Sandy Powell and John Myhre on how they told the story through couture, art and architecture

Mary Poppins arrives in a stylish but proper new look.

Mary Poppins’ arrival look obviously was probably the most important costume in the entire film, because this is what everyone’s gonna remember. The 1934 fashionable silhouette for women really wasn’t a million miles away from the look that we saw her in in the first film. So I did a narrow-waisted belted coat with the addition of the cape. First I tried a small cape, and then a double cape to create some movement and to change the silhouette slightly and accentuate the small waist.


We were able to build all of Cherry Tree Lane on Stage 8 at Shepperton Studios, a whole street we built inside that we saw both in the winter and then in the spring. Rob and I decided that the storytelling of the film didn’t lend itself to the characters living in a giant white mansion. So we actually brought down the scale ... At the end of the film Mary Poppins brings spring to London literally overnight. And we walk down Cherry Tree Lane and, true to its name, Cherry Tree Lane is now filled with pink cherry trees.


Design rendering of Cherry Tree Lane set in springtime.

Mary Poppins’ hat adds an eccentric note —and echoes a song from the 1964 film.

Rob [director Rob Marshall] wanted some sort of little eccentricity, something in the hat to reflect the first film, which had funny little daisies standing up. Bows and ribbons and things like that seemed too frivolous. Birds were traditional decorations on hats, so I went through the idea of putting birds wings on it. Then I thought of the robin from the ‘Spoonful of Sugar’ number and I thought that would be funny, to have a robin in the side of her hat. We ended up with a beautiful one; it’s actually carved from cork and then covered in fabric and completely embroidered, and the whole thing is made from thread.


We first discussed the idea of what a set or a musical number might take place in, came up with ideas, visuals, did some sketches, eventually did some very simple models. When Rob was feeling comfortable about it we taped it out full size on a big sprung dance floor. ... We try to make everything very easy to work with, because we would change things by the inch constantly to get it just the right height for a dancer to jump on.


Sets for the big musical numbers were adjusted to meet dancers’ needs.

Jack brings a positive attitude to his work — and his appearance.

My job isn’t dressing people. It’s not making pretty clothes, although I like to do that. It’s about helping the actors find the character and helping the director tell the story. For Jack, I wanted to have a little pop of color, even if we were creating the sort of somber, dark background world. So Jack has the red waistcoat and a neckerchief and he has a little blue striped T-shirt underneath his shirt. Lingives the costume its character all on its own. I just gave him the clothes and he’s sort of brought it to life.