Posted by: Reluctant runner | May 3, 2010

Alice in Wonderland – Vintage costume heaven

Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland 2010

A review of Alice in Wonderland, 2010.

Tim Burton’s most recent film, Alice in Wonderland 2010, is an adaption of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which was published in 1865.  After over a year of hype I was eager to see it, partly because I love and admire his work (and all Johnny Depp related screen time), and partly because I have been fascinated with Wonderland since childhood.  This addiction to all things strange and unusual (a reference to Beetle Juice, the epitome of the word abstract) began at around five years old as I watched the Disney Alice, her wide eyes sparkling with curiosity, tumble head first down the rabbit hole.  As she discovered a world beyond her wildest dreams, it was hard not to feel admiration, and a slight twinge of jealousy as she explored this bizarre new place, full of tea parties and strange encounters.

'Curiouser and curiouser!' cried Alice

After being disappointed by the number of bad reviews the film received, I decided to go with an open-mind and form my own opinion.  Criticism that the film had no story was perhaps true on some level.  Having read the books, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland a fair few times, I think its safe to say that the actual storylines tend to meander rather than dramatically develop, be it Alice in Wonderland or Through the Looking-Glass; and what Alice found there. Tim Burton brings the world to life with breathtaking colour and computer animation, without trying to distract the audience from the darker side of wonderland.  Instead of trying to create an epic Hollywood adventure, Burton strings together a series of small events and encounters that lead to the eventual slaying of the Jabberwocky.  This treatment captures the real essence of the book, a portrayal of the strange and sometimes terrifying experience of childhood.

'I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir,' said Alice, 'because I'm not myself, you see.'

While I sat in an uncomfortable chair in a small screen full of kids hyped up on e numbers, I was struck by the incredible beauty of the costumes before me.  Costume designer Colleen Atwood, who has worked with Tim Burton on several previous films, and a team of talented makeup artists joined forces to create the most breathtaking theatrical collection ever to grace the big screen.  As Alice grows and shrinks, grows and shrinks, she requires a variety of costumes as they do not change size with her.  This stunning blue net and satin number (pictured above) is just one in several Alice dresses, worn by 19-year-old actress Mia Wasikowska, in such a way that acts enhance their unassuming beauty.  The dress gracefully slips off the young Alice’s shoulder and grazes innocently across her chest, reminding the audience of her tender age as she delicately blooms into adulthood.

Alice's Victorian dress

Alice begins the film in this simplistic yet beautiful dress, a traditional Victorian piece reinforcing the era in which the film is set.  In an interview with WWD LifeStyle website, designer Atwood explains her decision to dress Alice in, dare I say ordinary, costumes compared to some of the more outlandish designs seen on her fellow actors and actresses.  ‘She’s a very modern character…I didn’t want to convey anything other than that she was a girl who saw her life in a different way, and was a bit freer in how she dressed and how she thought about her clothes.’

Alice in the traditional dress

Alice is also seen in a theatrical red dress, which she wears while in the presence of the sinister Red Queen, played by Helen Bonham Carter.  This dress is infinitely more Wonderland-esque than her previous ensemble, and although it reflects the Red Queen’s character more than Alice’s herself, it looks equally as stunning on the young actress.  The ruched under-skirt adds volume, and a torn animal skin layer lends an almost wild look to the previously sweet-looking Alice, perhaps revealing a darker side to her nature.

Alice in her red court dress

Anne Hathaway, the virtuous White Queen, can be seen wearing a flawless white gown, resembling something fresh off a fairytale catwalk.  The pure white silk tumbles gracefully down the White Queen perfect silhouette, in a Victorian inspired dress that reminds designer Atwood of a ‘Stepford fairy princess’.  The snowy tresses of real human hair that sprawl down Hathaway’s back, and the shimmering white gown contrast with her dark eyebrows and stained red lips, to give the princess look a little Alice in Wonderland style twist.

Anne Hathaway as the White Queen

I enjoyed every second of this new and creative adaption of Alice in Wonderland, from the meandering plot to the array of bright colours and animation that really brought wonderland to life.  However the costumes were, for me, by far the most inspiring part of the film.  So even if it isn’t quite your cup of tea, take a leaf out of Alice’s book and give it a go; if you never look beyond the ordinary you might end up missing something spectacular.

Alice in Wonderland trailer:

The Mad Hatter's favourite accessory



  1. Your passion and in depth knowledge are both impressive and inspiring. Beautifully written and gorgeous photos – you do the film justice. Keep up the good work 🙂

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