20 January 2013

Hollywood Costume and Psychology

We've had a great Christmas and New Year's break here at CreateVoice, and with the New Year we're welcoming many new projects at the museum - more of which will be shared here soon! In the mean time, the first post of 2013 focuses on the amazing Hollywood Costume exhibition - with Amaris giving an insight into the psychology of costume design.

Hollywood costumes have helped shape and mould the most iconic film characters ever to hit the screen: Spiderman, Batman, Jack Sparrow, Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz and many more.
The psychology involved with the costumes of these characters mostly includes the way they are perceived by others in their social world, their social status that contributes to behaviour.
Costumes in film provide the most basic information for the audience about the behaviour, lifestyle of the character, provides clues about the background of the character and the way they perceive their social world.

All of these perceptions of a character are based on first impressions.
In terms of behaviour, an interesting view to take on Hollywood costumes is how they are connected to mood of the character. For example; how do the bright colours of the costume tell you about the very nature of the character?

The lifestyle of the character can be deduced from their costume. If a character was wearing very decorative and vibrant clothes the audience may get the impression that the character is very upper class. If they were wearing very worn out clothes this may portray that the character is of a different social status. Already, the audience has a developed an impression of the character based on the costume. The costumes are clues to the origins and background of the character. This would give the audience access to their behavioural expectations in society.

Much of what the character perceives about the world can be seen through costume. For example in the Dark Knight series, Bruce Wayne when seen in public appears to be well respected by other people. This can be seen in his tailor made jacket, tie and white shirt, making him come across more of a rich business man in a very privileged position in society. In contrast, his alter ego, Batman, demonstrates an entirely different message. The black colour of the costume reveals a dark, macabre side to Bruce Wayne’s character. In contrast to the well respected millionaire, Batman is disliked and is often victimised, ostracised and shunned by society, despite his heroic deeds. The costume provides visual clues as to why he is shunned by society - the bat like appearance of the costume, the sharp pointed ears protruding from the mask. The mask shield’s his identity which makes him more mysterious and also indicates the character's intentions to remain unknown to the people. This projects people’s perceptions of him as an outcast in the city.

The role of costume in Hollywood filmmaking is essential as it provides information to the audience about who they are, how they are perceived, their background, behaviour and lifestyle.

Amaris Hussain, member of CreateVoice, studying Psychology at university.
Photographs by Laura Blair

The Hollywood Costume exhibition continues until Sunday 27th January - there's still time to see the amazing collection for yourselves!
(click here for more information and to buy tickets)

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