There be spoilers in costume discussions…
Kurt and Bart had some big shoes to fill when they took over costume design duties from Trish Summerville but Mockingjay is a very different beast from Catching Fire, which was itself noticeably different from The Hunger Games (designed by Judianna Makovsky). Summerville was able to play around with lots of extravagant costumes for scenes in the Capitol and for the victors but Kurt and Bart have certain restrictions working on a film mostly based in District 13.
As with all the inhabitants of District 13, Katniss is provided with a utilitarian costume of grey cargo trousers and a grey shirt. (Oddly this costume is slightly reminiscent of her reaping costume in Catching Fire.) Shown above is her Mockingjay costume designed by Cinna before his death. The costume takes references from real soldier’s armour and is functional as well as interesting. The initial idea behind the Mockingjay costume was as a symbol but it was realised for practical and protective wear. Whenever Katniss has been in the games her “protective wear” was decided by the Capitol and was fairly limited in its effectiveness. This is battle ready. It marks a huge step forward for Katniss and her role in the rebellion.
Katniss’s key costume piece is returned to her and remains with her when she and Gale go hunting. Her father’s leather jacket became an iconic piece of clothing for her and solidifies who she is.
Peeta spends most of this film in the Capitol and his costumes reflect that but there is so much more to them than just extravagance. His first appearance is in the white suit we see above. The lines are sharp, minimal and reflect Snow’s roses. The high collar of the shirt is noticeable here but is nothing to compare to the constricting collars yet to come. Peeta’s colours darken as his physical and mental state deteriorates. His gaunt appearance is emphasised with the tightening of the collars. His suits become his own personal straight-jacket.
Gale’s costumes follow the standard clothing of District 13 and the soldier’s armour. His shining costume moment comes with Gale’s key scene in District 12. This is one of the most vulnerable moments that we’ve witnessed from Gale and the softness of his costume (seen above) reflects this.
Effie’s costumes take on a very different role in this film. The first time we see her she purports to be a political refugee and fights against everything in District 13 (in her mind at least). Once Plutarch gives her purpose to help Katniss she begins to regain her identity through her clothing. Yes she is still limited by the same clothes as everyone else in District 13 but she uses these to her advantage. She is a creative person and creates the new Effie. She still has her high heels and accessories from the Capitol and she uses these to help rebuild herself.
Finnick doesn’t have too much screen time in this film and his costumes are generally limited to hospital clothes and the standard District 13 uniform. But, as with Gale, soft knitwear comes out when he is speaking in the propos. Finnick is not talking as a soldier but a victim of the Capitol. He needs to be sympathetic, sincere and approachable. The public need to believe and trust him. And the style of knitwear flashes back to his first appearance in Catching Fire.
Snow is trying to keep control over Panem. District after District are joining the rebellion and his main weapon (Peeta) hasn’t been put into action yet. He remains dressed in the sharp tailored lines that we have come to expect from him. These suits reflect his power and tight control despite troubling circumstances “moves and counter moves”. There are also many more instances of white roses included throughout the film and Finnick’s revelation makes them all the more disturbing.
Haymitch enters the film just when Katniss needs him to and after he’s sobered up. For the majority of the film he is dressed in the District 13 uniform with the concession of a grey woollen hat and layers of grey cardigans. Could it be that without alcohol these are the only form of protection he has left? He sported similar jumpers in Catching Fire so the idea of safety in soft wool is not completely ridiculous.
We always expect Caesar to be a bright and colourful influence on the film and this time he doesn’t have Effie to compete with. His suits are all fully patterned but there general tone is deeper and richer. There is much less extravagance shown here. This is no time for frivolity and Caesar’s costumes reflect this, even though this may not be instantly visible.
Overall, I was very impressed with the costume design in Mockingjay. The film has a more solemn tone and the costumes needed to reflect that. I’m very interested to see what Kurt and Bart have waiting for Mockingjay, Part 2. The world has entered a much grittier political ground and the historical references in the costumes are great for echoing that.