Fashion Film Fun: Romeo + Juliet
Love is in the air! To celebrate our Fine Romance pattern trend and of course Valentine's Day, we watched Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet. This 1996 rendition of the classic play brought Shakespeare's masterpiece to the MTV generation in a way that was relatable and exciting. The film is captivating: the skillful acting, modern set design, and fashionable costumes turn Shakespeare's classic into wild journey to its tragic destination.
Plot: Baz Luhrmann's 1996 Romeo + Juliet is an adaptation of Shakespeare's classic Romeo and Juliet love story. We all know this story very well, and it has been retold many times in countless ways, but this version is for the most part true to Shakespeare's writing - some lines even spoken in iambic pentameter. Where Luhrmann innovates is that he sets the film in modern times and deliveres a fashionable, flashy version of the bard's tale. The Montagues and Capulets are portrayed as rival gangs, and the tension between them negatively affects both Romeo (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Juliet (Claire Danes) as they embark on a secret romantic relationship defying their families long standing feud.
Costumes: Catherine Martin, the production designer for this film as well as Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge!, has won four Oscars for her work. In an interview with the Tribeca Film Fesitval, she states that Luhrmann is a visual director and explains how that influences her work with him. She works closely with the the costume designer, Kym Barrett, to achieve his vision, and throughout the film one can see that the costumes are careful examinations of each character. The film begins with a fight between the Montagues and Capulets, taking place at a gas station. The Montagues act jokingly and don't seem to take the fight seriously, whereas the Capulets are brooding and intense; these characterizations span across the entire movie. The Capulets, led by Juliet's cousin,Tybalt (John Leguizamo), are streamlined in all black garments and tough bad-boy swagger. They are garbed in leather, studs, and cowboy boots, and their guns are on proud display in embellished holsters. Their classic mafia inspired look is used to secure their standing as the street lords of Verona Beach. By contrast the Montague boys are a punked-out mashup of pink spiked up hair, loose colorful clothing, and riotous Hawaiian shirts. Their irreverent demeanor and brash clothing is a great contrast to the dark and overbearing Capulet boys. Mercutio (Harold Perrineau) even dresses in drag the night the Montague crew crashes the ball at the Capulet 's compound where Romeo fatefully meets Juliet. Throughout the film fashion is used to differentiate the youth of both families and fashion is also used to maintain the tension in the plot.
The exception: Romeo and Juliette themselves. For the most part, they eschew the uniforms of their respective tribes and exude an air of innocence in the clean and classic lines of their costumes. Although he sometimes assumes the garb of his gang, Romeo is often shown in an easy fitting dark suit with a classic white shirt untucked. Juliet is luminous; she lives in knee-length fitted white dresses, evoking purity and romanticism that was prevalent in the 1800s. At the party where Romeo and Juliet first meet, she is dressed like an angel, with a loose fitted all-white dress and angel wings. This is fitting, as both the lovers are seen as martyrs who died for the sins of their families.
Mood: The film is set in Verona Beach, CA, pictured as a once thriving tourist town that has seen its day and is settling into decrepitude, much like the two houses of the Montagues and Capulets, whose feud has tainted their once noble families. Luhrmann and Martin clearly devoted their time to creating pristine settings; from the elaborate party scenes to the dark, foreboding background of the beach, and they pay attention to the small details that inform the mood of the moment. The film moves from excitement to tragedy, which is accomplished through varying settings that complemented the acting and costumes. The overtones of Catholic and Mexican influences give a fatalistic vibe to many scenes. The exuberance of the Halloween party in the large Capulet mansion set the tone for Romeo and Juliet's meeting. The darkness of the hurricane lent an extreme sense of sadness to Mercutio's death. We know this can't end well, and true to Shakespeare's original masterpiece, the lovers are forever star-crossed suggesting that their angelic natures are too good for this world. Inevitably, their two families pay the ultimate price for their grudge.
In keeping with our Valentine theme, we would like to leave you with a selection of our romantic and whimsical prints for our trend group, Fine Romance
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