What Shall I Wear?

         Streetcar Named Desire, the 1951 movie, directed by Elia Kazan and based on Tennessee Williams' 1947 play, is well known for its strong acting and powerful story, but not much attention is given to the costuming. The clothes themselves or the way in which they are worn also do a tremendous amount to add to characters in the movie. Every character is given a little quirk or major charisma that shows clearly in his or her clothes.

         Most notably is Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh). Throughout the film Blanche parades around in flimsy, frilly dresses; this is indicative of the character herself. She is somewhat flighty. The dresses are high maintenance; and so is Blanche; she bathes often to "calm her nerves". In addition, after she is raped, her clothes change dramatically to a long-sleeve blouse and skirt; these are not the flimsy see-through material; it is obvious that Blanche is now trying to cover something.

         Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando) also has a particular style throughout. His clothes are almost always slacks and a tight fitting shirt, usually soaked in sweat. These closes express that he is a working man. The shirt shows off his muscles, which also add to the worker persona; he is a labor, but also poses a physical threat to those around him who are weaker. This is apparent later in the movie when he attacks his wife, Stella (Kim Hunter), who soon dresses in baggy smocks due to her pregnancy, and even later Blanche.

         Less noticeable however are how clothes give insight to some of the supporting characters. One such example is that of Mitch (Karl Malden). When he is on his date with Blanche, his bow tie is tied incorrectly; this is physical proof that he is awkward and nervous.

         All of the characters have some personality trait that is expressed through clothing. It is this attention to detail that helps to make this movie such a classic. The costuming combines with the actors' ability and the scrip in order to make a complete picture.

Sandra Way

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