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16 Secret Messages Hidden In Movie Costumes That Just Eagle-Eyed Fans Spot

One of the first ways we as people begin to express our individuality is by the way we dress. The same goes for cinema, where the way a character dresses, be it flashy, muted, or anywhere in between, affects how we, as the audience, perceive them emotionally and intellectually. So the costume design is another subtle element that adds dimension to the film, the content as well as the characters. It also helps the audience to fully immerse themselves in the world of the film.

Today, we will discover some hidden messages in the costumes of the following famous movies. These costumes were specifically chosen by the costume designer for one reason or another, and we’re going to share those reasons with you. Keep reading for more details!

#1 Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Source: © Album Online / East News, © DreamWorks/Courtesy Everett Collection/ East News

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street featured costumes that were incredibly styled and different from the Crinoline period in which the film is supposedly set.

This is thanks to the costume designer Colleen Atwood, who has worked with Burton on films like Edward Scissorhands, Alice in Wonderland and, let us not forget, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. Colleen mentioned some of the wardrobe details that defined the characters in that previous film during an interview: The judge’s assistant was given a hat with a very specific top, Sweeney Todd had the holster rig from his razors, and his boots decorated with silver details, and Mrs. Lovett was clothed in more flamboyant clothing. All of this discreetly highlighted each character’s personality.

#2 Clueless

Source: © East News, © Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection/ East News© Clueless / Paramount Pictures

Enchanted, The Cheetah Girls, and Never Been Kissed are just a few of the movies for which Mona May designed the costumes. For her work on Clueless, May combined designer apparel with vintage clothes for a touch of authenticity and used various colors to highlight Cher and Dionne’s personalities through their costumes.

It’s a fascinating feature that the girls’ clothing changes over the school year, from lighter, summery colors to darker, cozier winter outfits.

#3 Black Panther

Source: © Black Panther / Marvel Studios and co-producers

Source: © Black Panther / Marvel Studios and co-producers

Costumes from the movie “Black Panther” needed to evoke an African country that had never been colonized and a nation that looked toward the future but was based on a real past. So Designer Ruth Carter found inspiration from African art and craft, and indigenous tribal wear from all over the continent. Then she and her team worked to create group drawings of the various groups in Wakanda.

Costume designer Ruth Carter discussed how various aspects of the Black Panther characters’ outfits helped them blend in with their surroundings during an interview with Vanity Fair. For instance:

– The mythical metal vibranium, which Captain America’s shield is constructed, was used in the creation of all the jewelry.
– Even though Shuri’s outfit is more Western and Americanized, it still incorporates cultural elements, like the logo on her T-shirt that stands for “purpose.”
– The queen wears traditional woven patterns, but they were 3D printed to fit the needs of 21st Wakanda.
– The pendant on Nakia’s neck suggests that her tribe is a river tribe.
– The customary geometric shapes from T’Challa’s culture can be seen on his military gear.

#4 Mean Girls

Source: © East News

Source: © Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection/ East News

Mary Jane Fort, who created the costumes for the 2004 film Mean Girls, meticulously coordinated the characters’ attire to reflect each of these aspects. The three characters known as “the plastics” – Regina George, Gretchen Wieners, and Karen Smith—have a significant impact on the main character Cady Herron throughout the entire film.

When we first meet Cady in the film, she is dressed in mostly neutral hues. In the opening scene, she is wearing a red shirt underneath an army green jean jacket over a pair of trousers. Her lone piece of jewelry is a bracelet composed of beads, which we later learn was created by her mother. When Cady finally transitions to dressing entirely like the plastics, we see her wearing a lot of pinks and reds. We also see her slowly transition into wearing slightly more revealing clothes, similar to what the plastics have worn in previous scenes in the movie.

#5 Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory

Source: © Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory / Paramount Pictures

The original concept for Wilder’s Wonka costume for the movie was a little different.  In 1970, Wilder wrote a letter to director Mel Stuart responding to the original designs for his character’s get-up. He requested certain changes to the initial sketch that would highlight Wonka’s eccentricity as a gentleman with such good taste that his nearly impolite preferences would be acceptable.

