fashion coding movies hunger games

Fashion Coding: Analysing The Outfits In Some Of Our Favourite Movies

Fashion in films is so important. Not only can it give us some inspiration for our own looks, but there is also usually some deeper meaning to each individual outfit and look. Part of a costume designer’s role is to analyse the character and choose looks that suit them and their personality. Fashion in films can also be used to demonstrate how the characters are feeling and their current state of mind. Here are five films that use fashion coding.

10 Things I Hate About You

One of the most iconic films of the early 2000s is this cult classic romance film, full of subtle meanings in its fashion. One of the protagonists, Kat, wears a very purple, lilac palette throughout the film, her most iconic outfit being ‘that’ prom dress. This is juxtaposed with Bianca, her younger sister, and her bright pink tones. Both colours highlight the type of character each sister is. Kat, the older, angsty, feminist sister, and Bianca, the popular, girly girl. However, another colour is used significantly throughout the film. White, which is usually used to show purity, is worn by characters who are feeling vulnerable. This is highlighted during the kissing scene between Kat and Patrick, both allowing themselves to stop all the pretence and express how they both feel.

Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen

Lindsey Lohan was the queen of coming-of-age films during the early 2000s. Mean Girls, Freaky Friday, but Confessions Of A Teenage Drama Queen has to be Lohan’s most stylish film. Lohan’s character, Lola, wears some of the most fantastic outfits in this film. Lola and Ella, best friends, dress completely differently. Lola dresses almost like a mini-celebrity, she loves the attention she receives and how unique she is to the rest of the crowd. Ella, however, dresses in simple outfits and is seen as the ‘plain Jane’. Both characters’ styles and outfits reflect who they are as a person. Lola is reckless, outgoing, and free. Whilst Ella is timid, frightened, and trapped. Ella conforms. Lola challenges.

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games is known as the most popular dystopian fiction. One of the reasons for this is the extravagant fashion. Effie Trinket, the embodiment of The Capitol, wears so many fantastic outfits even during the first film. The fashion coding in this film is very clever. She starts off wearing tight dresses with small waistlines, chokers, and prim hats. Not only are these fashionable, but they are also extremely uncomfortable. These outfits demonstrate how The Capitol has trapped even Effie, she is constricted and imprisoned by them. However, over the course of the four films, Effie’s outfits slowly become less over-the-top, and more in line with the other characters. Her personality comes shining through as well as her loyalty to her victors. 


Us, Jordan Peele’s 2019 thriller, used the costume design to show hidden messages and symbols through fashion coding. The two dominant colours of the film, red and white, seem to be on opposite sides. Adelaide starts off the film wearing whites until she switches with Red, by this point the white has slowly faded away. The red jumpsuits, worn by the doppelgängers, are such a contrast to the muted palette of the film. In addition, the outfits worn by both Adelaide and Red highlight a plot twist at the end of the film. Her outfits act as a pathway to her true identity. 


Heather’s fashion consists of classic 80s attire. However, some of the most significant outfits have a deeper meaning. The colour red appears frequently throughout the film. Red can reflect blood, death, lust, love, power, and war. Heather Chandler, who we see first in the film, wears red to demonstrate the power she has over everyone in her life. The iconic red scrunchie also highlights that; she’s the leader and can’t be overthrown (although this is later proven to be untrue). Heather constantly reminds the rest of the group that she is ‘always red’, reinforcing her power status. 

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