Katniss’s Wedding Dress and Other Fashion Excesses: If you Don’t See What’s Wrong With the Citizens of the Capitol, Maybe You Are One

Even well before the release of the first Hunger Games movie, I was troubled by the fascination with Capitol trends and fashions. Yes, it was interesting to see how costumers and make-up designers were bringing to life Suzanne Collins’s evocative descriptions, but a nail polish line based on the books? That sort of thing just seemed like a bad joke or a demonstration of the marriage of ignorance and greed in someone’s marketing department. I was surprised that even some people who had read the book bought into the Capitol mindset. Join me after the jump as we look at the shocking pre- Catching Fire film fashion trends that reveal we may already be living in Panem.

William and Kate or Katniss and Peeta?
Recently, the big news for Catching Fire appears to be Katniss’s wedding dress. Though it had already been seen in stills and some short clips, the “big reveal” had the folks at Entertainment Weekly “fawning over Jennifer Lawrence,” as if they don’t already do that every issue. Interestingly, the author of the piece tries to claim that “we hate her wedding and everything it stands for,” but the gushing counteracts any attempt to claim opposition to a Capitol worldview.

This duality is really interesting. On the one hand, of course, the entertainment machine has to keep churning out these images to get the frenzy in full-swing for the film’s November release. Yet, the people throwing the chum in the water sometimes either don’t know or don’t understand the books or their more complex layers. I have seen more than one interview in which the host tried to make small talk about the novels despite never having read them (the worst was the MTV one with Taylor Swift upon the release of her “Safe and Sound” video. Swift was very thoughtful and knowledgeable, and clearly would have preferred a more thoughtful conversation than the shallow dreck produced by an interviewer who only knew the bare bones of the story and was thus reduced to asking idiotic questions about Swift’s favorite foods and potential survival skills).

In addition, the big media and fashion folks really do have more in common with the Capitol worldview than they do with the perspective of the Districts. They live and die by their appearances, and like Effie Trinket, focus on presentation and poise. This doesn’t mean that they are necessarily the enemy (a fact I try to remember every time I see some hideous new style trend that doesn’t look good on glorious models, much less the hapless folks who are stuck wearing some version of it because that’s what it available). I try not to be too harsh in my criticism, and, like Katniss, to rmemeber that if I had been born into a different demographic, I may see things very differently. Rather than just skewering the fashion-forward who would be appalled at my Salvation Army and yard sale couture, I try to treat them like humans, as I hope they would treat me. The more thoughtful among them have to feel a bit of a squirm when they do understand the books, and perhaps, like Cinna, they hope to make themselves into self-referential rebels. These folks, I suspect, are hoping to push the white wedding dress just so they can enjoy everyone else squirming as the pearls fall and the white scorches away to Mockingjay black.

You look Almost Human
Personally, though, I really doubt most of the folks gushing over the Capitol looks are planning to have a big Emperor’s New Clothes moment at the cineplex–“See! All those trappings are a TRAP! Beware the Capitol! Down with Snow!” One of the best indications of the buy-in by the fashion-makers is the big Cover Girl collection, due out October 1. Recently, two of the expected 12 District “looks” were sent out as sneak previews. These are the creations that are meant to represent Districts 1 and 4. Interestingly, one site that published the photos mislabeled the District numbers, too fixated on the color of the lipstick to understand its connection to literature.

I actually find the idea of making these “looks” to be intriguing. If there was some sense that the creators were really trying to add their own take on the books, rather than simply embracing the Capitol superficiality, I would be as supportive as these efforts as I have been of efforts to make maps of Panem or to analyze the historical parallels of the novels; these are all examples of using one’s own interests and skills to gain a deeper understanding of a text and share it with others. I also have been known to sport a Mockingjay or two myself. As it is, though, I remain conflicted, troubled by the disturbing possibility that filmgoers will think the whole point of this complex and fascinating trilogy is to emulate the very mistakes it condemns. Like those who thought the first film was a great action movie with lots of cool violence, those who anticipate Catching Fire in order to parrot the styles of the Capitol are the last word in irony.

It is possible that even those who really want to wear Effie Trinket’s shoes (which look deadly uncomfortable, as well as nauseatingly over-the-top, but there are whole sites devoted to them) may eventually catch on to the dark truths of the story. After all, even Effie does, eventually gain some understanding. But alas, many of them will remain as she is in the beginning of the first novel, when Katniss wonders “what goes through her head?” The answer to that question, of course, is “a stiff breeze,” or perhaps “sunlight.”
Perhaps there is hope for those who miss the point. But the odds may not be in favor of such optimism.


Thoughts? Comments? Attacks on my fashion choices?

Comments

  1. phoenixsong58 says:

    Elizabeth,

    I could not agree with you more. I’ve had almost every thought that you expressed, and I am so glad you were able to put them in writing so well, which I would not have been able to do. The Capitol, to me, is so clearly an exposé of the excesses and consumerism and fashion-ism and trend-ism of our society and the dangers that lurk within these obsessions.

    I also think the Hunger Games is an exposé of the problems inherent in reality television, which to me is designed to bring out the worst in human beings for entertainment. Some of the cruelty and humiliation of one person by another that I’ve heard about in reality television does not sound too many steps away from the Hunger Games. All of the horrific violence in television and movies and video games and pornography seems to feed into that, also. That the people in the Capitol focus on fashion and violent, competitive, sadistic entertainment, while seeming to have no understanding of the cruelty and social injustice supporting their lifestyle, is, to me, one of the most powerful warnings of the Hunger Games.

