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How 'Wednesday' Costume Designer Created Jenna Ortega's Looks

"You're always trolling for stuff, no matter where you are in the world." Wednesday costume designer Colleen Atwood talks about the inspiration behind each of Wednesday Addams' wicked looks on the hit Netflix show. From screening fabrics to comparing collar shapes, Colleen breaks down every intricate detail that went into curating the bloody perfect wardrobe for Jenna Ortega. Director: Juliet Lopez Director of Photography: Grant Bell Editor: Alana McNair Producer: Funmi Sunmonu Line Producer: Romeeka Powell Associate Producer: Emebeit Beyene Production Manager: Andressa Pelachi Production Coordinator: Kariesha Kidd, Anthony Wooten Talent Booker: Mica Medoff Camera Operator: Shay Eberle-Gunst Sound : Kari Barber Production Assistant: Brock Spitaels Set Designer: Matt Mulligan Post Production Supervisor: Edward Taylor Post Production Coordinator: Jovan James Supervising Editor: Kameron Key Assistant Editor: Justin Symonds

Released on 08/24/2023


I found it in Romania at Zara and I was like,

Oh my god, I can't believe this is here.

You're always trolling for stuff no matter where you are

in the world when you do something like this.

Hi, Vanity Fair.

I'm Colleen Atwood, costume designer for Wednesday Addams,

along with Mark Sutherland, my associate.

Today, I'm going to be talking

about how we created the wardrobe world of Wednesday.

With Tim Burton, I've had a long-time collaboration.

My first job with Tim was on Edward Scissorhands,

which was a great way to start.

I had worked with the production designer, Bo Welch,

before on something and he had recommended me to Tim.

And he actually hired me in the interview,

which he's kind of the only guy that's done that in my life.

He's like, Yeah, you know, you wanna do it?

And I'm going, Yes, of course.

We've done 13 features together

and a couple other art projects

and other things that Tim does.

We've had a long-time shorthand,

which is a wonderful way to work with a fellow artist.

Tim and I discussed Wednesday Addams together

as we had kind of with Alice,

that you feel like when something's as well known

and well established as the Addams Family story

and the characters,

that there's a beginning where you want to nail that

and say This is that person.

It's recognizable.

It's an homage to more than 30 years of evolution.

We decided that the first thing would be the dress

with the white collar.

The only person who gets to torture my brother is me.

[dramatic music]

[Colleen] The first step in creating a costume

is finding the material.

I found the fabric first

and I had two or three versions of it.

And I over-dyed it, I did some playing around with it,

and I landed on the fabric that the dress itself

is made out of, which is a rayon fabric

with a little white flower woven in.

Ultimately, of course,

'cause there's never enough fabric anywhere.

I ended up screening fabric to match the original fabric.

So that was the first step,

and the second step was doing all these

different collar shapes to show Tim.

So I did those on a dress stand originally,

just shooting them, sending him, you know, blasts of photos,

like Do you like this one? This one?

So we ended up making two or three

for our first test with Jenna.

The shape of the dress was the classic shape

of a Victorian dress without structure.

The shoes were kind of a fun element

'cause I saw these strapped Dior shoes that were really,

to me, a little bondage-y, a little Wednesday.

This particular costume, we didn't have to have tons of.

There's a young Wednesday in the show

so it's the same fabric or very similar.

I had to have enough for two for her

because when you have children you always have two

unless you're really walking the line.

For Wednesday herself,

I think we probably made three dresses

just so we were covered.

In this particular project,

I was pretty much in concert with the production designer

because I'd seen his concept art early

so I knew what colors they were going to use.

They were building big sets

so we had to know what they looked like ahead of time.

We shot as much as we could sequentially.

So this was Wednesday entering school,

with the regular school before she went to Nevermore.

We sort of pushed the color around her,

which is something, as a designer,

you sometimes do to make your costumes stand out

a little bit more than they would normally in a room.

And that particular sequence

was sort of based on Tim's Burbank past.

It was all the pastels, almost California-looking classroom.

