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The Colors of Costume

Color can be much more than a shade in the rainbow or a pixel in a graphic design. In film, a character's mood and personality can be made or broken with his of her costumes and its choice of color. A costume designer must, not only have a deep understanding of mood and storytelling, but must have a keen eye for creating entire wardrobes for characters. In the following feature we take a look at two of many iconic costumes of film history, where color played a huge part.

Marilyn Monroe cooled off audiences in "The Seven Year Itch"(1955)when the dazzling blond, dressed in a white halter dress, stood over a New York subway grate and remarked, "Isn't it delicious!". Throughout the comedy, Richard Sherman (played by Tom Ewell), is a husband and father left on his own for the summer, argues with his conscience and fights lusty temptation with The Girl, (played by Monroe), a model who is renting the apartment upstairs. The color white often stands for innocence, purity, and humility. While Sherman toils with logic and the sweltering heat by almost dallying in an affair with his upstairs neighbor, in this scene the white dress is a perfect comparison and contrast to the sexually playful and innocent tension between the two characters. Though this iconic scene and dress is often recreated for photoshoots with modern-day celebrities, nothing is better than the original.

In the 1955 drama, "Rebel Without A Cause", one little red jacket set the tone for troubled teenagers forever. At the beginning, our protagonist Jim Stark's (played by James Dean) confused emotions is on display, in a style almost imitative of his emotionally abused father, with mute-toned jackets and pants, white buttoned down shirts and skinny colored ties. But as the film progresses and tensions rise, the young adult transforms into his own with the famous red windbreaker, white t-shirt, and denim jeans. As the color red often symbolizes passion, anger, and love, it is surely fitting that this time the color expresses all three main characters' longing for nurture and understanding. The ensemble of the red jacket and denim jeans not only paved the way for casual comfort in teens' closets, but became the definitive symbol of a generation's despair and defiance. Though there is debate over the origins of the famous outerwear, one thing can be agreed upon., as costume designer Moss Mabry once said, "Even though the jacket looked simple, it wasn’t.”

It would be impossible to recognize all the wonderful movies which uses color and costume in beautiful ways, but here we give out a shout-out to a few more: "Gone With The Wind"(1939), the Civil War epic, for it's vast array of earth-tone gowns and suits. "West Side Story"(1961), the racially-charged musical, for its bright and vivid ensembles donned by the Jet and Shark gangs. "The Wizard of Oz"(1939) for the technicolor dream that is Dorothy's plaid dress & ruby slippers, the Munchkin's ensembles, and Oz's emerald citizens. "Vertigo"1958) for the no-flair achromatic suits and dresses. "The King and I"(1956) for the bold colors of Mongkut's kingdom. And, "Singin' In The Rain"(1952) for its vibrant use of sunset purples and pinks, and array of cloudy blues.

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