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Costume Analysis: Lady Tremaine (Cinderella’s Stepmother)

My next big project is making one of Lady Tremaine’s outfits from the live action Cinderella movie. I love the dress she wears when she first arrives. Isn’t it fabulous? I have been spending many hours to trying to figure out the details and source the materials.

Lady_Tremaine_with_her_daughtersHere’s a movie clip. Don’t you love the way the dress flows?

Her outfit consists of 3 main parts: the chartreuse green/black bodice, the black underskirt, and the green and black overskirt. The underskirt is easy enough to figure out; from the video and promotional photos you can see it is a tight black velvet column skirt with a slit in the back. The bodice and overskirt took a lot more research (aka Googling photos, rewatching the Youtube clip over and over, and buying a doll).

The narrow underskirt with a full skirt and tight bodice is a silhouette that appears in many of her outfits, such as this one, this one, this one, and this one. (The last shows that the overskirt is pleated).

The bodice looks yellow in some photos, and even some websites refer to it as yellow. However, Sandy Powell’s sketch is green, and the official doll has a green bodice.

960x540IMG_5657In the end I decided the bodice is a chartreuse that looks yellow in certain light. I found a lovely high-res still here, which made me realize that the bodice isn’t just sparkly, it is sequined! (I highly encourage you to see the full-sized photo to appreciate the details). The sequined fabric is then covered with black velvety flowers. I quickly realized that finding a flocked sequined fabric is very, very hard, unless you like cheetah print. I briefly considered using a flocked damask, but that is not at all like Lady Tremaine’s fabric. That means I have to make my own by applying appliques to sequined fabric.

The sequins are also arranged in neat rows, and each one is quite small and flat. It is easy to find the large, randomly arranged beveled sequins when shopping for sequined fabric, but maddeningly difficult to find something that doesn’t look like a Vegas showgirl costume.  Many times I would find the right color, but not the right size sequin, or the right arrangement, but not the right color. I finally had to make a special request of a shop located in India to get something close.

Cate Blanchett is the Stepmother in Disney's live-action feature CINDERELLA, directed by Kennth Branagh.

The overskirt consists of multiple layers. There is a green base fabric (which could be silk satin or taffeta) that is covered by a layer of black organza, which is decorated with beautiful chartreuse flowers. (It reminds me of a gorgeous chartreuse gaufraged velvet I found years ago at a store that is now out of business, but alas it was $100/yard). There is a black border across the bottom that I think is just the organza folded over and appearing darker, and it appears that the organza and green fabric are flat-lined together.  I can see a glimpse of some green fabric at her hem so there is possibly a green skirt beneath the green/black floral skirt, or perhaps the organza and green base fabric aren’t flat-lined together after all.

IMG_5644Since buying the perfect flocked organza or velvet burnout fabric is impossible, I will have to cut and apply the appliques myself. Madness!

I do not know what the inside of the overskirt looks like, but based on the hint of green seen in the hem I think that the inside is also green, instead of being lined with black organza. Given the yardage required, double-faced silk satin is a little out of my budget, so I am going to use 2 layers of regular satin.

The way the doll’s clothing is constructed might give some clues. There is only one layer of green satin, a layer of organza with velvet flowers, then a final layer of organza on top of that.

IMG_5658Obviously, some sacrifices in the construction had to be made for the doll, but I found it interesting that there is a top layer of organza over the flocked layer, whereas I can’t see one in the film. (Perhaps I might end up using 2 layers of organza anyway if one layer doesn’t look dark enough over the green but I’m not sure about covering the appliques unless they turn out too brightly neon).

This picture taken by Maison Mouse shows that the skirt is cut so full it wraps around the front a bit, even though the pleating or gathering ends at the sides of the hips.


In this screenshot I took of the film clip you can see the silhouette from the side. I’m not sure how much of it is due to the fullness caused by the pleating in the back, or if that is a small bum pad under the skirts, but that is something I will have to experiment with as well.

Screen Shot 2015-08-12 at 9.06.11 PMLady Tremaine’s accessories can be seen clearly in the high-res photo linked earlier: she wears a pair of black suede gloves; a black velvet scarf; gold and citrine brooch, earrings, and bracelet; a veil; black and green high-heeled boots; and a dramatic hat. The hat is semi-transparent and decorated with birds and flowers. The hat that came with the doll is a nice reproduction!

IMG_5654Getting 100% screen accurate will be impossible, especially because of the appliques and exquisite details, but I am aiming to get a costume that is recognizable, even if I have to take some small shortcuts. This project is going to be a lot of work, but it will be a great learning experience. So far I have 22 yards of fabric, and I am not done buying!


I have found more photos of the bodice seams, courtesy of the Hollywood Movie Costume Blog!

Please see my new post to see details about the back and interesting elbow seam:

A preview here:

Cinderella lady tremaine costume

Photo courtesy of Jason Morgan of the Hollywood Movie Costume Blog.