“Costume is all about developing characters and telling a story.” – Academy Award winning costume designer Angus Strathie
The year is 1937. You’re twenty nine years old, a young mother in your prime. By a twist of fate (and a little magic), your body miraculously stops aging. For the rest of time, you’ll experience the world in a young woman’s figure, but you’ll grow into an old soul.
“Adaline is somebody who has an incredible wardrobe. She’s dressed a little more conservatively because she’s not 29, she’s a hundred.” – Blake Lively
The year is 1976. Although your life is anything but ordinary, you’re still just like any other woman. You find it hard to resist the latest fashions. As the decades go by, your wardrobe is evolving into an archive of memories and moments, past experiences and people.
“Since the piece took place over almost a century, it was extra challenging to be able to find all those periods and all those moods and all those emotions of this character.” – Angus Strathie
The year is 2015. For seventy-eight years, you’ve had to define and re-define yourself, often through what you wore. Each article of clothing holds a sentiment and tells a story of a particular time, a particular version of you. Sometimes, when you head to the closet to get dressed, you find yourself wearing something from every decade.
“What we felt was right was to actually incorporate those vintage pieces into her contemporary look. The 2015 look is contemporary clothes mixed with vintage pieces or vintage accessories.” – Angus Strathie
We all have a relationship with our clothes. After imagining yourself as Adaline, a woman who has lived for almost a century, consider how deep that connection might be with certain articles of clothing. This is how costume designer Angus Strathie employs fashion to enhance Adaline’s story in The Age of Adaline. With a variety of styles and silhouettes from nearly ten decades at his disposal, Strathie makes use of color, pattern, and accessories to reflect Adaline’s character in her wardrobe.
In both flashbacks and present day, variations of red, blue, and black are dominant in Adaline’s wardrobe. I believe Strathie focused on this palette because each color represents a piece of Adaline’s story. Red hues carry a spectrum of meaning, anywhere from danger to love. Because of Adaline’s unique condition, she’s forced to conceal her identity and lives with the constant threat of being discovered. Adaline also spends her life grappling with relationships. Her secret prevents her from allowing herself to build deep connections or fall in love. The color blue continues to illustrate Adaline’s struggle. Blue is often associated with sadness and loneliness. It’s also a color that’s rarely found in nature, much like the miracle of Adaline’s agelessness. Finally, black represents Adaline’s mystery and intrigue. While her beauty is alluring, Adaline internalizes a great deal of vulnerability and insecurity because of her secret. Keeping people at arm’s length to hide her truth proves to make Adaline’s story even more interesting.
Strathie also uses pattern, specifically florals, to characterize Adaline and develop her story. Flowers symbolize growth and renewal. They’re often given as a sentiment at milestones throughout our lives: birth, marriage, holidays, and ultimately death. Because of her inability to age, Adaline circumvents the typical human life cycle, and she must constantly reinvent herself to hide her true identity. Flowers represent the normalcy Adaline so intensely desires.
Adaline’s collection of clothing and accessories helps to keep her grounded despite the lack of stability and consistency in her life. Strathie uses a particularly unique accessory as a signature for Adaline’s look: the scarf. Scarves were a popular accessory in the first half of the twentieth century, during Adaline’s true youth. Although they’re a more unusual contemporary accessory, scarves remain a part of Adaline’s style in present day. For Adaline, the past feels never-ending, but her scarves signify a time when she was purely young at heart.
Strathie’s costume design in The Age of Adaline beautifully illustrates the connection between clothing and storytelling. Whether you’re a wardrobe stylist working with an individual, an editorial stylist working on a campaign, or a costume designer working to develop a character, fashion is a way to express a narrative. Clothing is a part of our daily lives, from what we wear to the magazines we read to the films we see. Most of the time, we don’t realize the impact clothing has on our interpretation of a person or character. However, the saying, “clothing speaks louder than words,” is often true. Within a single article of clothing, an outfit, or a closet, there’s a story.
The Age of Adaline debuts in theaters nationwide this Friday, April 24, 2015.