Breaking Down “Plain” Costume & Character Designs! (SPOILERS)


When people think of costumes in movies, it’s either this (period piece) or this (superhero). And they’re great… most of the time, but honestly my favorite costume & character designs are much more casual; They’re designed to look plain and normal on the outside so that the minor details such as colour, layering, texture and patterns can say a lot about a character and their traits without being too obvious. The same can be said for animation as all of the mentioned details go into creating a well-designed and well-rounded character. But since its animation people tend to ignore “costuming” just because we know what we’re looking at is not real. Which is why in this video, I’ll be covering 3 costume designs, 2 character designs and 1 example of puppet design (Yeah, we’re actually going there) that all accomplished the same thing: Detail important character moments through colour and choice of clothing and materials. So without further ado, let’s get started! The most noticeable thing about “Avenue Q” is how the puppeteers operate their characters and deliver their lines in complete sight. Sounds stupid at first… Then you look at how the puppeteers all wear plain grey or black shirts and pants, compared to the puppets and the human characters who are all dressed in bright vibrant colours, making it easier to pay attention to the characters while also acknowledging the hard work it takes just to perform a puppet. The other interesting thing is how on the nose the “Sesame Street” parodies are in terms of their designs; if Ernie is a hand puppet (one performer for the mouth and left arm and another performer for the right arm), then Nicky is a hand puppet as well. If Bert is a standard rod puppet (one, man performing both hands and the mouth), Then Rod is the exact same puppet. The same can be exactly said for Trekkie Monster being performed as a hand puppet just like Cookie Monster, with his body postures and fast movements-just like all the other characters detailing his emotions and very fast expressions to make up for his stilted eyes. All for the sake of teaching us the important things in life. Trekkie Monster: “🎶The Internet is for Porn🎶” Kate: “Nooo” Trekkie Monster: 🎶The Internet is for Porn🎶” Kate: “Trekkie”? Trekkie Monster: “🎶Me up all night, hugging me ‘horn’ to porn, porn, porn🎶” Kate: “That’s gross”! Now despite the name “Daredevil” the ‘Man without Fear’ spends most of his TV appearances in a makeshift black ninja outfit, loosely based off of Frank Miller’s “Man Without Fear” origin story. Given the gritty atmosphere of a show centered around those who have little but live with what they can, while the wealthy feed off of them with little consequence, It’s oddly compelling to see someone using only his physical strengths, as well as some everyday objects like pipes as batons or rope as brass knuckles to beat the shit out of guys in suits who simply rely on money and guns. But what about the actual daredevil suit? What significance does it have? Well in season 2 especially thanks to the body armor, and his pretty sick baton, he’s able to devote more time to being a vigilante with less risk of being injured… At the expense of being there for his friends in a civilian life, especially when he falls for and spends more time with Elektra. It isn’t until season 3 that the Daredevil suit literally becomes a symbol of evil, especially when Matt-being forced to don his original outfit has to fight the man in his own suit. Now think about it-and watch the choice of words here. in season 1 he comes from nothing, using clothes he bought online until by chance he makes a ‘deal’ to receive the suit; a deal that was arguably when led Matt to drift apart from the ones he loved. It isn’t until he confesses not only to himself, but to his friends his mother and his pastor how he needs them in his life in order to become a good lawyer AND a vigilante hero, that he becomes free and finally ‘lets the devil out’! Some may argue otherwise, but for me personally, it’s the first time I’ve seen a superhero’s costume play a role in the characters’ arc… mostly because I’ve never seen “Spider-Man 3” and… “Daredevil” came before “Spider-Verse” so, you know, ‘technicalities’. The colours red and blue play a huge symbolic role in “A Quiet Place”. Before and after her brother’s death, Regan wears primarily blue clothes-a blue jacket especially standing out, foreshadowing and confirming the guilt she bears over her brother’s death. Her father on the other hand spends most of the movie wearing a red sweater- Which holds the most symbolism for me personally. When we think of red we think of it representing love, warmth and comfort, but also anger, violence and intensity, and if there’s ever such a thing as too much love and care this movie shows that through Lee; A father whose actions demonstrate a large amount of care towards its family, actions that he rarely communicates and even when he does, comes off as overbearing, which only adds to his son’s fearing that he’s not ‘the man of the house’ material, and his daughter feeling depressed and rejected. Thankfully his children know exactly how they’re feeling and know exactly what they want to say, So when Lee and Marcus grieve together for the first time, that’s where Mark poses the question: Marcus: “You still love her, right?” Lee: “… Of course I do”. Marcus: “You should tell her”. And the big turning point is when Lee trusts his children to help protect their mother and brother and once he gets there in time, he gives her his sweater, now donning a plain white shirt now that he’s realized his kids independence. But he’s willingness to do anything for them and his realization that he can’t always be there for them remains the exact same. As for Evelyn who was originally the least strict parent sporting a white coat over a green shirt representing a new beginning for her and the life that grows inside of her, comes DAMN-near close to losing that again! That’s when she becomes head of the house and she begins to resort