The Costumes: Nocturnal Animals (2016)

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

By Marie Brammah.

Prior to witnessing a character’s actions or hearing their dialogue, their appearance can give us an insight into many aspects of who they are. Susan’s initial costume consists of a black, woollen turtleneck jumper, underneath a black blazer.

Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals

Susan’s recurrent choice of black – as seen in the previous scene – correlates with her persona. Black is symbolic of strength and power, which is appropriate considering Susan’s success and position within the LA art world. This colour is also representative of detachment and emptiness, which allows us to recognise Susan’s alienation from her emotions and truly connecting with those around her. This notion of emptiness links with Susan’s lacking of reassurance in her identity, as well as the lack of love present in her current relationships. Furthermore, the colour black focuses a reflection upon the negative aspects of one’s life such as pain and loss, which is highly fitting for this character, as well as the themes of the story. The sleek and stylish cut of her clothing alongside the rich fabrics indicate her success and consequential wealth. A high neck, as oppose to a low-cut/open neckline connects with Susan’s detachment. Susan is not physically being revealing and vulnerable, just as her emotions are not on show for all to see. This style of neckline is also connotes entrapment and pressure/suffocation. Susan is trapped in a loveless and unhappy marriage, and has been faced with pressure from those around her (e.g. her mother, Edward) throughout her life.



Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals

Throughout the film, Susan’s costumes tend to blend into the settings via the colours utilised. Perhaps this is simply to keep in line with the overall aesthetic style of the film, however it could be said that this choice is specifically fitting for Susan.

Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals

As we get to know Susan we develop an awareness of her confusion about her identity and purpose. Blending in with the setting, she does not signify any sense of individuality. It is as though her visual style is extracted and moulded by her surroundings – not from her own creativity within.

Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals

Isn’t this also true of her inner being? Doesn’t it seem as if her choices in life have been chosen for her by those around her? Is her identity also dictated and moulded by her surroundings?

The styling of Susan’s costumes are also key. We always see her tailored very sharply, everything neatly pressed, with no sense of messiness. This helps to develop a contrast between what she allows people to see on the outside and what is actually happening in the inside. Despite Susan being at conflict internally, she maintains an image of a confident and successful woman who always has it together.

Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals

This sense of conformity could also be indicated in the styling of her hair. In the flashbacks to her younger life her hair has natural waves, which contrasts the slick and kink-free hair we see in the present day. It seems as though Susan has denied her natural being and is conforming to the fashion (and pressure) around her. Or is this a further attempt to conceal the ‘messiness’ going on within?

Nocturnal Animals

Nocturnal Animals

Unlike Susan, Laura Hastings is dressed in blue – a blue denim shirt paired with darker blue jeans. There seems to be a great contrast in the styling of these two characters, which assists in the separation of reality and fiction within the film. Perhaps this also highlights the difference between the city life (of Susan) and the rural life (of Laura)? Maybe there is a suggestion here that the lives of Susan and Edward are incompatible? The colour blue can also be significant here, as it suggests purity and loyalty. Perhaps this is how Edward sees her? Or is it how he wishes she was?

Arianne Phillips was the costumer designer for Nocturnal Animals.


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