In honor of the characters that make up the Disney realm, The Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) has created a new exhibition in partnership with Walt Disney Archives. Entitled “Heroes and Villains: The Art of Disney Costume,” it explores the vision, process, and craft used to create the costumes worn by some of the biggest names in entertainment. More than 70 original pieces make an appearance, illustrating how costume artistry and creativity shape our understanding of iconic characters.
Costume Designer Panel
MoPop recently hosted a special online Costume Designer Panel that featured designers Ellen Mirojnick, Isis Mussenden, and Mona May. The artists elaborated on their processes in developing costumes to fit the vision of movie scripts and their directors. Each expressed how important it is to analyze scripts before approaching the design aspect. They also communicated how color theory, fashion trends, and research are vital parts of creating memorable works of art.
Ellen Mirojnick has worked on many Disney projects, including The Greatest Showman, Cinderella, and Maleficent: Mistress of Evil (you’ve also seen her work on Bridgerton). During the panel, Mirojnick stressed how her ability to be bold and think outside of the box made the opportunities she has gotten possible. She also explained how in her designs for Maleficent: Mistress of Evil, the Evil Queen’s costume required more precision and textured accessories while, in contrast, the elements of the Earth greatly influenced the fabrics of Aurora’s costume. Because she understood each character’s world, Mirojnick could visualize and create extremely contrasting looks that embellished and helped shape audiences’ perceptions.
For Disney, Isis Mussenden is best known for her work on The Chronicles of Narnia movie series. Mussenden made it clear that with every project, she learns more about her craft and herself. Doing so helps make her a better designer. Additionally, Mussenden emphasized the importance of being flexible and adaptable in your craft. It is a vital part of becoming an artist whom people want to work with.
Because of her experience in computer-generated imagery (CGI) costuming on the production of Stuart Little, Mona May landed the role of costume designer for the Disney movie Enchanted. May described the process of creating costumes and collaborating with integrated media as difficult but not impossible. She also touched on how ideas and inspiration can be passed from one person to another while devising designs. May also noted that having an open mind is essential to the creative process because it may lead you in a new and potentially better direction.
The Craft of Costuming
The panel’s artists have decades of experience between them in the costuming world (both within and outside the realm of Disney). Throughout the discussion, they made clear the craft deserves much respect in the entertainment business and is much more than just making a pretty design. Being able to tackle the job of storytelling through clothing is challenging. Still, with the right amount of dedication and willingness to take risks, a viable career is possible. That is something each of these women and every costume designer in the exhibition greatly demonstrates.
“Heroes and Villains: The Art of Disney Costume” opened to the public on June 5, 2021. It is the exhibition’s first worldwide appearance outside of Disney’s D23 Expo. For more information and tickets go to MoPOP.org/HeroesAndVillains.
- Ten Cinderella pieces including ball gowns, tiaras, slippers and other accessories including a gown from 2015’s Cinderella by Sandy Powell made from more than 270 yards of fabric and adorned with over 10,000 crystals.
- Work from 19 different designers, 11 of whom are Oscar® winners and nominees: Colleen Atwood, Jenny Beavan, Jacqueline Durran, Anthony Powell, Sandy Powell, Bill Thomas, Paco Delgado, Gary Jones, Jeffrey Kurland, Judianna Makovsky, and Anna Sheppard.
- Maleficent dress worn by Angelina Jolie, along with her staff, designed by Anna Sheppard.
- Pirates of the Caribbean (2003) costumes by Penny Rose including Jack Sparrow’s outfit worn by Johnny Depp and Barbossa’s outfit worn by Geoffrey Rush — both of which were made without zippers or Velcro, as Rose wanted the construction to be authentic.
- The three witches’ dresses from Hocus Pocus (1993) worn by Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy — all designed by Mary Vogt — plus the vacuum!
- The oldest costume on display is Mary Poppins’ traveling dress designed by Bill Thomas and worn by Julie Andrews in the 1964 film. It is paired with the traveling dress designed by Sandy Powell and worn by Emily Blunt in 2018’s Mary Poppins Returns.
- The newest costumes on display are four pieces from 2019’s Dumbo, designed by Colleen Atwood.
MoPOP is a leading-edge nonprofit museum in Seattle, dedicated to the ideas and risk-taking that fuel contemporary pop culture. With a mission to make creative expression a life-changing force by offering experiences that inspire and connect our communities, MoPOP reaches multigenerational audiences through our collections, exhibitions, and educational programs. At MoPOP, artists, audiences, and ideas converge, bringing understanding, interpretation, and scholarship to the pop culture of our time. For more information, visit MoPOP.org.
For more than five decades, the Walt Disney Archives has carefully safeguarded the most treasured items from The Walt Disney Company’s history, including original scripts, movie props and costumes, Walt Disney’s correspondence and script notes, theme park artifacts, merchandise, millions of archival photographs, and many of Walt’s personal effects. Founded by Disney Legend Dave Smith in 1970, the Walt Disney Archives is a vital resource for every part of Disney, as well as an important research center for Disney scholars, researchers, and writers. The Archives also shares its countless pieces with Disney fans everywhere through its exhibitions and close association with D23: The Official Disney Fan Club.
Written by: Amaya Coleman
All Photos Courtesy of the Walt Disney Archives