SPOILER ALERT: This contains spoilers from “Barbie” which is now playing in theaters.
The yellow dress Margot Robbie’s wears in Barbie’s final scenes was designed to represent change, says the film’s costume designer Jacqueline Durran.
By the end of the Greta Gerwig blockbuster, Barbie has been transformed by the Real World. She’s become flat-footed, broken the patriarchy and all zen has been restored in Barbieland. Except Barbie, after experiencing the spectrum of human emotion, is feeling unfulfilled. She wants to be a human in the real world.
“The Barbies have gone through all of that stuff and they’re now the most fulfilled versions of themselves,” Durran says. “And that sets the scene for what’s happening to Margot’s Barbie as she’s becoming human.”
Durran says the costumes in Barbieland did not accentuate the softness of a human body. However, for the yellow dress Robbie wears in the end scene, “the costume is a bias cut dress which drapes — it’s not Barbie quality.”
The color also contrasts the pink-heavy world of the movie. “I was keen to track the history of Mattel in the costumes,” Durran says. “I asked them what was the most popular costume in the last 5 to 10 years. It turns out it’s a yellow dress. I was going to copy that dress, but it wouldn’t really be recognizable enough.” So she took the yellow idea and applied it to a drape cut.
Like many of the pieces in the film, Durran made the dress. “We wanted a soft yellow and wanted it to have less pop. So, we printed that yellow onto white silk, and because of the cut, it clings to the body. That’s not really a Barbie characteristic — the Barbie characteristic is to be cut straight and to create a shape that falls away from the body.”
Steering farther away from the looks of Barbieland, Durran used a wedge instead of a traditional heel. “We moved from the classic Barbie heeled court shoe into something softer, but at the same time we had to keep the heel.”
As for Barbie’s heart locket, “There’s a source of pathos in a locket that Barbie doesn’t necessarily have,” Durran says. “So, earlier in the film, she has heart accessories that she wears in the block party, and she has huge heart earrings, but there’s something about that locket and scale that makes it more human.”
And what about that cameo by Oscar-winning costume designer Ann Roth? Did Durran dress her?
“Absolutely not,” she says. “I contacted Ann through email and I said, ‘Just wear whatever you want. You’re appearing as yourself.’ She wanted to know about the scene, so I reiterated the positioning of the scene and the color Margot would be wearing.”
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