Fashion and performance: Screen costume


Costume design is really a matter of creating the backdrop for all of these characters to thrive and grow throughout the course of the film.”

  • (Scott, D. 2017. Pg.10)

Costume designers use governed fashion systems in film in order to represent a character’s realism, gender, status and power. This contributes to the Mise-en-scene of a film alongside other important elements such as lighting, colour, setting, props and the position of characters. It has a function before the camera, an un spoken language. They strive to sell the audience a fantasy in order to contribute to the narrative of the film. Simultaneously there are similarities and differences between the two separate languages and systems of fashion and costume design. Fashion has not always been considered as an academic subject compared with costume design, which has long been written about by film critics.

James bond is just one example of how the boundaries between fashion and costume have merged. The famous tailored black suit not only creates fashion but is fashion. The suit built into the characterisation of James Bond, symbolising power, gender and lust, therefore creating an image for the audience. This gives the audience the idea that if you wear that suit, you can gain that identity. You become powerful and sexy.

Another example of how Costume design contributes to the focalisation of a character in film is the array of elaborate Edwardian dresses that rose wore in 1997 film titanic. “The job of a costume designer is to really help the actor in that journey, to establish themselves in a time and place.” (Scott, D. 2017. Pg.10). The Director James Cameron insisted costume designer Deborah Lynn Scott that there needed to be a clear divide between the first-class passengers and the third-class passengers.

“Jim Cameron and I wanted it to be as accurate as possible, so I really studied the period and got the nuances of the styles down. When do you wear gloves? Do you wear gloves this time? Literally there are books written about how many times a day you change your clothes. We read a lot about etiquette and tried to figure out the protocol about how you behave at a table, including the manners of dress.” (Scott, D. 2017).

Scott studied the fashion of the 1910’s in order to contribute to the narrative of the story and sell to the audience that Rose was a first-class traveller who was very wealthy compared to third class traveller Jack who has to win tickets in order to get on the boat. When rose first boards the boat, the camera pans from her feet upwards, displaying her in a purple and white and an extremely large hat which was considered a big symbol of wealth because that was of the period. The Costume designer uses fashion to display Roses wealth and status.




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