The Costumes: La La Land (2016)

La La Land

By Marie Brammah.

Character transformation expressed through costume design

La La Land

La La Land

Our central character Mia, an actress in Los Angeles, develops both professionally and personally throughout the film. Her internal development is expressed externally via her clothing. Whilst struggling to find her place and breakthrough, Mia’s style evokes her dreamer attitude and infatuation with old Hollywood. Not only do the silhouettes of her dresses affiliate with those worn in these old movies, but her array of bold colours is suggestive of a woman with a joyous and hopeful outlook.

La La Land

La La Land

Experimenting with different colours and cuts could also convey her struggle to find herself and where she belongs. Perhaps this versatility also voices the life of an actress/actor who must be able to adapt their being to fit the role they are striving for? Her exploration of colour and style is stabilized when we see her reach success and status. Now married and with a name for herself, Mia wears a more consistent colour palette of black and white. The loss of colour in her dress correlates with the loss of dialogue we see in her and voices the notion that she no longer needs to proclaim herself or fight to be noticed. It also reflects consistency and steadiness which is fitting with her safer and stronger economic status.

Mia’s dresses are now cut in a straight and more fitted style which would prevent her from being able to dance the way she used to. Perhaps this symbolises that she has left that part of her life behind. She is no longer living in a dream world but reality. Her dresses are also more modern which further conveys her transition into the modern present and separation from the whimsical past. The achievement of her dream is also highlighted in the fabric of her dress worn in this coffee shop scene. This scene reflects one seen at the beginning of the film in which the roles of herself and the waitress are reversed. The successful woman which Mia serves and admires wears a red lace dress, and in this later scene Mia too wears a lace dress which further highlights her elevation of status and achievement of breaking into the world of the Hollywood elite.

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