“Dude, have you seen the new Hunger Games?” “Yeah it was amazing, what did you think of it?” Such was the conversation that dominated the Oxford scene following the release of the Hunger Games: Catching Fire. Having not read the book and found the first movie somewhat average, I made my way to the cinema with mixed feelings.
However, I was pleasantly surprised by the film, and found it to be a very exciting experience, much more exciting than the second Hobbit film at least (yes. You heard me, die-hard hobbit fans..). But what really impressed me was not so much the CGIs nor the intriguing plot, but the depiction of the fashion couture of the Capitol, the heart of Panem.
It is obvious that when Collins described the fashion scene in her book and when Trish Summerville designed the costumes, they aimed to depict a vulgar, self-centered mob desperate to fill their insatiable souls with fabrics, tattoos and delightful food. In writing about the Capitol, Collins is mocking (albeit in a very exaggerated manner) the world of high fashion and its over-emphasis on the aesthetic and pursuit of youth and beauty. Certainly, the mobs’ acts of almost self-harm in changing their bodies that Katniss describes (in the book) could be compared with the issue of runway models living off drips and single pieces of salad in order to stay bone-thin. Having said so, one cannot remain unmoved by the beauty plethora of colours and styles depicted in the film, especially in the famous garden party scene or Katniss’ wedding dress.
The costumes were in fact very thoughtfully designed, as each costume is an expression of the thoughts and feelings of each character. For example, Effie Trinket’s dresses, which were glamorous but always made a little too tight, exemplify her yearning for the beauty that the Capitol offers and yet at the same her discomfort with the way the districts were treated. On the other hand, the blazers of President Snow and his hair cut are designed in such a way as to convey a certain sense of regality and power.
Is there anything we can get out of Capitol fashion and apply it to the real world? Yes is the answer. In fact, many pieces featured in the film are in fact real pieces made by designers. Effie Trinket’s dresses are designed by Alexander McQueen and House of Worth, whilst Junn J and Nicholas K provided pieces for Katniss and Peeta. Unfortunately, they are hardly within the spending range of us, who are living off student loan.
Instead, go away from the film taking this idea with you: that fashion is a form of self-expression, not restriction; what you choose to wear should be an outlet of your individuality, not some means to conformity. It must be with this idea in mind, that costume designer Trish Summerville went about the daunting task of dressing over 6,000 extras individually to give each of them their own expression.