Poor Things / Dressing the Beast

Poor Things / Dressing the Beast

Dressing the beast
by costume designer Holly Waddington

Children often undressed because their unfamiliarity with their limbs and the way clothes are an impediment to their sudden movements and their interest in the different surfaces. The clothes on Bella from beginning to end are seemingly unfinished, unmatched, and likely a mix of an uncomfortable exuberant child. Some outfits reference female genitalia. Towards the beginning of the film, there is an outfit that may be an homage to one of the movies from Yorgos Lanthimos, the director, The lobster. The references are subtle and implicit in the context of the scene.

The organic sense of the costumes also plays along with the deformed creatures that wander around the house with heads that belong to the other animals, but never the right head.  Bella was most likely dressed by God and the Maid, given her both masterful pieces to wear and simplistic undergarments that were easy to remove for cleaning purposes, hence the Maid trying to make her life easier. 

Poor Things

The costume designer not only references Moncler, Courrèges but also French Designer Madelline Vionnet. As seen on the wedding dress, the balloon sleeves remind us of Beehives but with a sheerness and lightness to them. The designer purposely wanted to show how a marriage resembles the interactions of the Queen Bee with her pairings, and how she is trapped forever to be the birth giving Queen. 

1936 – Madeleine Vionnet, Carnival Dress | Fashion History Timeline

Poor Things

It took about 40 people and 22 weeks to create the outfits for the movie. Every single piece has more than one story to tell. While the first 30 mins of the movie are in black and white, the reality behind the film is inspired by the musty colors of rotten apples. The decay of beige, becomes fleshier and then suddenly dies into shades of suede, tan and bruised plums. You can see how in the walls of Gods' house; the shades seem to glorify the shadows more than the light. The outfits that Bella wears during this black and white period almost feel like nappy gowns but with a weight to them, that comes across her bedroom and the rest of the house.

It is all about the Sleeves. The balloon sleeve or Bishop sleeves go back to the 1700, first worn by Byzantine Bishops, hence the name. But their evolution had a lot to do with social status. The bigger the sleeves, the higher the position in society.  To achieve the full volume of the sleeves in some of the garments, different techniques were used to create a leg-of-mutton sleeve, a bishop and a lantern. All these sleeves add volume to the arms. If we look closely at Bella’s movements, we realize she does not move her arms as much as she moves her legs in a very uncoordinated way. Her arms are typically stray down and the Volume on the side of her torse, not only creates a sense of fullness and space hugger but also adds power to a very fragile being. There is a scene in the movie in which she is seating at the table, and you can see her oversize Bow like sleeves and nobody else behind her, because of the overpowering volume she will hold at the table even when she was quite down by Don to not say exactly what she thinks because society is afraid of listening to the truth. Her shoulders sometimes stand higher than her head, to show for all the things that are being held down, so her head won’t explode from her mind. It is what Bella does not say anymore that goes into her shoulders and her arms and balloons up.

Each scene has an outfit to remember it by, the Paris bit was interestingly enough introduced by a yellowish condom like outfit, that was meant to protect her from the environment, the rain and the snow, but yet, it became like her way of entering the brothel with an armor on. While Paris is almost only reference to as inside the brothel and the socialist revolution, undressing was part of how the important pieces stayed on her. Like the lace-up top with balloon sleeves in a damask pattern.

How 'Poor Things' Crafted Emma Stone's Bella From Condom Coat, Psychedelic  Sets

In Alexandria the white dress is the perfect reminder of how pure and innocent her wild mind still is and how her world is not just straight lines, but curvy crazy deformations of every person’s ideas to create something better. Bella discovers pain and that dress is the goodbye to true joy and complete disregard.  From now on, she will wear colors and patterns that disrupt the eye purposefully. Poor Things Costumes: Big Shoulders, Period Details Create Modern PastChosen specifically for Victoria, the wife of the general, both blue armor dress at the beginning of the movie and the last dress at the end, signify battle. The last dress she wore was a yellow dress military style sleeves and with a beautiful purple shield on her chest, she was ready to be shot by her husband and she was not afraid.

For a film that started during the Pandemic, the seclusion of the house and the internalization of humanity in all its forms. Desensitization pain was a unique part of how the costumes for women and man. Godwin outfits showcase a completely different aspect of his personality. On the streets and at the university, a proper Englishman, at home a futuristic scientist, changing all forms and shapes just because the perfect fit was never him. His at home outfits were inspired by this Russian constructivist artist, Alexander Rodchenko. While there is not direct reference from the costume designer about Designer Simone Rocha and Schiaparelli, we believe the Holly must have be impacted by the latest runways shows, which create these doll like “coquette” outfits with unfinished details that almost reminds us use dolls that were played with too hard. Like in the Barbie Movie, the abused barbie that was an outcast because she looked different.

While Bella is mostly seen barefoot throughout the movie, the times in which she wears boots, her toes are exposed in the peak-a-boo Victorian style boots, that make homage to André Courrèges.

The artistry combining set design, filmography, costume design and script is the one thing that makes this movie unique and worth watching. Aside from the overly lengthy sex scenes, which we think did not add more cleverness but derail from the message. While the sexual connotations and disarray of it by taking all the biological aspect closer to prostitution and dehumanizing completely the way in which sexual encounters were perceived. Bella emphasizes the biological aspects of her need to "jump", and completely removes emotion from it, the sexual scenes in the brothel were marked by distorted mindsets and repulsive facts that end the glamour purposefully, but maybe it was a bit to extended and unnecessary. We had enough of the Emma Stone nipples and pubic hair at this point in which we are almost asking to see a bit more of Paris, not so much of her "furious jumping". While the sex liberation for woman seem to evoke some evolution and it was reference by the French socialist revolution, the prostitution part diminished it a bit.

While a lot of the movie has a message about feminism, it is also a reminder of woman silent imprisonment at home by their husbands and parents, almost always was blamed on sexual hysteria. Women so called “liberation” include sexual freedom, even when women and man were not equals in any other aspect of society. Sexuality was also discovered for most women during the 20th century, lets remember that it wasn’t until the 40-50 that actual studies were conducted to understand women orgasms and the way the clitoris worked. 

To be Continue...