Costumes of the heroines of Shakespeare.

Among all the heroines, the Shakespearean heroines are always something special and unique. Not only for their importance in his plays but how infectious they could be. One could even refer to them as the yardstick for comparing the other characters of all time. It is a known fact that William Shakespeare is one of the greatest playwrights who lived in the Elizabethan era. Long back fashion as a statement was way different from what we see today. It had a whole different meaning to it. In simple words, fashion has taken a whole new turn. During the Elizabethan era, fashion was simple and there were five fashion rules commonly followed by the elite women then.

  1. Long gowns that covered them till their foot
  2. Ruffled collar
  3. Puffed sleeves
  4. Thin waistline (usually a crochet is worn)
  5. Footwear wasn’t important because it wasn’t seen anyways

Here are 5 of Shakespeare’s heroines and their fashion sense as seen in film adaptations

  1. Juliet in Romeo and Juliet

When you  started reading this article, probably the first heroine who popped in your head was Juliet. For the perfect storyline that Romeo and Juliet is, there are three adaptations. The first came out in 1968, second by the year 1996 and later following it the latest one released on 2013

(1968)To start with it is clearly seen that this dashing red dress looks fantastic and it has got a partial Elizabethan touch to it for its long sleeves and length. This dress probably belongs to the second half of the era because dresses with just thin waistline were stopped being sewn. People started preferring something lose a parallel and also more comfortable. I feel that the choice of colours is a perfection here. Red is a colour that symbolises love, passion, courage, strength, determination and a lot. I guess if we don’t look too much in detail all these words would describe Juliet too. Definitely!  Well, the gold in her sleeves and neckline could actually define her social status because it is a colour that attributes to the elites mostly and it is no doubt that Juliet does belong to a high class.

(1996)Though the costume of the 1996 production does not have a complete Elizabethan look for its open neck and non-sleeves, the little wing attached to her dress actually gives a really strong and confident edge to it. The wing is more like a magical tool that elaborates her character and her royalty.

(2013)In the latest version, it is seen that the dress has clearly got its Elizabethan edge back for the nan look it has in today’s context. The dress truly has the good girl and the composed look of royalty. This delicately tailored piece has a perfect vintage look.

Lady Macbeth in Macbeth

Talk about the villain she is probably the first lady on the list. With her cunning and confident personality, she obviously is a highlight in the play. Personally, she is my favourite heroine among the rest. Macbeth is obviously a remarkable tragedy and it is clearly seen through the various productions of it but I have only chosen three adaptations.

(1971)Being one of the oldest adaptations it is clearly seen that the costume has least of its modern touch. I feel that that the colour chosen is perfect especially for keeping the shade within the dull palate is so much relatable to her character. At instances our subjective thoughts can never be decided as wrong if we can prove it, the objective reason behind it may completely differ and I am not going to ponder on that now. In my point of view, I feel that her sleeves silently reveal her character. As we see her sleeves start as a closed one from her shoulders and it loosens like a wing. This represents how initially she was only considerate about killing King Duncan so that Macbeth  would get the high ranking but after the murder, she does fall a victim of guilt. This shows how her closed mind is switched to a more open mind where she truly realises her mistake just like the sleeve that opened. The beautiful and thick golden tinged belt indicates royalty, her social ranking, her status, etc. In a few words, I would also state that the dull shade of the dress is her evil plan to kill the king and the belt indicates her cunning, cruel and witty mind for going about it.

(2015)In the recent adaptation of Macbeth in which  Marion Cotillard played the role of Lady Macbeth, the costume is quite chic and splendid. It is like the perfect cake with a proper proportion of modernity, royalty and yet an Elizabethan touch. This is obviously my favourite costume. The light beige is an absolutely amazing choice in terms of its dullness that mildly brings out her dark character. However, beige is actually considered as the colour that is neutral, calm and relaxing. Neither of the three-match along with her character. First of all, she went to an extreme to make sure that her husband would have the heights in the hierarchy, making her 0% neutral. In the later part when she fell a victim of guilt where do the calmness and relaxing attitude come from. She is actually completely nervous and guilty. However, the layered beads around the neckline is a mind-blowing touch to the dress making it perfectly suited and astounding to look at because I feel every single bead speaks for itself and adds life to the dress. Although I have a few words to tell about the attire, it is still the best because some things are best left a mystery or unsaid. All you need to do is look at the dress for two minutes and you will be delighted too.

Beatrice in Much ado about nothing

Beatrice is probably a character that is prevalent in every woman while we hear or talk about patriarchy. For her witty, smart and confident character, she is definitely considered as one of the strong and tough heroines of Shakespeare according to me.



White is the colour which some may argue is not even a colour has so much meaning to it because physics explains it to be the colour that reflects every colour and literature explains it as a colour of purity, peace, cleanliness, marriage and the list goes on. With the costumes of Beatrice I am going to be comparing the dresses from the two adaptations together because of the wild similarity between both the costume. Both of them are wearing a white dress that looks like they are covered with snow is beautifully designed in spite the lack of sophistication in the dress. It is simple and elegant. Although over here the irony is that both of them are wearing white the colour of marriage and Beatrice is a character who initially doesn’t believe in marriage. However if one sees both the costumes as an attire in the context of the Elizabethan era then this dress scores a 3 out of 5. Firstly it flows down till the floor, tight around the waist and relatively loosened sleeve for Emma Thompson and for Amy Acker it is satisfyingly fitting the Elizabethan type except for the length which is especially lending to the  modern touch in the costume

(…to be continued…) 

Links used for reference


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