#6 Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen

Source: © Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen / Walt Disney Picture and co-producers

Source: © Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen / Walt Disney Picture and co-producers

“Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen” is a lighthearted tale about a teenage girl who moves from New York City to the suburbs of New Jersey and one day dampens her big dream to be a big fish in one Little Pond To become a famous actress on Broadway. Lola’s outfit changes as the film goes along, demonstrating how her personality also evolves after meeting Ella. She switches from those uninspired, cartoonishly colorful outfits to one that flatters her age and body type far better.

#7 Legally Blonde

Source: © Legally Blonde / Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM) and co-producers

The use of fashion in movies can reveal a lot about a character’s past without the need for dialogue. I adore the symbolism that can be derived from clothing, and when considering movies, in particular, colors and textures can convey a lot of additional meaning, such as illustrating Elle’s eventual growth during law school.

When we think of Elle Woods, we immediately associate her with the brightest shade of pink due to some of her iconic looks. But do you know the secret behind them? The contradiction between the pleather, which is quite a grown-up fabric, and the brightness of the pink is explained by Rakoff. She states that she wanted to show how Elle is definitely a fish out of water in this new environment on the East Coast, but is still trying to keep true to herself.

#8 Pride & Prejudice

Source: © Pride and Prejudice /Focus Features and co-producers

Since Pride and Prejudice is based on a well-known novel by Jane Austen, a historical drama needs more subtle details to imply what can’t be conveyed directly. This is since social constraints and class disparities at the time prevented people from just going and making bold love declarations or displaying passionate deeds of love that would reveal the characters’ genuine feelings.

In reality, costume designer Jacqueline Durran was able to gradually convey Mr. Darcy’s change. Mr. Darcy sheds layers of clothing as the movie goes on – such it’s a subtle trick that it might have gone overlooked, but it worked incredibly well! According to Durran, Mr. Darcy’s layers of clothes gradually become thinner as the story progresses, and the softer materials of his clothing also play a role in the character’s overall change. Mr. Darcy learns to embrace a more open and modest mindset and sheds his character’s rigidity and inflexibility.

#9 The Matrix

Source: © The Matrix (1999) / Warner Bros. and co-producers

The trench coat has long been a movie mainstay, lending any character a seductive air of mystery, from Bogart as a private dick to the glamour of Dietrich or Garbo (with the possible exception of Columbo).
The only direction Kym Barrett received for Carrie-Ann Moss’s outfit was to make it “look like an oil slick” (cheap PVC provided the requisite shiny, mercury-like quality). In order to further his enigmatic appearance, Laurence Fishburne as Morpheus wore thick (faux) alligator skin. Finally, the ominous black-suited agents were meant to conjure up images of the “‘sixties Kennedy Secret Service guys.” Very scary.

#10 The Devil Wears Prada

Source: © 20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection/ East News

Source: © 20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection/ East News© Allpix Press / East News© The Devil Wears Prada / Fox 2000 Pictures and co-producers

Andy (Anne Hathaway) is the “fat girl” who discovers that clothes really manner maketh man; she is hopeless in her new job at a fashion magazine until Stanley Tucci takes her under his wing and gives her access to the kind of closet most of us can only dream about. Costume designer Patricia Field excelled in choosing the character’s costumes. The movie’s protagonists all dress in high-end clothing that fits their personalities. As a nod to the film’s name, Miranda, Andy, Emily, and Vivienne Westwood all wear Prada. Andy also primarily wears Chanel.

#11 Birds of Prey

Source: © Birds of Prey / Clubhouse Pictures (II) and co-producers

For Harley Quinn’s Birds of Prey costumes, designer Erin Benach reimagined the anti-superhero’s two main comic book looks – trading her red-and-black color palette for a hot pink-and-blue one, and her signature harlequin-like jumpsuit for gold leather overalls with a diamond pattern. Erin Benach tells Looper in an exclusive interview that giving Harley and the rest of the Birds fresh, new outfits were all part of the plan. For Harley, who just went through a big breakup, “it was a story turn,” Benach says. “The idea was she was dressing for herself, and doing things for herself, and finding her true inner Harley.”

