Monday, November 14, 2011
Power of Clothing
What's most impressive is how the clothing tells a story in such an authentic way. It's first a product of good writing, I suppose, that Elphaba's iconic witch costume comes off as real, rather than kitschy. There's a story behind each piece: the hat was given to her as a cruel joke by classmate Glinda, for example.
But the costume designer (Susan Hilferty, who won a Tony for Wicked and also designed the brilliant Spring Awakening) made sure that the costumes told an unwritten story. In fact, the coming of age theme comes across stronger in the clothing than anywhere else. In the beginning, Elphaba wears navy and black shift dresses that play up her dowdiness, but also exude youth. I remember thinking how young the actress looked, and I (needlessly) worried that she didn't have the maturity to pull off such a powerful role.
Fast forward to Act II. Elphaba spends the latter half of the act in a magnificent gown. (See this fabulous blog for many detailed photos of the dress.) It has a distinct Victorian silhouette to it, but the arrangement of the rows of trim play up the body's curves. The actress was truly transformed: sexy, confident, wounded, angry.
I don't spend much time with people who think fashion is inherently frivolous or shallow, so I never really have to defend my interest in the subject. But if I did, I would use Wicked as an example of how clothing can carry as much symbolic and emotional weight as any other visual representation.
Which brings me to the question of the day: are you ever made to feel shallow for being interested in fashion and garment construction? Do you think that fashion is a powerful art form, or is that overstating it? Do share!