Tim came up with the idea of the piranha in two plastic bags

held up to dump into the pool.

The first fittings I had were for this scene

so I fitted the lacrosse team.

We were really in the like Speedo world for a while.

They were figuring out just the right color

and everything for the scene,

which you kind of don't really see.

But all those things come into play

when you're designing a costume.

Like you would never put the team

in a black and white costume.

You'd put them in red or blue

or a kind of classic, anti-black and white color scale

♪ Scales on scales on scales on scales ♪

♪ On scales on scales on scale on scales ♪

[Colleen] This shows you kind of can pop Wednesday

by the colors that you put her around.

And Tim and I came to a early point

where we wanted the uniforms to be purple and black.

We really wanted her

to have her black and white-only uniform.

And we played around with it

and I ended up having to have the fabric

for these costumes woven

because nothing was the right color of purple.

It was either too dark or too pink or there were issues.

So a company actually wove the wool for me.

When it came to Wednesday's costume,

I couldn't find a stripe that I liked

that was gray and black.

I had this idea of silk screening the stripes on fabric

so I could get a stripe

that wasn't just a hard black and gray stripe,

but that could be graded on the two sides

and not a regular stripe.

I've done it before. I did it in Sleepy Hollow.

I've done it in other movies where I've hand painted stripes

or done them just to get away from the relentlessness

of a woven stripe.

I scaled the stripes down a little bit on her

because of her size,

and I thought it gave her a delicacy

that the other costumes didn't have.

We played around with the art department

with the Nevermore emblem for a while

and then we just came up with something that was more

like a clean, simple graphic, which is very Tim Burton.

And then the collar was inspired

by a Carnaby Street shirt that I saw in an old reference

from the sixties that was like a high stand

with a little fine rollout.

So she's kind of a combo of a lot of different ideas

put together.

Her shoes were a big point in the story

that she didn't wear sneakers

and she didn't wear girly shoes,

but she wore these black, kind of goth shoes

that were still feminine,

but had a different edge to the other people's footwear.

You were very impressive in there.

[Colleen] This look here,

which is a Wednesday casual look,

it's almost dressy compared to her other outings looks.

And when you start designing

with the limitations of black and white,

it's daunting because we really started to lean

into texture and surface on clothing

in order to sort of contrast the sort of feeling

of the black and white.

So when I found this little,

I call it the potholder sweater

'cause it reminds me of those crochet projects

that you had in school.

And I found it in Romania at Zara, and I was like,

Oh my God, I can't believe this is here.

You're always trolling for stuff no matter where you are

in the world when you do something like this.

We were looking for the prom dress, thinking about it,

and I always thought it would,

I'd find this amazing vintage dress

that I could re-zhuzh for the prom dress

'cause, conceptually, it had to be something

that she found in the local thrift store.

So it had to kind of looks like it could come

from that world without being too, too much.

I kept looking at fifties prom dresses

and I just didn't see anything that I loved.

And so I was starting to make one.

And then randomly, for another thing,

I was walking down Bond Street in London.

I glanced into the Alaia store

and I saw the dress on a mannequin in the upstairs.

And I went in with my assistant, who's very petite,

I asked the guy if she could try the dress on.

I didn't know what the choreography was gonna be,

but I had her swish around in it

so I could see how it moved and stuff.

I just said, This is just the dress.

I just knew it. I didn't even question it.

And when Jenna saw it, she loved it.

We scaled it down for her a little bit

because it had, it was a lot of dress

and I just kind of modified it a bit for the show.

And then of course she runs through the woods in it.

So we had to manufacture it ourselves

and we made probably four or five copies of it.

So it was a very painstaking, labor-intensive process.

Afterwards, I spoke to the people at Alaia

because I was trying to get a dress for a display,

and they said,

You know, that was the only dress we made like that

because it isn't really their usual vibe at all.

It was probably just somebody's dream project

in the workroom.

And it ended up there and it ended up on her going viral.

It was so crazy.

My first fitting I that I had with Jenna for the show

about her wardrobe, she's very open,

she's very collaborative, and she always says,

Colleen, I trust you.