#12 Gone with the Wind

Source: © Gone With the Wind / Selznick International Pictures (as A Selznick International Picture) and co-producers

The story of Scarlett O’Hara is revealed through her wardrobe; she starts in a frothy, virginal white dress, quickly advances to an iridescent wedding gown, and finally wears black head-to-toe black when she becomes a widow. She is nonetheless viewed as somewhat of a town trollop despite being from respectable stock because her outfits are always cut to expose more cleavage than is strictly appropriate (while sweet innocent Melanie is drab in contrast).

Scarlett must show some backbone in order to survive the battle as she is made to wear simple everyday clothes (the horror!). There’s also the red dress that she wears in the moments where she longs for affection.

#13 Star Wars

Source: © Lucas Film / Walt Disney / Collection Christophel / East News

Star Wars producers made sure the outfit did the job to accurately portray the roles of student and instructor. Luke Skywalker’s attire is suggestive of a gi, a type of outfit frequently worn for martial arts training. This is believed to be a sign that he is still developing. The audience is given an indication about Obi-Wan Kenobi’s knowledge and role as Luke’s teacher and mentor by the fact that his attire resembles that of a monk.

#14 Marie Antoinette

Source: © Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection/ East News, © Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection/ East News© Sony Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection/ East News

The film centers on Marie Antoinette’s private life and her emotions. The focus is on feeling rather than action. As a result, it’s a rather fragmented and episodic narrative that meanders through the runtime as much as the character meandered through her own life. In this context, clothing is employed as a creative reinterpretation of the character.

Milena Canonero created the outfits, which initially depict Marie Antoinette upon her debut as a little girl with an innocent and infantile look. Then, as a prominent member of the French court, a change in her fashion sense makes her evolution apparent. She dressed bright, stylish clothes. Finally, she switches to more somber clothes with muted colors and unflashy silhouettes. This occurs at a time when the French royal family is losing favor with the populace, and the rest is history. Literally.

#15 Black Swan

Source: © Black Swan / Fox Searchlight Pictures (presents) and co-producers

The film’s feathery tutus generated a lot of hype even before its release, thanks to the news that fashion-industry favorites Kate and Laura Mulleavy of the label Rodarte had designed some of the ballet outfits, which were a huge hit. Amy Westcott, the costume designer, made it clear in an interview that the only way to comprehend Nina’s development is to look at the color scheme of her clothes.

For instance, Nina’s outfits are primarily pastel and pink during the beginning of the film while she is still acting naively and childishly. Her outfits take on darker hues as she begins to lose herself in the new role she is cast in and as her interactions with the other characters become more tumultuous. The black swan, which is what she wishes to be, is ultimately represented by her clothing.

#16 Enchanted

Source: © Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection/ East New, © Buena Vista Pictures/Courtesy Everett Collection/ East News© Allpix Press / East News

All the costumes in the film were designed by Mona May, who had previously worked on Clueless (1995), The Wedding Singer (1998), and The Haunted Mansion (2003). To create costumes that match the character’s evolution, May spent one year in pre-production working with animators and her costume department of twenty people, while she contracted with five outside costume shops in Los Angeles and New York City.

Her goal was to keep the designs “Disneyesque to the core but bring a little bit of fashion in there and humor and make it something new”. However, May admitted this was difficult “because they’re dealing with iconic Disney characters who have been in the psyche of the viewing audience for so long”. As the movie goes on, Giselle’s costumes become less like those from fairy tales, symbolizing her transformation into a genuine lady. Her sophisticated attire at the film’s conclusion stands in stark contrast to her bridal outfit at the beginning. But, Giselle’s peculiarity of sweetness and innocence remains.

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