Costume Stuff 6# The Hunger Games series
The final Hunger Games film (Mockingjay: Part 2) arrives in cinemas in November. To mark this momentous occasion, I thought it was time I took a closer look at one of the less discussed aspects of this cultural phenomenon - the costumes. The Hunger Games and its sequels are young adult dystopian novels, told from the point of view of their fierce, freedom-fighter heroine, Katniss Everdeen. These are books about war, social injustice and the worrying nature of the media and celebrity culture - surprising then, that Collins actually talks a lot about clothes. Katniss is definitely not a girly-girl, but her clothes are important - whether to highlight the difference between the extravagant Capitol and the poor districts, to draw attention and win the support of the public during the Games, or even used as a symbol of propaganda or rebellion.
Below I'll look at some of the costumes the characters wore throughout the first three films, what they tell us and how they've been translated from page to screen. Starting with where it all began...
(*SPOILERS for films 1-3 ahead*)
The Hunger Games
In one of the most recognisable images of Katniss, she is dressed in hunting gear with a bow and arrow in hand. When we first meet our heroine she wears brown boots and leather jacket - comfortable and good for camouflage. Panem is a dystopian vision of America's future, so the clothes are modern in style, but as Katniss and Gale (also above) live in the poor districts, not the Capitol, their everyday clothes - as well as their hunting gear - are simple and uniform. These dull coloured, working clothes reveal the characters' poverty and hint at the way they are controlled by the state.
" To my surprise, my mother has laid out one of her own lovely dresses for me. A soft blue thing with matching shoes."
At the reaping - where two tributes are picked from each district to enter the barbaric games, everyone wears their best clothes, but there's still nothing extravagant or brightly coloured on show (except for Effie Trinket!) In the film, I felt that there was a bit of an Amish vibe here?
"Prim is in my first reaping outfit, a skirt and ruffled blouse."
I liked that they stuck so close to the (admittedly brief) descriptions of the reaping outfits in the book. As a reader you remember particularly that Prim is in a blouse and skirt, as the tail keeps coming un-tucked, creating a particularly affecting picture when she is chosen as tribute and begins to walk to the stage.
"I'm in a simple black unitard that covers me from ankle to neck. Shiny leather boots lace up to my knees. But it's the fluttering cape made of streams of orange, yellow and red and the matching headpiece that define this costume. Cinna plans to set them on fire just before our chariot rolls into the streets."
Once Katniss has volunteered as tribute, our story moves to the Capitol, where clothes are a whole other animal. Panem's capital city has all the grandeur of ancient Rome combined with the crazy colourfulness of the modern fashion scene, and the clothes reflect this. When it comes to Katniss's fashion however, it's all about publicity. Take the scene where she and Peeta parade with the other tributes during the opening ceremony. In the novel Katniss tells us that District 12 tributes are usually dressed as coal miners (their main export is coal) and look ridiculous as a result. But her fabulous stylist, Cinna, creates for her the flaming coal costume that wins Katniss the moniker of 'Girl on fire' and makes her a stand-out - a crucially important part of the games, as she needs to win sponsors after all. Minus the capes, the film sticks pretty faithfully to the book's description of these show-stopping outfits - as shown in the clip below.
"The other tributes are gathered in a tense circle. They each have a cloth square with their district number pinned to their shirts... Peeta and I are the only two dressed alike."
In the Capitol, Peeta and Katniss find themselves well-dressed and surrounded by luxury, but they're still there for one purpose only. The tributes have to train too. In the film the kids get full kit in the training scene, which I guess looks better on screen as well as emphasising the idea that they are being trained in combat. In the book, Collins instead uses their lack of uniform to reveal that Katniss and Peeta are the only team presenting a united front.
"Because my dress, oh my dress is entirely covered in reflective precious gems, red and yellow and white with bits of blue that accent the tips of the flame design. The slightest movement gives the impression that I am engulfed in tongues of fire."
Although everything's business behind the scenes, in front of the camera the tributes still have to put on a show. The individual tribute interviews are an important part of the build up to the games, as it's another chance for the tributes to win support from the watching public. Katniss isn't exactly a people pleaser, so her clothes, at least, have to be a talking point. And this dress really was. In the book, it's the glittering fabric and flaring red and yellow underskirt that continues to create the impression of the girl on fire. In the film, the dress itself is relatively simple but when Caeser (the host) asks her to give a twirl, the bottom of the dress flares up in tongues of fire.
During the actual games of course, it's back to business. The tributes are in matching, practical outfits. Not too practical of course, as you can't make it too easy for them. If they had too many warm layers they might not be as desperate to find shelter, etc. Once the games start, the watching public aren't really interested in the tributes' style, or much else about them really. They just want to see them kill each other. Katniss's only statement of originality is her Mockingjay pin, which becomes her signature token.
"Then the clothes arrive, the same for every tribute...simple tawny trousers, light green blouse, sturdy brown belt and thin, hooded black jacket that falls to my thighs...the boots, worn over skin-tight socks are better than I could have hoped for. Soft leather, not unlike my ones at home."
"An unassuming yellow dress...gathered at my ribs, not my waist, largely eliminating any help the padding would have given my figure. The hem falls just to my knees. Without heels you can see my true stature. I look, very simply, like a girl. A young one....Innocent. Harmless."
When Katniss wins the games for Peeta and herself, by pulling that trick with the berries, President Snow views this as an act of rebellion. Therefore her image post games, is radically different from before. She needs to be one half of 'the star-crossed lovers' from District 12 - an innocent, Juliet figure who would die rather than be separated from Peeta. By trying to make her look as girlish as possible, Cinna tries to convince the viewers in the Capitol that rebellion had nothing to do with it - it was for love alone that she broke the rules.
