The Hidden Historical Connections Behind Margot Robbie’s Yellow Dress in ‘Barbie’
by Justin Gardner
In a pivotal moment of Barbie, Margot Robbie’s portrayal of the iconic character faces a momentous decision: to remain in the enchanting realm of Barbieland or embrace humanity.
Her choice is underscored by her donning a pale yellow dress, which is surprisingly symbolic according to Barbie‘s costume designer Jacqueline Durran.
Not only does the dress serve as a visual representation of transformation, Durran told Variety,
‘The Barbies have gone through all of that stuff and they’re now the most fulfilled versions of themselves. And that sets the scene for what’s happening to Margot’s Barbie as she’s becoming human.”
This lead Durran to explore the history of Barbie to find exactly what costume would signal to the audience that Barbie was indeed ready to join the real world. She soon discovered the perfect color…
“I was keen to track the history of Mattel in the costumes. I asked them what was the most popular costume in the last 5 to 10 years. It turns out it’s a yellow dress. I was going to copy that dress, but it wouldn’t really be recognizable enough.”
She had her color, but still unsatisfied with the kind of dresses she found, Durran explored options that made Barbie appear more human,
“We wanted a soft yellow and wanted it to have less pop. So, we printed that yellow onto white silk, and because of the cut, it clings to the body. That’s not really a Barbie characteristic — the Barbie characteristic is to be cut straight and to create a shape that falls away from the body”
Enhancing the ensemble, a delicate heart pendant from Missoma is a purposeful addition. Durran added,
“Earlier in the film, she has heart accessories that she wears in the block party, and she has huge heart earrings, but there’s something about that locket and scale that makes it more human.”
But does the dress have even more meaning when looking at the historic plight of American women?
Whether it was intentional or not, the answer seems to be yes.
For instance, the women of the Suffragettes movement on the late 1800s adopted the state flower, a sunflower, and its color for their movement.
They even wore gold pins, yellow ribbons and yellow roses to distinguish those in the movement from those who opposed them, who tended to wear red roses.
Moreover, the colors white, purple and yellow came to represent the cause and appeared on banners, pamphlets and badges.
And when the 19th Amendment passed, the movement created the “Alice Paul” flag which featured the colors yellow, purple and white.
The symbolic connection to historic women’s rights movements is cemented even more by the fact that yellow is also the color of the International Alliance of Women to this day.
Now you know!