So we had a all-day session with her,

with hair and makeup, figuring out who she was gonna be,

and it really came together in a great way.

And then halfway through the day,

we brought in Emma who plays Enid.

Wait, you're joining the Black Cats.

You're willing to do that for me.

[Colleen] They were so in tandem in my head visually.

They were yin and yang.

I didn't really want Enid to look like a puffy pink object.

You know, too girly, not with a little bit of edge.

She was a wolf person. She had her nails that sprung out.

She had things that happened with her clothes

that had to relate to her character.

So I used graphics on her costumes to balance Wednesday.

She's very apart from people

and I think she feels as much an outsider as Wednesday,

but on the surface looks way like an insider.

Any plans you have of running away end right now.

[Colleen] The first time I met Catherine Zeta-Jones

on this show, I met her on Zoom.

And I know her 'cause I did Chicago with her.

She came on the Zoom and she had her hair really straight,

her makeup on.

She says, I thought I'd do my hair like this,

have these really red lips.

You know, she was ready for work,

like she's a very prepared professional.

And we talked about the dress and that, you know,

we sort of wanted to pay homage to the original black dress,

but eventually branch out from it.

I made three versions of the dress.

I made one in leather that was really great,

but maybe it was too much.

It felt too costume-y.

And then I made one in a kind of harder kind of silk.

And then I made one in this jersey.

And the jersey is probably the most similar

to the traditional Morticia dress.

With Catherine, we changed the hard V neckline

in the cartoons into a more kind of gentle neckline

that was great for her

and it worked better with the long black hair.

And I also, you don't see them here,

but I have these two little inserts I did

that were silver on one side and black on the other

that kind of twisted around

to try to keep some highlights in the black

with digital photography.

And it actually helped kind of give a more exaggerated shape

to her body.

But it comes and goes on screen. You don't always see it.

Sometimes a sharp tongue can cut deep.

When you get a guy like Luis, you make it to work on him.

He's a joy to work with.

He just embraces costume so much and enjoys the process.

And knows that he's not like an easy guy to put clothes on,

but he still loves clothes

and doesn't give you a hard time about it.

So what I did is I took the traditional stripe fabric,

but I did all kinds of darts in it.

I didn't want the stripes to get round on him.

I wanted him to stay square like a drawing.

And then I gave him a slightly earlier cut

to the suit than we'd seen before.

It's not Victorian,

but it's more like a early-Edwardian kind of shape,

which I liked for him.

When I met with Gwendoline Christie,

I had in my house in London at the time

an old poster from The Birds.

Beautiful colors with a half shot of Tippi Hedren.

There was just something about the vibe of that

that resonated the minute I saw Gwendoline and I said,

You know, this is really weird, but I have this idea.

And she was like, Oh yeah, that's great.

So then we talked about the structure on these costumes.

You have to have a really strong understructure

for the clothes to sit right on the body.

And we just came up with all these menswear fabrics,

but really the finest of the fine menswear fabric.

Cashmere and wool blends,

things that would still look feminine

even though they're tailored like a men's garment.

And then hair and makeup sort of fell into that

with a French twist and the lips.

And Tim loved it.

He was just like,

Whoa, I would never have thought of that.

And it was like so great

because when you design a show like this,

you have her, you have Christina Ricci,

you have all these different characters

that you want to look different and kind of otherworldly,

but be part of a world.

That sort of more frumpy kind of vibe

worked great for Christina's character

and I really want to veer away from it for Weems.

I think for me, the thing that got me most interested

in Wednesday was a really good collection of screenplays,

with the idea of doing a project like this with Tim.

As a designer, my approach to both series and features

is pretty much the same.

It's like a character-evolved journey.

And I was really happy as we went along

and sort of got Enid, Wednesday, Weems,

my Christina Ricci character.

To me, the excitement is not just creating the costumes,

but creating the world they live in.

So creating the people around them

and the whole thing, to me, is part of that process.

Thanks Vanity Fair.

I'm Colleen Atwood

and I can't wait for you to see what we do in season two.