Effie Trinket, Capitol fashionista, introduces the befuddled Appalachian heroine of the Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen.
- So: I have a lot of thoughts about The Hunger Games and fashion. There is a lot of fashion in the series, especially in the first two books, but I never really thought about it until going to see the movie this weekend. The increased importance of fashion in a visual medium, and all that.
- Down With The Capitol and all that, but honestly, the Capitol fashions are really good. They’re so sick. I can’t get over how good they are. Effie Trinket may be birdbrained and unsympathetic as hell, but she knows shoulderpads. Politics aside, I can’t believe that most fashion editorials inspired by the series are about Katniss’s damn side braid. (One exception: the Capitol Couture tumblr.)
- Which leads me to: it’s a little annoying to me that the most vapid characters from the Capitol have the most effeminate and stylised fashion. it’s kinda crypto-homophobic, all this avant-garde gender-bending fashion presented as the height of decadence.
- I mean, yes, totally, the underclass in a dystopian society who spend all their time thinking about their next meal are going to have less time to spend on their fash than the extravagant fashionistas of the Capitol. But it’s usually the case in our own society that it’s underclass fashion that’s stereotyped as gaudy and monstrous, and the upper classes who have the resources to do classic and subtle styles. Classic is expensive, and it’s inherently expensive: good classic style is defined not by creativity or colour or anything else that’s accessible to people with no money but by quality of materials and tailoring.
- And indeed, the more eeeeeeeevil and serious of the characters from the Capitol (President Snow and his ilk) have more sober and gender-conforming fashions, basically suit-and-tie stuff. But also see for example how Cinna — a sympathetic fashion designer who is continually presented as truly cutting-edge, the last person you’d expect to have a conservative dress sense — is coded as sympathetic the minute we are introduced to him by Katniss noticing and approving of his relatively subdued personal style. He does have signature gold eyeliner, so it’s all relative I guess.
- On the other hand, it appears that Panem doesn’t have the kind of mass production of cheap fashion that we do, or at least it doesn’t reach District 12. They’re clearly not working within an economy of fashion that’s at all comparable to our own. Also there’s a subtle French Revolution thing going on with the exaggerated hourglass figures and the white curly wigs, which I like.
- All that aside, I think we can all agree that Cinna is the best. He’s all like, “don’t mind me, I’m just some amazingly creative and talented fashion designer with really good politics and a kind nature who’s going to devote my considerable skills to keeping terrified underclass kids alive by making sure they look so damn cute people can’t bear for them to die”. It’s one of the only truly interesting depictions of fashion and fashion design I’ve seen in recent Western pop culture.
- While we’re talking visual culture, an aside about the whitewashing controversy: Jennifer Lawrence is great as Katniss. But her best efforts aside, the movie is hurt by Katniss being played by an unambiguously white and also very fair-skinned (freckled, even) actress. The dynamic where she has less privilege relative to her mother, Peeta and the village elite (all fair-complected) is continually reinforced in the books by reference to her darker complexion, like her father, like most coal-miners in her district, and like Gale. It’s a super-important sign of her underclass roots. Likewise, the support and solidarity offered to her with little prompting by Cinna, Rue, Thresh (all characters of colour, although I believe Cinna’s race is ambiguous in the books), and District 11 (a predominantly Black community) also feels more arbitrary if she’s unambiguously white. (This more in-depth commentary at Feminist Film is good.)