15 Times Movie Costumes Hid Important Secret Messages

8 months ago

Costumes are known to depict the three Ps: people, place and period. In order to capture the character’s personality and the age they’re living in, costume designers put their best creativity and imagination into creating something beautiful. And sometimes, they also hide a few secrets that only the trained eye of a true fan will recognize.

1. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1

Dolores Umbridge’s costume has a revealing detail that says a lot about her character and inclinations. Her scarf, which seems to be made in the form of a cat, looks almost exactly like a snake — it has a narrow head and a long tail. Thus, the costume designer gives us a hint that Umbridge secretly worships Lord Voldemort.

2. Titanic

According to the idea of costume designer Deborah Lynn Scott, the colors of the dresses of the main character were supposed to tell the audience more about Rose’s character: deep down, she was a fierce woman. The bright red dress with a black lace discovers her strong character confined in social rules. Rose is wearing the same dress at the start and at the end of the film but it’s different in colors.

So, in the final scene of the film, Rose is wearing the same dress but in white. The design of the dress is exactly the same as the one she was wearing when she met Jack but the color says that there are no more obstacles for the love between Jack and Rose.

3. Drive

Ryan Gosling chose the famous jacket from Drive himself. According to Nicolas Winding Refn, when a director deals with very good actors, they often let them figure out their wardrobe themselves because that’s very much how they build their characters, through wardrobe.

But the jacket didn’t have a scorpion on the back at the beginning. Costume designers got inspired by military uniforms with the symbols of eagles and other signs, and only then did they pick out a suitable animal. Thus, the front of the jacket was fairly common, and only the back became a revealing detail. Then Ryan had the idea that the filming crew could use this design to incorporate the story about the scorpion and the frog, and it turned out really great.

4. The Shape of Water

At the beginning of the film, Elisa is an invisible woman who doesn’t talk to anyone and wears pale clothes. And it seems that she can’t even communicate with anyone. But everything changes when she meets her love. She falls in love with the creature and we see love transform the silent janitor. Elisa starts wearing red clothes that highlight her passionate nature.

5. Emily in Paris

The costume design consultant of this series was the legendary Patricia Field, who is best known for her work for Sex and the City. “For me, Emily in Paris in certain ways was an elongated version of Carrie in Sex and the City,says Patricia Field. That is why there are so many similarities in the looks of the characters of both series. For example, both Sarah Jessica Parker’s character and Lily Collins’ character wear berets and look gorgeous in them.

6. Aladdin

In this new movie, princess Jasmine has a lot of bright clothes that tell us a lot about her as a character. So, the classic bright turquoise suit of the princess is now decorated with beads. The veil has a peacock on it and there is a reason why. This is a metaphor: a peacock caught in a trap in the royal garden wants to be free just like the princess.

Also, the viewers learn more about the mother of the princess. Jasmine wears clothes that make her look very different from all the other people. For example, the bright pink outfit is a reference to the countries of Southern Asia, where she’s from.

Despite the huge number of new outfits, costume designer Michael Wilkinson made sure that Jasmine always wore the classic turquoise that the audience associates with Jasmine.

7. Deadpool 2

The T-shirt Wade wears when he wakes up in the X-men’s mansion has a picture of 2 cats on it: Olivia and Meredith. These are the cats of Taylor Swift, who is close friends with Ryan Reynolds and his wife.

8. Maleficent: Mistress of Evil

Queen Ingrith is pure evil. But costume designer Ellen Mirojnick doesn’t use color to highlight this, because the character is always wearing light clothing. The details of her personality are communicated with the jewelry the Queen adds to her looks. For example, the first time she appears, she wears a white dress and she has a lot of pearl necklaces. These details of Michelle Pfeiffer’s wardrobe show her character’s love for money and power.

9. Black Panther

During an interview with Vanity Fair, costume designer Ruth Carter revealed the role that some elements in the costumes of Black Panther characters had when integrating them with their environment. For example:

  • All of the jewelry was made of vibranium, the fictional material that Captain America’s shield is made of.
  • Shuri’s costume, more Western and Americanized, nevertheless integrates cultural elements, such as the logo on her T-shirt, a symbol representing “purpose.”
  • The queen’s clothing features traditional woven patterns, but in the context of 21st century Wakanda, they were made using 3D printing.
  • Nakia’s necklace reveals that she is part of a river tribe.
  • T’Challa’s combat suit features the traditional geometric figures from his culture.

10. The Iron Lady

Meryl Streep, portraying Margaret Thatcher, wears an elegant 2-piece suit, pearls, and a blouse with a bow when she needs to demonstrate her power and her stable position in society. In the most powerful episodes, this effect is made stronger with the color blue — the character’s favorite color.

When Thatcher has to leave her post as Prime Minister, she wears a red suit for the first time. On one hand, this is her way of showing her strong nature and that she is ready to continue the fight. On the other hand, it means that she can’t keep the situation under control anymore.

11. La La Land

One of the biggest difficulties for the costume designers was the selection of shoes for the characters. We can no longer imagine Sebastian without 2-tone shoes which are reminiscent of old black-and-white movies. According to costume designer Mary Zophres, Ryan Gosling didn’t like the first option of the shoes she chose, because it was uncomfortable to dance in them. So she had to find shoes that looked good and danced well.

There was also a moment when Sebastian and Mia were sitting on a park bench, and their feet were going side-to-side. So Mary decided that they should wear matching shoes to emphasize the connection between the characters.

12. Knives Out

Ransom is a rich and spoiled man that doesn’t even care about his own clothes. They are in very bad shape: the beige sweater he’s wearing has holes in it, and the collar and cuffs don’t look good either. This is one way of telling us that Ransom doesn’t respect money or the people who give him this money, his family.

13. Bram Stoker’s Dracula

The costume designer of Bram Stoker’s Dracula was Japanese, so it’s hardly surprising that many costumes, and even the makeup and hairstyles, bring to mind the style of traditional Japanese Kabuki theater. But for the final costume of the count, the costume designer was directly inspired by Gustav Klimt’s The Kiss as seen above.

14. The Grand Budapest Hotel

The wardrobe of Madame Céline Villeneuve Desgoffe und Taxis is a deliberate mix of different historical periods. Her red coat and hat are from the ’20s, her dress is from the ’30s, and her hairstyle is from La Belle Époque. This mix of styles indicates that Madame D. can’t put her past behind her and also that she is a little bit insane.

15. Fight Club

The fact that Tyler is a figment of the narrator’s imagination is hinted at by his wardrobe. His clothes stand in contrast to his surroundings and other characters, while the narrator’s wardrobe blends into the background. This way, the costume designers seem to emphasize that this character should not be here.

There is a lot of thought and work that goes into costumes and they usually are literal works of art. Either they try to convey a secret message or create a new image without CGI, costume designers really do deserve a round of applause.


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