Today opens the much-anticipated (and hyped) film “The Hunger Games,” a dystopian fantasy where poor young people are pitted against one another in a battle to the death. But have you noticed what they’re wearing? I certainly have noticed, and not necessarily the garb on the star-crossed young folk, played by Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson (who, in the story, are given their own stylists), but also the clothing and coiffures on actors Stanley Tucci, Wes Bentley, and Elizabeth Banks….
I’ve been fascinated by the horrific-looking Effie Trinket, that Ga Ga-esque fuscha nightmare, replete with leg-o-mutton sleeves like I haven’t seen since the 1980′s. What about Tucci’s blue samurai haircut, Bentley’s weird facial hair, and that the residents of District 12 look like they stepped out of a King Vidor film of the 1930′s. Well, there’s no coincidence here. Costume designer Judianna Makovsky (also the costume designer for the Harry Potter films), spoke about her work and influences to the Los Angeles Times and InStyle.com , with the latter of the two a little more (perhaps inappropriately) enthusiastic about translating the film’s looks to our world.
Makovsky, however, was most interested in keeping the looks consistent with descriptions in the book. For Katniss Everdean’s “girl on fire dress” Makovsky says: “I wanted the dress to be red, but not so covered in stones that it would look like something out of Dancing With the Stars…” And, of course, the dress doesn’t actually burst into real flames–CGI helped in that department.
Many of the designers who influenced Makovsky’s “Capitol Couture” fashions include Alexander McQueen, Jean Paul Gaultier, Rodarte, and Elsa Schiaparelli, queen of surrealist fashion design in the 1930;s and 40′s. So it’s no wonder that I’m seeing the 1980′s, since Gaultier and McQueen’s work was highly influential back then–and certain motifs and themes keep getting recycled into 21st century fashion. The Capitol dwellers have been described as “opulent” and other word to connote their high-fashion status. But with the colored-hair wigs (green, pink, etc) I can’t help but think of the sad-looking women with bizarrely colored wigs in Stanley Kubrick’s classic A Clockwork Orange–another dystopian society movie with kids as the main focus.
Wardrobe for Katniss and other District 12 dwellers is most definitely influenced by workwear of the past. Makovsky looked at photos from that time period, to get a better sense of everyday fashion. Since there are always more regular folk than fashionistas, the numbers of costumes for the extras (as well as the principals) came from a combination of vintage finds and costumes hand-made and fitted for the film. With roughly 600 charater extras, there wound up being a total of 1800 costumes just for this group alone!
Makovsky says she hopes that many of the costumes will go on display somewhere after the movie.
Yet there’s another rather silly and superfluous side to all this great costuming. Lion’s Gate, the Hunger Games film company, decided to go all out with their social media promotions for the film, including a tumblr titled Capitol Couture. This has to be one of the ugliest sites I’ve ever seen, with dull colors and not a lot of content–but it seems to be quite big among HG fans.
Seriously, this is a dystopian film. Lots of people get killed. Do you want to dress like the idiots of the Capitol and the “citizens” who are marked for death? Really? That kind of promotion seems tacky and jaundiced, and almost seems to highlight an ironic mocking of fans and moviegoers. Same can be said for a feature at InStyle.com, which talks about Katniss’ spring style. Really??? That’s like the Lisabeth Salanader look for H&M. All I can do is chalk this stuff up to the annals of “When Film Promotions Go Overboard.” If film companies and p.r. departments are looking to capture some sort of fashion zeitgeist of these films for an audience beyond the fans, I doubt it will go over. The looks speak for themselves, and audiences will adopt those looks if they are fans. Companies cannot manufacture the kind of fashion passion that goes further than one slim demographic. When it happens, it just happens. Trying to manufacture it only makes them look like the people we’re supposed to be rooting against in films like The Hunger Games. How Ironic.