there with her. And [Gwendoline] has tremendous personal style in her own life. So it was really fun to create this clothing that was timeless, with great pieces of jewelry and accessories and her hair all done just so and her makeup always perfect. [We] really created a character that was formidable, but not unsympathetic — [someone] that you just wanted to look at and who felt like she was a real person.”
“When Christina was cast . . . I talked to her about the character. She was the plant person that was a sort of earthy, so-called nurturing character. We thought she was odd, that she’d go to thrift stores and pick pieces and then have new clothes that she bought at JCPenney or whatever the local store would be. I gathered a huge amount of clothes, and we took it all up to her house and did the fitting with her. It was so amazing. When she got to Romania [where Wednesday was shot], Tim was really happy with how she looked, and she just sailed on.”