This Is How Cate Blanchett's 'Carol' Coat Came Together (and Fell Apart)


Two-time Oscar-nominated costume designer Sandy Powell dishes on the custom-made outerwear.

In the opening scene of Carol, when Manhattan shopgirl Therese (played by Rooney Mara) sees Carol, a wealthy housewife played by Cate Blanchett, there's no denying the connection felt between the two lesbian lovers. It's in that moment we also witness Carol as a luxurious woman as she walks around the store with her pretty beret, fresh mani, structured satchel and of course, that fabulous fur coat.

Costume designer Sandy Powell, who has been nominated for an Oscar her work in Todd Haynes' film, felt it was important to capture the title character's elegance and sophistication at first sight.

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"We've already seen Therese arrive at work and be given the hat she hates to wear so we've established her but the most important thing was her first sight of Carol," said Powell during a panel with screenwriter Phyllis Nagy and cinematographer Ed Lachman after a screening of the film on Saturday. "I just knew the fur coat had to be a light color. That was my first feeling about the film was that the coat had to be pale."

Although she knew she wanted the outerwear to lean towards the pale side, she shared that she "didn't want it to be white. I didn't want to be ridiculous."

So the search for the perfect coat began. But after scouring for some time, Powell found no such luck. "I found the right color in the wrong coat, the right-shaped coat in the wrong color," said the designer of her research.

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In the end, Powell enlisted a furrier to make the oversized jacket "from lots of bits of old coats, all cut up and sewed together to make this coat in the right color." But since it was made quickly and "from really old fur," it fell apart almost as quickly as it was built.

"The coat itself fell apart every single day, every single scene," said Powell, who is also nominated for an Academy Award for her designs in Cinderella. "It sort of split and every single day, the poor costumer that looked after Cate — she spent her entire lunch time repairing it every day. It was a nightmare."

But Powell has no regrets. "We kind of knew this when we did the screen test. […] We took a huge risk and I'm glad we did because that image in that color with the coral scarf and hat set her apart."

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Indeed that coat was worth it. Not only has Powell score an Oscar nomination for Carol, but she's also been nominated for a Costume Designers Guild Award for the excellence in period film category.