Giulietta Degli Spiriti’s Dream-Like, Female-Led Costume Design
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Giulietta Degli Spiriti’s Dream-Like, Female-Led Costume Design

The colourful, high-fashion costuming certainly replicates the whimsical, surreal journey of Fellini’s ‘Juliet of the Spirits.

Iconic Italian director Federico Fellini’s 1965 film, Giulietta Degli Spiriti, or ‘Juliet Of The Spirits’, expresses the grandeur of its story through an expert couture style. Each dazzling costume featured in the movie was designed by the Oscar-winning designer Piero Gherardi. Throughout the film, spring-like, truly flowery costumes are seen, almost as a means to make women seem like a part of nature. To make them appear as pure and delicate as a flower, exaggerated colours and floral arrangements are used on the women in the film.

Giulietta Degli Spiriti through the lens of Fellini

Haute couture today also aims to enhance women’s beauty through elaborate designs. A similarity can be found, for instance, between ‘Juliet of the Spirits’ & Jeremy Scott’s Moschino’s Fall/Winter 2018 London Fashion Week show, focusing on florals. As the women became the bouquets, they were decorated in floral arrangements, again, as if to locate their beauty in nature.

Giulietta Degli Spiriti

The costumes in ‘Giulietta Degli Spiriti’ certainly tie into the dream-like quality of the film. These camp-like costumes make the story seem otherworldly and extraordinary, fitting the broader nature of the film well. As Juliet’s dreams, as well as her nightmares, come alive, the surrounding world seems to be a reflection of that.

Character ‘Suzy’, played by Sandra Milo, seems to be there with Juliet like an ethereal creature from her dream—one with a jazzy, luxurious dress sense. Her wild dreams and the spirits around her transform into the form of colourful acrobats, misty demons, and surrealist creatures in her home. A lot of the differentiation between Juliet and the spirits is seen through costume. As Juliet sports, the everyday wear of the 1960s, the grandeur of the spirits is seen through their bursts of colourful and distinctively different costuming.

The lavish use of materials in each character’s costume adds to the otherworldly effect that the film has. As previously mentioned, Juliet is seen in fairly casual, sometimes formal wear. Yet, the women around her have on flowing organza, 3D floral designs, and excessively avant-garde clothing, worn across all situations. This may represent Juliet’s desire for more in life, seen through the difference in her mild dress sense compared to those around her, seemingly free and greatly expressive.

Something to note is that this film is focused on women, foregrounded through the costume design. The men featured are simply dressed in suits and everyday wear, as though they belong to the “real world”. This amplifies the significance, power, and dreaminess of the women in the film, even placing them above the men. 

As costume designs help us see into a character, in ‘Juliet of the Spirits’, it helps us see the plot as well. When Juliet suspects that her husband is unfaithful, the grandeur of the women who support her through this ordeal can be defined by their overpowering attire.

When Juliet walks into Suzy’s house party, she dons a simple pleated red dress and cape, whereas those around her are dressed immaculately in different scantily-clad gowns, large feathers, and colourful wigs. Stepping into their world, Juliet may be seeing what she wishes she was brave enough to be.

The description for the trailer of the film states, “she [Julier] plays the title role of a repressed bourgeois housewife, liberated by a pervasive and sensual spirit world.” This shows how Juliet’s husband’s restricted dress sense represents her feeling oppressed by her husband’s supposed infidelity. Communicated is the thought that by staying with him, she is stooping down to his ill-mannered level.

Yet the costumes around her signify her grand imagination in the scheme of things, as well as her longing for more. As the women around her already have romantic and sexual freedom, Juliet is tied down to one who is unloyal. Again, her modest, repetitive dress sense symbolises her boring housewife life. Whereas the spirits and women around her are free, creatively expressing themselves, bursting with life and colour in their changing costumes.

The costume design of ‘Juliet Of The Spirits’ by Gherardi is, in my eyes, simply ingenious. Not only giving us insight into a character through their costume, we are also given a window into the themes of the film. Through the adroit, couture-like costume design, we find a snapshot into the dreamy world of ‘Juliet Of The Spirits’.