‘Rebecca’ evolves its wardrobe with a modernized flare

Second screen adaptation of the 1938 novel ‘Rebecca’ takes on contemporary attention to production value by colorizing more than just the picture. 

Wealthy aristocrat Maxim De Winter (Armie Hammer) continuously dresses down to represent his background contribution to “Rebecca,” while high neck modesty showers Mrs. De Winter (Lily James). Her more submissive pieces at the beginning symbolize her delicate manner when standing behind a man in an intimidating house whilst at the same time living in the shadow of his late wife.

Kerry Brown/Netflix

Lily James sports a medium-sized floppy sun hat. She sits idly by De Winter, her soon to be husband, vicariously leaving her responsibilities as a lady’s companion behind at her vacation hotel in Monte Carlo.

Romance, suspense, and transformative clothing display the bourgeoisie creation of the 2020 psychological thriller “Rebecca.” The modernized screenplay turns the black and white 1940 Oscar-winning picture into a bold decoration of wide color palettes to create an adequate sense of dreamy escapism. Combining period-authenticity and an Old Hollywood feel, viewers put into reality the trends of the late 30s.

Ben Wheatley’s 2020 adaptation starring Hammer and James copiously follows the 1938 novel by Daphne du Maurier in its gothic fashion of skepticism lead-ups and aimless montages depicting the European class of aristocracy. However, its prime focus and applaud does not lie with the plotline. Compared to the 80-year-old first rendering of the film directed by Alfred Hitchcock, this year’s release preserves the vintage pieces but adds so much more. 

All in all, it is quite apparent that the priorities for each adaptation were quite different. The 2020 version of “Rebecca” strives for visual aesthetics in an attempt to mask a rather dull choice of pieces in the first one.

To leave little up to the imagination, Hitchcock’s “Rebecca” utilizes a black and white color sequence for the wardrobe of Mr. and Mrs. De Winter but ends up creating a soft ambiance to the militarized fashion of the World War II era.

Kerry Brown/Netflix

During World War II, the United Kingdom’s patriotic symbolism was the priority of citizens of all classes. This marked the beginning of pantsuits and trousers for women as they entered the workforce. It was seamlessly colliding the efficiency of workwear with everyday vogue.

Costume designer Julian Day packed away seventies glam after working on biopics “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Rocketman” and began envisioning a highly relatable, yet accurate wardrobe, for “Rebecca.” In a Women’s Wear Daily interview on Oct. 20, he explains why it is important to stay relevant to the times even when designing decades earlier.

“I wanted to make sure a modern audience could understand these clothes, rather than be pushed away from them,” Day said to WWD.

Kerry Brown/Netflix

A hat was a vital accessory for women of the 30s and 40s because of its connection to wealth and high class. However, James’ character is introduced as an unaccomplished traveler; an unsophisticated straw barretina symbolizes her dishevelment alongside a pirate blouse and blue slacks.

Unlike the older film, “Rebecca” debuts more masculine box-style pieces on the female protagonist as her character arc develops into a strong lead as the story plays out. Day uses pantsuits and thick blazers to display her growing comfort and confidence as James’ character unveils pockets of secrecy throughout her new upper-class life in her inherited estate.

Kerry Brown/Netflix

Aligning with her evolving character development, De Winter begins taking charge in more ways than one. On her way to the courthouse, she is bombarded by reporters smudged together into a synonymous crowd of brown trench coats and fedoras. James stands out in her brighter kick pleat skirt and matching jacket, noticeably internalizing her new role as an inherited dame of wealth that is then reflected upon in her fearless wardrobe constructed by Day.

Kerry Brown/Netflix

Sharp shoulder pads for Mrs. Danvers (Kristen Scott Thomas), sets her authority as the hawk-eyed head of the Manderley household on display. Although many cottage core fabrics tapered a more light-hearted interlude of “Rebecca,” the shadowy darkness of Mrs. Danvers’ brewing schemes and classic navy blue ensemble bring out the mystery originally instilled in the gothic novel.

Between the first and second adaptation, it is clear that costume play became essential to carrying out the reality of 1930s lavishness and romance to visualize what life looked like during that period. Day embellishes simple patterns seen on Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier in 1940 into high society contemporaries depicted in 2020, making for an alluring tale of two newlyweds unveiling a path of secrecy and despair.