character building costumer
When original costumes designed by a single authorial voice serve effectively to develop the plot by revealing the characters’ evolution, that’s when they amount to an architecture of film. By the dresses fashioned for Grace Kelly for her changing role in Rear Window, designer Edith Head proves herself to be an architect of film.
Kelly’s Lisa Freemont has 6 main entrances, with costume & character changes at every step: from the super-luxe, hyper-feminine and frills of evening-wear, to a sheer if slightly more demure pleated cocktail dress, to a starched pique-shirted, tailored tweed shell business suit enlivened only by some slightly noisy baubles of jewelry, to a simple, printed sleeveless day dress and finally to denim jeans, a button-down chambray work-shirt & loafers. And these follow the path of her progress – from cossetted & impractical socialite, to circumspect witness, to willing adventuress and finally to down-to-earth partner. The chief pivot point is a silk crepe negligee, and interestingly, this aggressive forward pass makes her marriage-phobic boyfriend, Jimmy Stewart, much less excited than we might expect. Only later does she earn his proud admiration for her risky derring-do.
By story’s end, her willing transformation from sexually aware princess to eagerly compliant domesticant is nearly complete. Only her “Harper’s Bazaar” hidden “Beyond the High Himalayas” betrays her true, more glamorous, colors.