to Lee’s beliefs that protecting everyone by herself is the only way to do it once she puts on that red sweater. Who knows what will happen in “A Quiet Place: Part II”, but hopefully the themes of her trying to learn the exact same lessons that Lee did will develop from there. Now this one may seem like a strange choice considering this is just one scene, but it only goes to show how many hidden details go into Edgar Wright’s movies. Just like “Shaun of the Dead” & “The World’s End”, Wright foreshadows many key events in the movie from the very beginning, such as Griff’s monologue challenging Baby’s idea of what a criminal lifestyle is. But there are two defining features that I’ve noticed upon rewatch: Griff’s shirt and Baby’s three pairs of glasses that he wears for the entire scene. The crucifix and skull on Griff’s chest can be interpreted as him judging Baby as a sinner or enjoying Baby’s silence as a sign of guilt. Now as for the sunglasses, this exact quote is what makes them symbolic for me. Griff: “He wants to sit there in his car-keep his white shirt clean while the rest of us, we roll in the dirt”! Griff: “One of these days, Baby, you’re gonna get blood on your hands, and you’re gonna find out that that shit don’t wash off in the fucking sink”. It’s true he gets blood on his hands, which is symbolized by baby replacing his black sunglasses for red ones. But upon first glance Grif instantaneously knocks them off. So clearly blood can be washed off. It just takes time… a long time to do that, but eventually he does, and just like him donning another black pair of glasses His life comes completely back to normal. Now I’ll admit, the first time I saw Lena, I didn’t think I’d enjoy her as a character as much as I do now. And honestly, her design was one of the reasons; the shoes-but-no-pants seemed a little more awkward than the no-pants-no-shoes… thing-don’t quote me on that, come on! And her hair seemed a little too obvious of a way to make her look rebellious. Now, having her being my favorite character on the show for a while now, I’ve noticed little details about her quote-unquote ‘costume’ that say a lot about her. Yes-the sneakers-but-no-pants definitely fits her rebellious outlook on life, along with her almost flaming highlights in her hair, but having something pink in her hair just like Webby’s bow is a subtle way of saying that there is a friendship on each other’s minds. The black and gray stripes on her sweater symbolize the evil deeds that Magica’s forcing onto her versus her conflicting gray morals. Either way her stripes show how she feels like she’s being a prisoner to Magica and the blue shirt underneath illustrates the overall unhappiness in her life. Her shadow-form also has a strong colour palette too. When she sacrifices herself for Webby, her form is bright blue so there’s still hope for her to return but until then, she’s still stuck alone and unhappy. Upon meaning Violet and seeing Webby seemingly forget about her, she is literally green with envy, even when we see her body, she’s shrouded in green light. But it isn’t until she sees her own jealousy and fixes her mistakes that her ‘final moments’ are back to blue. Until Webby & Vi acknowledge her and grant her her life back. And even in the next episode of her there’s still major details hidden in minor places, mainly in her pajamas: her black pants and black undershirt indicate her hidden and increased fears of returning to her old ways, Which is reinforced by the growing black hair that she has. But since in the end she decides for herself that she is a good person and wants to be, her redemption is shown when all of her black clothes are covered by a plain white shirt, showing that once and for all she is a good and pure… Duck? Being? Human? I don’t know-I’ve heard all of these terms in the show-My God! I love DuckTales, but seriously, it’s fucking weird! Now I’ve covered some of these details in a separate video, so I’ll try to keep this to a minimum. But anyways: The most engaging parts of “When Marnie Was There” for me were the themes of children overcoming grief, and what better color to symbolize grief than the colour blue? Blue surrounds our two main leads with bright skies, oceans, the clothes that they wear and even the color of their eyes. What sets Anna and Marnie apart design-wise and character-wise is Anna’s typically featured with darker shades, darker shades that show how much her thoughts and feelings are weighing on her. Her blue shirts and nightwear show the feelings of sadness and self-hatred that she’s experiencing, her purple turtleneck is a sign that she’s desiring the answers about her and Marnie’s past, but also how guarded and reserved she is on the outside and whenever she wears something much brighter, It’s usually when she has to interact with other kids her age, which for her seems to be her biggest struggle until she meets Marnie, who in contrast is dressed in brighter and more vibrant colors showing a much more optimistic personality. But that’s not to say her wardrobe doesn’t show off any of her flaws. Especially when you look at how similar and repetitive each dress she wears: how they each have a bow and a collar. Which could suggest the life that she had was very strict and didn’t give her that much freedom. And of course when the two of them see each other for the last time, It’s also the only time their clothes are the same colour, the very scene where they realize that they can’t see each other forever, but that they’ll always have their memories to look back on! And that is why for me it is not only the best scene in the entire movie, but it is a great example of visual storytelling! There’ve been other, superior video essays that highlight the more mundane costume and character designs, but I urge you nonetheless as movie fans or as casual audiences to not just focus on what a character says or does; Look at your favorite character and what they’re wearing. What makes them stand out? And whether or not their style matches their actions.

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