Friday, April 8, 2011

Film Costume: Cleo From 5 To 7 (1962)

By Justina Lee

"Cleo From 5 to 7" recounts the two hours before the French singer Cleo, believing that she has cancer, obtains her medical reports. The movie touches upon death, upon existentialism, upon despair, yet it also begins with a stunning costume: the attractive Cleo in a body-hugging, polka-dot dress. The silhouette is decidedly feminine: form-fitting above the waist, it accentuates Cleo's hourglass figure. The femininity of the costume echoes with the movie's questions of the perception of women. Throughout the movie, Cleo is eager to look her best, as seen from the ubiquity of mirrors. As she notes at the beginning, beauty defies death. The glamor of the costume thus empowers her as she confronts death.

From the waist below, the dress has A-line shape. As she walks down the street after hearing the tarot card reader's ominous revelations, her skirt flutters in the wind, almost as if she is in flight. This image is reminiscent of Cleo's earlier remarks on beauty when she compares herself to a butterfly. Indeed, with the polka-dot pattern and the fluttering skirt, she resembles a beautiful butterfly flitting through the city.

The polka dot pattern was also especially popular during the 50s and the 60s. The choice of this pattern can also be reflective of Cleo's desire to cling onto the present as she contemplates her imminent death.

But ultimately, below this glamorous costume lies the question of the meaning of life. Do we live to impress others with our beauty? Does beauty mask our inner selves? The costume effectively communicates these questions.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Film Costume: My Fair Lady (1964)

By Sydney Kipen

The costume designed for Eliza Doolittle, designed by Cecil Beaton, is illustrative of high society fashion in the early 1900s of Edwardian England. Following her transformation from a Cockney, low-class member of society to a high-end member of the "leisure class," Eliza becomes the epitome of high fashion. Her dress, when she attended the famous Ascot Racecourse (horse races), embodies the qualities of upper-class society with long and elegant lines and a slight release of the corset and bodice. The lace, large broad hat, sash and belt to accent the small waist, high boned collar, and brushing of the floor of the dress all demonstrate early 20th century European fashion tendencies. Eliza's dress effectively communicates the transformation of her character to member of respected, high society and her role as a woman of status. The dress worn at the Ascot Racecourse demonstrates a sense of power dress and how transformation of one's clothing, and speech when she opens her mouth, can change others' perceptions and interpretations.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Film Costume: Australia (2008)

By Valentina Franco

The costume for Lady Sarah Ashley, was designed by Academy Award winning costume designer Catherine Martin. The movie is set between the late 1930�s and early 1940�s, and Lady Sarah Ashley, who is a very proper English woman, is perfectly and exquisitely dressed throughout the movie regardless of the places she has to go. When she goes to Australia to make her husband sell his cattle station, she continues to wear her high-end clothes even in an environment that is a lot more primitive and that doesn�t have the same social atmosphere that she is used to. Her way of dressing , which is so perfectly planned and perfect in every detail, undoubtedly gives her status and a power that is aligned to her being the owner of the cattle station in Australia. She is extremely elegant and feminine in her way of dressing but she also utilizes some of the masculine elements such as blazers, ties and hats throughout her stay in Australia perhaps to reaffirm her position in a society that as a woman didn�t accept or respect her so much.

Film Costume: The Proposal (2009)

by: Christine Lee


Sandra Bullock's character, Margaret Tate, is extremely strong-willed and powerful in the position as editor-in-chief. Consequently, her wardrobe matches this position. Cate Thomas, the costume designer, dressed Bullock in a power suit but with a twist. Instead of pairing the suit jacket with pants, she paired it with a form fitting skirt that is still conservative and fits within the business sphere. So while the suit still aligns itself with power and respect, it enters the terrain of feminine identity with the skirt. The suit was worn, usually by men, as a symbolic representation of power. That she is a woman wearing a customized suit for women, is extremely powerful. Although, it is quite common to see women in the modern era wearing suits since gender equality is prevalent an d accepted. This costume also helps to emphasize the characteristics that she possesses. She is uptight, contained, and controlled, but for reasons that are disclosed throughout the movie. Conclusively, this costume represents power but also oppression. And we see Margaret Tate being free from this "oppression" at the end of the movie when she decides to forgo the whole suit and instead dons just the skirt part.

Film Costume: Catch Me If You Can (2002)

By Elleree Erdos

This costume for Frank Abagnale, designed by Mary Zophres, is characteristic of 1960s pilot uniforms. Abagnale is a conman, characterized by his skill for deception�thus, his specific looks range from pilot, to doctor, to ordinary working-class man. Zophres captures the essence of each persona that Abagnale takes on through visual externalization. Abagnale�s clothing before he begins is life of deception is more lackluster, dull, and colorless; as he gets deeper into his false world of impersonation, his costumes become more extravagant and vibrant. This pilot's costume, in particular, gives Abagnale the power of social status, (which in turn offers perks such as attracting women, as illustrated in the image). The costume illustrates the power of the uniform to deceive by exuding a strong visual impression or fa�ade of status, as well as its ability to empower the wearer by building an image that instills confidence. When Abagnale wears a uniform that reinforces a persona with its established associations, he grows increasingly self-assured in his ability to deceive. Whether or not this power is legitimate, it is, at its core, an appearance of power that creates a self-fulfilling fantasy for the wearer.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Film Costume: Marie Antoinette (2006)

The costume for Marie Antoinette, designed by Milena Canonera, follows the styles of 18th century aristocracy, such as a fitted corseted bodice and full skirt. The poof is also important to the era. Here the specific look has light feminine colors, associating the character with womanly innocence. The costume represents the privileges of aristocratic power, using fashion as a form of conspicuous consumption to display wealth.

Film Costume: The Royal Tenebaums (2001)

The costume for Richie Tenenbaum, designed by Karen Patch, follows the styles of the turn of the 20th century when the male suit became casualized by the dot com revolution. The headband and wrist bands reference more casual sports wear and vintage elements. The sunglasses add mystery to the character. The costume represents the power of the consumer to mix styles in a moment of democratization of fashion.

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