    I, too, felt a shiver of disgust and fear that the U.S.’s media and fashion industry are focusing on imitating the Capitol rather than learning from its mistakes. It’s almost as if there is an intention to distract and get people to miss the point of the stories, whether conscious or unconscious. Like you, I try to see people who are obsessed with fashion simply as human beings, to ask myself in what ways I exhibit a similar need to fit in or imitate others or gain approval, and to remember that their interests in fashions are not intrinsically bad. But in our society there is a continual prominence and dissemination of the mindset that people need to dress as fashion designers dictate and to follow trends in clothing, entertainment, decorating, and technology. This sets up the population to be unable to think for themselves, to eventually feel unable to go against what is popular and what the experts (in any field, including religion, politics, and academia) tell us to believe and think. And these distractions and edicts make it so much easier to overlook the things that are going on behind the curtains.

    I remember once taking an anthropology class focused on what it means to be human. I realized that the human brain has enormous potential for creativity and individuality. And yet, because we evolved to have to learn how to survive from the society we are born into, our need for conformity and our ability to be brainwashed way too often supersede our potential to see beyond the messages of our tribe. It’s not that “group think” messages are inherently bad, either— they are necessary for survival, for finding food and safety. But when they involve fashion, the focus can be meaningless and distracting.

    Thanks again for such a thoughtful post, Elizabeth. I could definitely agree with your fashion choices also. I remember once reading a quote by Gilda Radner that I could wholeheartedly relate to: “I base most of my fashion taste on what doesn’t itch.”

  2. Well said Phoenix song- for someone who said she couldn’t express herself as well as Elizabeth! I too share the shiver that we are Panem without knowing it, based on all of your examples. It is that hot pursuit of some sort of meaning in this life, or maybe it’s trying to escape a life that has a lack of meaning or purpose- all the focus on fashion. Equally disturbing is the seeming increase in young celebrity deaths and the glorification of it. Anyway, I love the Radner quote and realize that is what I have been trying to implement into my wardrobe all my life. Thanks for the humor.

  3. Elizabeth – Well said. We are coming close to Panem when you click on any regular site on the internet (i.e. Yahoo) and most of the top stories are something about the Kardashians or who wore what on the red carpet or who looks great at the beach in a bikini. Thanks for the wonderful post!!! Always look forward to the discussions from this site – fabulous insight!!!

  4. phoenixsong58 says:

    Kathleen, thanks— and I would add to the ‘doesn’t itch’ that I would not be caught alive in shoes like the ones in the photo above! 🙂

  5. Elizabeth says:

    Indeed, Kathleen, Phoenix song really hits the nail on the head! (and expresses herself beautifully!) Thanks for all the great comments! Speaking of nails, Johanna Mason is wearing a bracelet of them on the front of the elaborate Zoetic Sol Capitol Couture “magazine” now circulating online. http://capitolcouture.pn/home.
    This complex marketing tool, in some ways, is really neat. It has the actors in costume, with commentary that shows a clear understanding of the characters, set up in a column that looks like a real fashion magazine. On that level, I think it’s a thoughtful and useful take on analyzing the text. The problem? It actually is a real fashion magazine. In addition to showcasing Cinna and other fictional characters, the site features actual fashion designers and gushes over their Capitol-esque designs. At first, I thought this was a very clever, tongue-in-cheek way of pointing out the utter ridiculousness of most high fashion, which looks even crazier than the combinations produced by my six-year-old and her dress up box, but she can walk around, and her princess-robot-doctor outfit did not cost more than our car. But no, it’s for real, a salute to these wacky, overpriced designs and their creators, ostensibly to make us want to buy or imitate them. http://capitolcouture.pn/tagged/Capitol%20Look.
    Some of this stuff really is fascinating, as art, and I suppose it would be fine in a museum, with other avant garde sculptures and what-not, but it is presented as a look, something for the rest of us to emulate, without noticing that the Capitol is morally bankrupt. Someone isn’t just missing the point–someone doesn’t even seem to realize there is a point–a very large and sharp one. No wonder they were fooled by Johanna: they couldn’t see that tree if it fell on them, and it might.

  6. phoenixsong58 says:

    Elizabeth, truly, I am stunned. I, too, would imagine it’s, as you said, “pointing out the utter ridiculousness of most high fashion,” and I agree that clearly “someone isn’t just missing the point— someone doesn’t even seem to realize there is a point.”

    Coincidentally, a friend yesterday told me about the movie about philosopher Hannah Arendt that currently has a limited showing. I watched the trailer and read about her on Wikipedia. She coined the phrase “the banality of evil,” and “she raised the question of whether evil is radical or simply a function of thoughtlessness, a tendency of ordinary people to obey orders and conform to mass opinion without a critical evaluation of the consequences of their actions and inaction” (Wikipedia).

  7. Finally, someone who sees it this way, too!! Seeing the reaction of the people around me, they don’t think about it at all, but just squeel with delight with every new Capitol picture, while it makes me feel a bit sick.

  8. …fashion trends that reveal we may already be living in Panem.
    We don’t already?

    Most of what is in fashion is ridiculous, ugly and often disgusting. Besides, even beautiful outfits may be disgraced by the people wearing them, and I am not only speaking of failure to downplay physical defects.

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    also, Dont you think Nicki Minaj is just one of them, you know i love some of her songs but her way to dress….

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