Rear Window is a 1954 Hitchcock movie—one of his suspense classics. The storyline goes like this: Jeff (James Stewart) is a photographer who loves to take risks, but one of his legs was injured during work. As a result he had to sit in a wheelchair for a couple of months. However, his eager desire to know never ends: he started to observe his neighbors with his binoculars. Gradually a case of murder surfaced from the trivia details of everyday life viewed through the rear window—Jeff thought Mr. Thorwald across the yard killed his sick wife. Lisa (Grace Kelly) is Jeff’s girlfriend, who was into fashion and came to visit Jeff regularly. At first she didn’t believe Jeff’s suspicion but little by little she became increasingly involved: she even sneaked into Mr. Thorwald’s apartment to look for evidence…
Lisa’s outfits and the costume designer Edith Head
In the movie Rear Window Lisa wears six different outfits. For me the black top and white dress outfit was most unforgettable. In Sarah Street’s words:
‘Her outfit is a black, tight-fitting top with a full, white layered net skirt, and a white chiffon shawl worn with a pearl choker.’
Clearly the idea behind this outfit came from the famous ‘New Look’. (for New Look you can check out this post)
Apart from this outfit, the green suit and the white day dress with yellow flowers also fascinate many women. If you think Grace Kelly was behind all these beautiful costumes, you are definitely wrong: Edith Head—Hollywood’s most celebrated costume designer was the hero behind the breathtaking beauty of Lisa. In 1925, Edith Head became Paramount’s costume designer and in less than thirty years she won 8 academy awards for best costume design. If you have seen The Incredibles, you will be familiar with the appearance of Edith Head. Rumors said that the costume designer (Edna Mode) for the superman family in the cartoon was based on Edith Head.
From a feminism point of view
Although Lisa’s outfits were feminine, her image was very active and strong. She first provided the critical statement for the cracking of the murder case that ‘No woman would go on a trip and leave behind her purse and her wedding ring,’ and then she sneaked into Mr. Thorwald’s apartment to find further evidence.
Originally Jeff was not satisfied with Lisa’s obsession over fashion and her reluctance to take risks. However, Lisa was the one who acts. On the other hand, Jeff ‘looks but does not act, failing to take even one photograph that would surely help to corroborate his story. The plaster cast on his leg symbolizes Jeff’s crisis of masculinity and also conveys his weakness in identity.’ (<Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window>, Edited by John Belton-- ‘The Dresses Had Told Me’, <Fashion and Femininity in Rear Window> by Sarah Street, page 94)
In the end, Lisa wears a pink shirt and a pair of jeans with a very serious magazine in her hands. Many people stated that since this outfit was relatively masculine, Lisa finally became the kind of woman Jeff wanted her to be. However, my point is Lisa was more independent than Jeff assumed. In order to capture Jeff’s heart, or to entertain him, Lisa can be adventurous. However as soon as Jeff fell asleep, she picked up her Harper's Bazaar: perhaps it is always hard to change a real woman-- her true color insisted.
Photos come from www.douban.com
References: <Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window>, Edited by John Belton-- ‘The Dresses Had Told Me’, <Fashion and Femininity in Rear Window> by Sarah Street