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Understanding the Language of Costumes: The Barbie Way
August 09, 2023

Understanding the Language of Costumes:The Barbie Way

If our beloved Barbie is known for something, it’s her keen sense of fashion and stylish costumes. Since 1959, when Mattel launched its first Barbie to Margot Robbie’s iconic role in the movie, Barbie’s outfits have got the glibber going!


So much so that Barbiecore came into being, and it is unstoppable now. Every actor, influencer, and fashion icon follows the Barbie aesthetic.Top global brands,from Zara and Balmain to Burger King and Airbnb, are all embracing the charming pink Barbie aesthetic. And how can we forget the Barbie and Oppenheimer or should we say Barbenheimer memes that have been all the rage on the internet.

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All for what? For her unique sense of style and even more iconic outfits that have been nothing short of a visual treat for the eyes. Oscar-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran certainly knew what she was doing with her Barbie, and we’re here for it!

Here is how Jacqueline Durran communicated Barbie’s character through the language of costumes in the movie.

1. Defining Characters and Their Traits

The designers of the Barbie movie did an impeccable job of defining different characters through their costumes. One unforgettable example is Kate Mckinnon playing the weird Barbie with messy hair, peculiar makeup, and pen marks on her face, standing in a pink puffy dress. Costumes convey what a character is like, and Barbie, since its beginning, has expressed herself through her outfits.

Defining Characters and Their Traits

2. Showing Time and Place

If you’re anything like most of us – a huge fan of styling Barbie – we bet you loved to see your Barbie doll always dressed for the occasion. Well, her costumes in the movie are all about that. For Durran, “The defining characteristic of what she wears is where she’s going and what she’s doing.” Barbie is always dressed according to the task at hand. Whether it’s Barbie’s classic Gingham hat or President Barbie’s pink jumpsuit, every outfit is put together to match a specific time and place.

Showing Time and Place

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3. Narrating Barbie’s Journey

The new Barbie film is about breaking traditional gender stereotypes and choosing your path. Barbie’s costumes help her do just that. The iconic moment when Barbie chooses between the pink Manolo Hangisi 105 Satin Pumps or the flat brown Arizona Birkenstocks represents her journey in the film. You can also see the costumes undergoing a significant shift when Barbie enters the real world.

Narrating Barbie’s Journey

4. The Hidden Meaning Behind Barbie’s Costumes

Well, styling your Barbie isn’t always about fashion. Barbie’s costumes are also used as symbols in the movie, and quite cleverly so. The pink Gingham dress that Barbie wears for a perfect day turns into a paler version when Barbie hits her down low in the film. Durran conveyed, “We made two versions of the look — one with a brighter colour and one with a faded colour,” which marked a shift in Barbie’s mood and journey.

The Hidden Meaning Behind Barbie’s Costumes

With this attention to detail and aesthetic narration, the Barbie movie has succeeded enormously.

Costumes can make or break a film, and clearly, costume designing is a skill mastered over time. If you want to learn the language of costumes and create iconic characters like Barbie, enroll now with PearlxStudio’s 11-months Professional Certificate Course in Costume Styling today.


11– MONTH Costume Styling

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