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Saturday, 9 March 2013

Capitol Couture: Catching Fire.

Previously: Capitol Couture in The Hunger Games.

Capitol Couture is back, but I'm a lot less optimistic about it than I was last time round. Although I love the Hunger Games books and thought the first movie was an excellent adaptation, the costumes leave much to be desired. I'd hoped that they might kick the weirdness up a notch after the relatively tame aesthetic of the first movie, but these publicity images seem to imply the opposite. From Star Trek to Blade Runner, futuristic sci-fi offers an opportunity to dream up some seriously interesting clothes that often end up influencing real-world fashion trends, but most of the costumes in the Hunger Games could easily be from everyday photoshoots of the actors.
Katniss Everdeen
In the books, a great deal of emphasis is put upon the lavish eccentricities of the people who live in the Capitol. On top of that, all the Tributes have stylists whose job it is to make them look as unique and eyecatching as possible. Why, then, did all the costumes in the first movie look like they'd been bought at the same store? And why are the promo pictures for Catching Fire so damn similar? Katniss, Effie and Johanna are all wearing some variety of frilly Alexander McQueen gown, while almost all of the men are wearing some type of suit.

Effie Trinket
In response to my review of the first movie, someone pointed out that the reason why so many extras in the Capitol look alike is because Effie Trinket is a trend-setter. This is a definite possibility, but we have to remember that during the first book/film, Effie Trinket is upwardly-mobile but not yet famous. She's the representative for one of the least interesting Districts, and presenting Peeta and Katniss to the Capitol is her big break. Considering the similarity between her clothes and the rainbow-coloured outfits of other characters in the first movie, it's more likely that she's following the extreme end of a particular fashion trend -- but even that, to me, seems slightly out of character.
Peeta Mellark
The Capitol is explicitly written as a society where appearance is key. Because Capitol citizens live off the wealth of the Districts, most of them don't "need" jobs, eliminating the direct connection between money and fashion. People try to look as individual as possible, because the ultimate status symbol is for people to applaud your originality as a trend-setter. To be a successful style icon in the Capitol, one must look fresh and new, have an easily recogniseable personal "brand", and be willing to put a great deal of effort into one's appearance -- including body modification. Effie's costumes would be perfect if they existed in a vaccuum, but their resemblance to the costumes of background extras detracts hugely from the overall effect.
Johanna Mason
Catching Fire introduces a whole new cast of Tribute characters, and their District-themed costumes should, in theory, give each one an opportunity to stand out. The most interesting outfits probably won't be revealed until the movie is released, but the pictures we've seen so far don't exactly fill me with confidence. Johanna Mason, who is portrayed in the books as looking spiky-haired, shameless, and implicitly butch, is wearing what looks like a bridesmaid's dress for Katniss' wedding. This outfit doesn't convey one iota of Johanna's personality or role in the movie, either within the context of the story (where she has her own stylist) or as a marketing image for the movie itself.

President Snow
Among the pictures we've seen so far, my favourites are probably Peeta, Beetee and Cinna. Cinna is relatively easy because his style is so subdued and cool, and Lenny Kravitz may or may not literally just be wearing his own clothes for the role. Peeta's costumes are good for similar reasons, because his aesthetic role is to complement Katniss rather than stand out. His image is "cute farmboy", and he knows it, so it makes sense for the Capitol stylists to dress him in comparatively simple outfits. As for Beetee, I enjoy the way the fabric of his waistcoat and trousers looks a little like circuit boards.

Caesar Flickerman

Finnick Odair is kind of an impossible character. In a movie full of attractive people in stylish outfits, he has to outshine all of them with his incandescent hotness. But even taking those difficult expectations into account, I'm not all that impressed by Sam Claflin -- partly because his name makes me think "COL = Claflin Out Loud", and partly because he's so blandly good-looking that I couldn't pick him out of a lineup of Taylor Kitsch lookalikes. (See this amazing Tumblr post about Jesse Williams as Finnick. WE COULDA HAD IT ALLLLL.) Hopefully his actual performance will be imbued with a Veela-like sexiness, but right now I'm not really feeling it. That being said, I do rather like his ocean-themed outfit, which is far more District-appropriate than any of the other new Tribute pictures we've seen so far. I could be wrong, but the sarong/trousers he wears look a bit like Thai fisherman's trousers?
Finnick Odair


  1. Actually, Finnick's outfit there does actually look like faux-District couture, especially considering the boots.

  2. I'm pretty fashion impaired, knowing nothing about real couture or costume design, but I can't stop geeking out over Beetee's outfit. The circuit board print you pointed out and the way his tie looks like a knot of cables already give subtle indications of his electronics specialty. I get that Johanna's and Finnick's outfits also reflect their districts (the top of her dress kind of looks like tree bark and Finnick's obviously got the pirate thing going on) there isn't as much of their personalities in them.

  3. I was rooting for Armie Hammer during casting, but I think now I'm a Jesse Williams convert.

  4. I think I'm so unimpressed because most of them remind me of fashion classes where you are supposed to make something out of garbage bags and paper towels, and sure one person manages to make something amazing, and that person is not designing these costumes. Johanna's dress really looks like cardboard to me.

  5. They could be a particularly fancy take on Thai fishermen's trousers, yes. Impossible to tell from this angle.

    Johanna is a travesty here. I have hopes for Jena Malone in the role, but this costuming is making me nervous. Also, Katniss's makeup is, um, a problem. (Frosty bluish eyeshadow? Is this coming back around to weird-cool now? Because to me it just ill-advised as it always does whenever someone wears it?) I feel like knowing Cinna and knowing Katniss, her makeup should be very natural and simple.

    Also, I'm worried that Stanley Tucci's wig is going to crawl away.

  6. Re Finnick: I still haven't read the books, but with Hollywood being what it is, I can say this for sure: if the character isn't described as black in the books, no way would they ever cast a black actor in the role. It's sad but true. Yes, there is the rare exception like Idris Elba in Thor, but in general Hollywood simply does not cast actors from racial minorities in prominent roles if it can possibly avoid doing so.

    (Indeed, I seem to recall last time around they experienced a backlash
    from casting black actors in even the roles that *were* explicitly
    written as black... yeah. :/ )

  7. Have to say, I actually quite like Johanna's costume in the context of the film. In the same way as Beetee's looks a little like circuit boards, her dress looks a little like wood since she's from the forestry district. I vaguely remember a scene with the tributes at the paradey thing bitching about the stylists putting them in the same sort of thing every year (variations on power plant workers ensemble etc). So when Cinna put Katniss in her coal on fire bodysuit (rather than in a coal miners costume with a lamp on her head) in the last film, it makes sense to me that the stylists for this year would think 'ooh - good plan, let's concentrate on the product rather than the process'.

    But then I've always thought of the parade outfits as being like the Miss World national dress costumes, so pretty far from fashion in any context...

  8. Is it weird that I want to read the books just so I can draw them some redesigns? I wonder if somewhere out there is a 'Project Rooftop' type place for book-to-film adaptations...

  9. THAT WOULD BE AMAZING. please do it. single-serving tumblr!!

  10. eh, it's KINDA like wood, but i'm not terribly enthused. i feel like it's really not out-there enough, although hopefully the movie will include some more interesting versions of the District costumes, maybe?

  11. yeah, i know... but i really liked the campaign for jesse williams to be cast.

  12. i think maybe they have to put katniss in really noticeable makeup, to provide a clash with her normally makeup-free self? idk.

  13. Thailand Tailors have the awesome thing in their tailoring. Really I tried it and the one who visited Thailand must have a tailored suit from there.