THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL
About The Costume Design
For Costume Designer Sandy Powell, who has been nominated for a total of seven Academy Awards®, winning Oscars® for her work on Shakespeare in Love and The Aviator, the chance to work on The Other Boleyn Girl represented a great challenge: Powell and her team were responsible for designing and making hundreds of original costumes true to the Tudor era.
Like her colleague, production designer John-Paul Kelly, Powell turned to the paintings of Hans Holbein for inspiration for the costumes of Henry and the Boleyns. "He was the only artist of the time painting the Court of King Henry, and in such detail. The accepted image of Henry today is from Holbein's painting that hangs in the National Gallery, with the king standing hands on hips, his legs astride. Of course, in our film, we are depicting Henry at a younger age, so we have our own Henry."
According to Powell, capturing the authentic look of the period while maintaining high levels of creativity and originality is a balancing act for any designer working in a specific period. "You always have to use artistic license; you can never be strictly authentic, and besides, no one knows what authentic is, anyway," she says. "We don't have complete information about the clothes, and we don't have the same fabrics. I do my research and then do my own version. I do what is right for the character, or the actor, or the scene, or the film as a whole. We have a story to tell."
One of the keys to the film is differentiating between Mary and Anne Boleyn. Powell explains, "There is not a great deal of variety in the shape or silhouette of a Tudor dress, and the girls shared the same life and moved mainly in the same circles, at home or at Court, so I used a difference in tone and shade to separate them. Mary's character is slightly softer and more romantic than Anne, who is seen as stronger and more forceful. So, without being as obvious as one girl in red and one in blue, I've dressed them in different hues."
Powell also used the costumes to subtly reflect the politics of the time. "For example, with the girls' father, Sir Thomas Boleyn, I've made each outfit a little bit grander than the last one, and finally a little bit vulgar towards the end. His power at Court is increasing, and with it, his wealth. Like a nouveau riche person today, he's got money and he wants to show it."
The designer does have one favorite costume: "Natalie wears the Lily Dress while riding a horse," she says. "It's bright green, with embroidered lilies up the front."
"Costumes are always very helpful," says Johansson, noting that it's especially true in a period piece. "The way you hold yourself, how grand you feel when you wear it. For Mary, her character changes as her costumes change. In the country, she has simple cotton dresses that are easier to work with. Later in the film, she becomes very motherly - a child on her hip - and in the huge court dresses, it's impossible. You feel the change of character."
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