Poor Things' Oscar-winning costume designer Holly Waddington on inspiring audiences with Bella's looks

We had the pleasure of speaking with Holly Waddington in the Academy Awards press room after her win for Poor Things.

96th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room
96th Annual Academy Awards - Press Room / John Shearer/GettyImages

Yorgos Lanthimos' 2023 film Poor Things is now an Academy Award winner, taking home more than one award this evening. The inspiring dark comedy about a woman's journey of self-discovery was nominated for an impressive 11 awards at the Oscars this evening, and it started off strong at the ceremony with three wins back to back. The fourth award Poor Things won tonight was Best Actress for Emma Stone, an upset that was surprising yet extremely deserving.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend the Oscars press room virtually this evening, where the winners stopped by to answer questions. I was very excited to speak to the woman behind the incredible costumes in Poor Things, Holly Waddington, who won the award for Best Achievement in Costume Design. From protagonist Bella Baxter's (Stone) iconic puffy sleeves to her quirky yet cool sunglasses she dons, Poor Things was a shoo-in for the award.

Holly Waddington says it's "brilliant" to inspire with Poor Things costumes

After watching Poor Things, I immediately thought of how many costumes we'd be seeing of fans dressing up as Bella for Halloween later this year (honestly, I might do it!) so I asked Waddington about the film's costumes' impact on pop culture.

Emma Stone in POOR THINGS. Photo by Atsushi Nishijima. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures.© 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved. /

FanSided: I'm already looking forward to people dressing up as Bella Baxter for Halloween. So when creating the costumes for a movie, do you ever think about what impact they can have on pop culture? Do you imagine people taking inspiration from what you create, either for future films or for their own personal style? I personally am very inspired, and I need her sunglasses right now.

Holly Waddington: Those sunglasses are quite good. I've got some actually that a local glasses designer made. They're called Worshipful Specs if anyone wants them. They're brilliant. I'll wear them at some point. But, no, I don't think about [how] the costumes are going to impact on popular culture. I just work with the script, and I work with what I think the script needs, and that's it, really. I think it's great that the costumes have, if they inspire people in their dress, in the way they go about dressing themselves. I think that's brilliant. But it isn't really on my mind. I'm serving the script really and the project. That's what my job is.

Talented people are bound to inspire, whether they mean to or not, and Waddington is a perfect example of that! Apart from the amazing puffy sleeved-outfits and high-wasted shorts Bella is seen wearing throughout the movie, one look I particularly love is the black jacket dress that she wears in Paris, which you can see here:

Emma Stone in POOR THINGS. Photo by Yorgos Lanthimos. Courtesy of Searchlight Pictures. © 2023 Searchlight Pictures All Rights Reserved. /

Poor Things takes place in 19th Century London, so, as you'd expect, Waddington had to put in the research to create the overall aesthetic and final looks for all the characters. She also used the 1992 book the film is based on, written by Alasdair Gray, as great inspiration for the character of Bella specifically. While speaking with Screen Rant, Waddington shared:

"I drew a lot of inspiration from paintings, looked at lots of German expressionism, actually, lots of Otto Dix and loads of... Like Georgia O'Keeffe was very inspirational for these, for Bella, particularly, these very sort of organic forms. Oskar Schlemmer. Like lots of early 20th century surrealist, avant-garde designers. I looked at Elsa Schiaparelli.

This guy called Rodchenko, the Futurist designer, particularly for Baxter. I was looking at Rodchenko's boiler suits that he was wearing in Russia in the early 1900s, and they were kind of made of felt with plastic trimmings. I'd looked at loads of stuff. And also lots of 19th century portraits. John Singer Sergeant's probably was the one that I looked at the most. And got lots of historical reference from the 1890s. It was just almost too much. And then it's about distilling what you want to take and what you want to put on camera."

Holly Waddington, Screen Rant

Poor Things Oscar wins

Poor Things ended the Oscars this evening with four wins, including:

  • Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role: Emma Stone
  • Best Achievement in Costume Design: Holly Waddington
  • Best Achievement in Makeup and Hairstyling: Nadia Stacey, Mark Coulier, Josh Weston
  • Best Achievement in Production Design: James Price, Shona Heath, Zsuzsa Mihalek

Though I was unable to ask Stone a question in the press room, I did get to see her speak to other outlets, where she showed her genuine love for the character of Bella and her surprise at winning the award for Best Actress. She gives an absolutely fantastic performance with such range, and I couldn't be happier for her, Waddington, and the film as a whole!

Poor Things is now streaming on Hulu.