Lily Absinthe & Movie Costumes, Part II

We continue with our review of the 24th Annual Art of Motion Picture Costume Design at the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising Museum in Downtown Los Angeles. Today, we’re going to focus a bit on the costumes from the movie Crimson Peak. And now to set the scene… 🙂


The costuming definitely reflects the dark, horrific nature of the movie. First we start with the heroine Edith:



Close-Up of the bodice.


Close-up of the shoulder. Yes, that’s embroidered on to the fashion fabric.

This dress reads mid-1890s and with its leg-of-mutton sleeves and clean silhouette. The bodice is a gold-colored silk (or yellow, depending on the light) satin with a skirt that appears to be a shade off, leaning more towards a champagne. However, on camera the dress almost appears to be bright yellow that stands in stark contrast to the dark interiors of the Sharpe House where she goes to live and have her encounters with ghosts and past secrets. Also, her dress stands in contrast to the clothes of the other two main characters.

In the movie, the butterfly motif is used often as a symbol for the heroine Edith’s seeming fragility and this is incorporated into this and other of her costumes both with color and with decoration. Besides the related floral embroidery on the sleeves, there is also this butterfly-like decoration on the rear of the dress:


Here are a few more pictures:

To us, the golden-yellow dress symbolizes a purity and naivete that sets Edith apart from Thomas and Lucille Sharp who are the embodiment of corruption and evil.

In contrast to Edith is Lucille Sharpe’s costuming:




The bodice and overskirt are made from a dark blue velvet and the underskirt appears to have been made from a silk shantung of some type. The velvet acts as a light trap, emphasizing the dark nature of the Lucille Sharp character and this is very apparent when viewed on film. Decorating the dress is a vine that runs up the bodice front to the neck and down the bodice back. The vine trim also is seen running along the hem of the overskirt. In terms of silhouette, it would appear to be late 1870s/early 1880s (Mid Bustle Era), judging from the low demi-train. There does not appear to be any form of a bustle or it’s too subtle to detect in the dress display.

Although we were unable to get a shot of the rear of the dress, here it is from another source:


Here we see an interesting vine effect on the back that continuous to the front. Although one can read many interpretations, the one we took away was that it represents Lucille’s hold over everyone and everything in her world and how it also threatens to entwine and trap Edith.

And now, the dress in action:

It is interesting how the dress changes color when viewed on film versus the static environment of a museum setting. In the film, the blue takes on a shade that harmonizes with the interior of the house while the brown trim almost fades  out to a black.

And just to note, her brother, Thomas Sharpe, also has a coat in a similar shade of blue:


Crimson Peak_Blue Coat


For contrast, we now look at another dress of Lucille’s:


The bodice and skirts are made from a crimson (naturally!) red satin with the underskirt being completely knife-pleated. It certainly emphasizes Lucille’s nature- attractive and enticing yet deadly at the same time.


Here we see the dress in action:

One interesting detail we noted what that on this dress and the preceding blue dress, the skirts were not hemmed (we were unable to get a good one of the blue dress):


Although one could argue that it was simply due to oversight since they were working with multiple garments in a sub-optimal situation (the red clay effects), we believe that it was more due to calculation on the part of the costume designer. Much of the movie revolves around themes of seduction, appearance, corruption and ultimate horror. While Lucille and her brother Thomas have an elegance and seductive beauty, underneath there is corruption and ultimate evil and this dress symbolizes that neatly. One is attracted to the rich, crimson red silk satin and Lucille’s seeming beauty but peaking out here and there is what truly lies underneath (if one looks for it and isn’t swept away by surface appearances). The frayed hem subtly but effectively conveys this.

Finally, we just want to note that in contrast to Edith and her female contemporaries we see in the beginning of the movie, the costumes that Lucille wears are roughly 15 to 20 years older in terms of style and it puts them a little out of synch with the world around them- a cleaver and subtle touch to be sure. While the average viewer would probably not pick up on this detail, it does add to the fantastical/horrific elements of the movie.

We’ve spent a lot of time on Crimson Peak but those are the costumes that had the greatest impact on us. While we have no plans to create replicas of the costumes, we can safely say that it will serve as a further source of inspiration for us (well, maybe not the frayed hems 🙂 ). Stay tuned for more!

(To be continued…)


2 thoughts on “Lily Absinthe & Movie Costumes, Part II

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