In the second film, Catching Fire, we begin much where we started. Katniss is back in District 12, living with her parents and hunting in the woods. The only difference is she now hunts for the survival of Gale's family, not her own. Gale has left school and gone down the mines, and Katniss, as a victor of the Hunger Games has riches, a new house and better quality clothes. As do her mother and Prim. But all is not well, there's changes afoot in the districts and Snow's forces are coming down hard on anyone who goes against the system. And Katniss and Peeta also have the victory tour to deal with...
During the victory tour, Katniss realises that District 12 is not the only one that's struggling worse than ever. The people are ever more oppressed, but there's also a seed of rebellion growing among them. Katniss's symbol of the Mockingjay, is fast becoming something for the people to cling onto. And her clothes begin to reflect this.
In Catching Fire, Katniss wears the above dress to a Capitol party, where there is a sickening amount of splendour on display. At least it seems this way to Katniss and Peeta, who have spent the last weeks touring the poverty stricken districts. In the Capitol, the Mockingjay symbol is just a fashion statement, but among those in the know it's become a symbol of much more.
All this rebellion is getting President Snow a bit worried. So for the following games, he announces that the tributes will be drawn from the existing pool of victors. This means that Katniss and Peeta are going back into the arena, and the people's hope may soon be crushed. At this reaping, however, Peeta and Katniss look like serious contenders. Their clothes are more expensive (including Effie's who's been reaping the rewards of being coach to two Hunger Games victors) but also more businesslike. They knew what was coming this time, and they look prepared.
"The costume looks deceptively simple at first, just a fitted black jumpsuit that covers me from the neck down. He places a half crown like the one I received as victor on my head, but it's made of heavy black metal, not gold. Then he adjusts the light to mimic twilight and presses a button just inside the fabric on my wrist...my ensemble slowly comes to life...transforming to the orange red of burning coal..."
In the chariot parade this time round, Cinna pulls out his old trick with the fire. Katniss and Peeta look fiercer this time, more like true competition. In the film, the simple black jumpsuit has become a flowing dress in an Ancient Roman sort of style and instead of a crown, Katniss's hair is plaited into crowning braids... but the glowing ember effect still does most of the talking.
"...Heavy white silk with a low neckline and tight waist and sleeves that fall from my wrists to the floor. And pearls. Everywhere pearls. Stitched into the dress and in ropes at my throat and forming the crown for the veil."
Before the special nature of the games was announced, Katniss and Peeta tried to save themselves from Snow's wrath by agreeing to get married - a show for the public, to keep up the pretence of the star-crossed lovers. The public of the Capitol had picked out the dress, and cruelly, Snow makes Katniss wear it to her pre-games interview. But his plan backfires, thanks to Cinna, who turns Katniss's dress into the feared symbol of rebellion - the Mockingjay.
"I begin to twirl slowly...I'm gasping, completely engulfed in the strange flames...I'm in a dress of the exact same design as my wedding dress, only it's the colour of coal and made of tiny feathers. Wonderingly I lift my long flowing sleeves into the air...Cinna has turned me into a Mockingjay."
In the book, the long sleeves of Katniss's dress make the winged effect, but her wedding dress in the film has no sleeves - the wings are created a bit more dramatically. It's a great trick and brings hope to all involved, but lovely Cinna pays a terrible price for his moment of rebellion.
And then Katniss and Peeta are back in the games with the rest of the tributes. It's a water arena, so in the film they're all in some form of wetsuit. In the book, the game-makers are a little bit harsher. As Cinna says (right before he gets carted off) the outfit isn't going to protect much from cold or water.
"This year's tribute outfit is a fitted blue jumpsuit, made of very sheer material that zippers up the front. A fifteen centimetre wide padded belt covered in shiny purple plastic. A pair of nylon shoes with rubber soles."
Mockingjay: Part 1
Mockingjay begins with Katniss in District 13. 12 has been destroyed as an act of punishment by Snow and the citizens of 13 - previously thought to be extinct - have rescued her from the arena to use in their planned war against the Capitol. District 13 has a bit of Communist/totalitarian state vibe going on. It's a democratic, but very military focused - and everyone wears matching grey jumpsuits, when they're not dressed in their military gear.
The best thing about District 13 is that Gale is back (although poor Peeta's a prisoner in the Capitol) and he finally gets to have a wardrobe change. While Katniss's life has been yo-yo-ing back and forth between the Districts, the Capitol and the arena, Gale has been at home caring for his family in District 12. But now he gets to be a soldier.
Prim's changed a lot too. While Katniss was off in the games, Prim grew up. She always showed talent for healing and medicine, and now, in District 13, she joins the trained medics. Prim, rather than someone to worry about, is now a calming presence and a bit of a rock for Katniss.
The biggest costume change for the third film however, is poor Effie. Usually a follower of the crazy Capitol fashion, Effie always looks bright, bold and colourful. And a bit nuts. With her changing hair colour and fabulous clothing choices, you could always count on Effie to bring a splash of colour and luxury to the proceedings. It's kind of sad to see her in District 13.
Now that war has been declared, and the districts will march on the Capitol, it seems unlikely that we'll see a lot of elaborate costumes in Mockingjay: Part 2. What I hope we will see however, is a great final installment to the film franchise. I didn't rate the last book much myself, but they've done a good job so far of bringing it to the screen, so I'm expecting an exciting last chapter. If you haven't already had the pleasure, here's the trailer. Roll on November!