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Cruella: Dichotomies in Monochromatic Glamor

Cruella’s comeback strikes at a time where inspiration is much needed as we step out onto the streets in our best dressed once again. From architectural assemblies to fitted, skintight suits, Cruella goes through an alleged 47 costume changes, all dressed by Jenny Beavan, a two-time Academy Award-winning British costume designer who worked on A Room with a View, Mad Max: Fury Road, and The King’s Speech. Cruella’s aesthetic is primarily characterized by her hair—a monochrome glamor that personifies a dichotomy between the ordinary and extraordinary, the well-established yet traditional Baroness and rising, rebellious Cruella, but most significantly, the dichotomy within Cruella herself.

Young, preppy Estella indicated cues of Cruella’s glam-goth extremity, never seen to conform to the standard school uniform, instead donning ornamented school blazers and thrifty, DIY sportswear. Her style becomes more streamlined as she works for the Baroness, evidently partial to blacks in both skirts and parachute pants. Cruella’s play with fabric, textures, and accessories come together to create silhouettes reminiscent of Vivienne Westwood—while she may be more subdued, she certainly still holds her alternative style.

Numerous incarnations follow, with an iconic, checkered leather skirt suit embodying her newfound mission to avenge the Baroness. Adorned with tulle-accented gloves, high-heeled booties and a formidable cane, the vision of the Cruella de Vil we all know of fully comes to life. Seeking retribution toward the Baroness, Cruella continually upstages her outmoded boss with a Ziggy Stardust, biker chick-esque ensemble, a dramatic, crimson organza skirt comprised of 5,060 hand-sewn flowers bursting from a vintage army jacket with pins, chains and epaulettes. Most shockingly, an unsolicited garbage truck arrives at one of the Baroness’ exclusive events—only for Cruella to surface from a mess of pastel-toned pieces in a nude boned strapless bodice decorated with newspaper clippings of herself. She escapes as soon as she emerges, revealing the seemingly unrelated fabrics as the 40-foot-long train of her gown—supposedly a mishmash of the Baroness’ old, outdated collections.

Cruella’s mastery of a future-forward, transgressive style juxtaposes strikingly with the Baroness’ channeling of the ’50s and ’60s, epitomizing Christian Dior’s “New Look” of ultra-femininity. Dressed sumptuously in fur, statement collars and asymmetrical shapes, the Baroness is a befitting competitor, though one ultimately usurped by Cruella’s creative genius. It is this transformational potential of dress that unleashes Cruella’s alter ego, championing Artie’s statement: “normal is the cruellest insult of them all”.

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