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The Fashion Behind "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes"

From The Capitol's Academy costumes to Lucy Gray Baird's rainbow dress from the reaping, here is the inspiration behind the costume design and fashion of Panem.

Hunter Schafer as Tigris in The Hunger Games prequel "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes"
Photo: Lionsgate

When it comes to fantasy or dystopian films, the costume design plays a huge role in shaping the narrative and transporting us, the viewers, into the world where the story unfolds. Trish Summerville, the acclaimed costume designer behind The Hunger Games films, has mastered this art, creating masterpieces that not only enhance the visual appeal but also drive the storytelling forward. Because while Suzanne Collins does a fantastic job of building the world in her novels, the films are forced to shed layers when creating the adaptations. And it's up to the costume designer to fill in the gaps for the viewers. In the prequel, "The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes," we see Trish Summerville bring back her exceptional talent to the franchise, but she also manages to seamlessly blend historical influences of the past with futuristic elements.

Trish Summerville's journey into the dystopian world of Panem began with "Catching Fire," the second installment in The Hunger Games series. In this film, she faced the challenge of creating costumes that reflected the extravagant opulence of the Capitol while also hinting at the underlying tensions and simmering rebellion.

One of her most striking creations was Katniss Everdeen's mockingjay dress, a symbol of defiance and rebellion that resonated deeply with the audiences of the Capitol. The dress, with its intricate embroidery and burning coal motif, perfectly captured Katniss's fiery spirit and the growing resistance against an oppressive regime.

Summerville's costumes for the other characters in "Catching Fire" were equally impressive, showcasing her meticulous attention to detail and her ability to convey the backstories of the characters. From the extravagant outfits of the Capitol elite to the more subdued attire that the districts wore in the arena, each costume was a carefully crafted piece of the narrative puzzle.

Tom Blyth as Coriolanus Snow wearing a Peacekeeper uniform and with a buzz cut in The Hunger Games's prequel "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes"
Photo: Lionsgate

In "The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes," the costume designer takes us back in time to the pre-Hunger Games era, where a young Coriolanus Snow navigates the treacherous waters of the Capitol's social hierarchy. The film is set against the backdrop of the 10th Annual Hunger Games, and Summerville's costumes reflect this period of transition and unrest. She aces the challenge of giving Coriolanus an upscale appearance that is not as luxurious as it seems behind the seams.

For the Capitol's elite, Summerville draws inspiration from 1950s fashion, incorporating exaggerated silhouettes, bold colors, and opulent fabrics. These costumes reflect the Capitol's obsession with wealth and status, while also hinting at the impact from the war, as well as, the underlying decadence and corruption that will eventually lead to its downfall.

In contrast, the costumes of the districts are more subdued and utilitarian, reflecting the situation of the districts after losing the war. However, Summerville still manages to infuse these outfits with personality and flair, adding subtle details that hint at the resilience and spirit of the people.

One of the most notable costumes in "The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes" is Lucy Gray Baird's iconic rainbow dress. This vibrant and visually striking outfit represents Lucy's individuality and defiance, setting her apart from the Capitol's rigid conformity. The dress could also be seen as a nod to Katniss Everdeen's iconic mockingjay dress, creating a subtle connection between the prequel and the original Hunger Games trilogy.

Dive into the fashion inspiration of Trish Summerville, the costume designer for The Hunger Games films and the prequel, The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes. From the Capitol's red uniforms to Lucy Gray Baird’s rainbow dress, the costume designer creates a visually arresting aesthetic that perfectly captures Panem's essence. Read more about the costumes and fashion of Panem give details about Tom Blyth’s Coriolanus Snow and Rachel Zegler’s Lucy Gray Baird.
Photo: Lionsgate

As "The Hunger Games" prequel debuted over the weekend, it's exciting to see the film ace the many challenges associated with expanding on a beloved series. The plot and cinematography were astoundingly strong. In my opinion, this achievement wouldn't have been possible without Trish Summerville's genius vision, which depicted the film's retro-futuristic aesthetic to perfection. Not only are the costumes throughout the film beautiful, but I appreciated how she honored the novel while simultaneously using the fashion in "The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" to propel the story of Coriolanus Snow and Lucy Gray Baird forward.


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