The Clothes Make the Character: The Impact of Costume Design

A must-see video on an essential film element.
By  · Published on July 27th, 2017

A must-see video on an essential film element.

One of the first ways we as people begin to express our individuality is by the way we dress. Whether you’re sloppy or suave, suited or forever in a t-shirt, the way we chose to dress is actually the way we seek to communicate ourselves to the world. A punk is a punk before he opens his mouth, just like a prep, a hipster, an everyman, a Boho-chic chick et cetera.

This is the same in cinema, where the way a character dresses, be it flashy, muted, or anywhere in between, effects how we in the audience see them, emotionally and intellectually. Think of Snake Plissken’s eyepatch, or Indy’s fedora, or James Bond’s tuxedo. These articles of clothing establish in our minds the kind of characters each is before dialogue and narrative can reveal them. Thus costume design, then, is yet another subtle element that adds dimension to a film, its content and players, and aids in immersing its audience completely into its world.

In the following video essay from Jack Nugent for his Now You See It YouTube channel, the history, deployment, and impact of costume design is analyzed through the spectrum of a few specific films including Gone With the Wind, Star Wars, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, The Incredibles, Jaws and more. Of particular note: how films made in an era are costumed differently from films made about an era. This is must-see stuff here, so don’t delay.

Novelist, Screenwriter, Video Essayist