The Student News Site of Kent State University

a magazine

The Student News Site of Kent State University

a magazine

The Student News Site of Kent State University

a magazine

The Eccentric, Evolutionary Costumes of Bella Baxter in ‘Poor Things’

art by: Sophia Loparo

In “Poor Things”, Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos chronicles the Frankenstein-esque odyssey of Bella Baxter through her gained enlightenment and liberation reflected by way of her costuming. 


Starring the incomparable Emma Stone, the film opens with an Old Hollywood black-and-white mirage of curiosity and zaniness. Initially burdened with a child-like disposition in the body of a grown woman, Bella Baxter begins to blossom, which is shown through her wardrobe. The film takes place in the 1880s and features a Victorian style of dress with an emphasis on color and textures.


At first, Bella Baxter is dressed by her nanny, Mrs. Prim, who also occupies a position as a medical assistant for Bella’s brilliant creator Dr. Godwin Baxter. Mrs. Prim’s irritation with being caretaker is reflected through Bella’s clothing. There is a sense of immaturity and unfinished air in the way she is dressed. She displays a child-like, disheveled appearance; like the way children restlessly take their clothes off throughout the day. There is also an emphasis on comfortability and maneuverability with lighter, more free-flowing fabrics, which is depicted in the seersucker knicker bottoms or the voluptuous lightweight nightgown with puffed shoulders.


Longing for freedom from her entrapment, Bella dreams of exploring the world. An opportunity is presented by her new lover, Duncan Wedderburn, imploring her to travel to Lisbon, Portugal with him and partake in a grand tour. This exploration opens up a world of technicolor for Bella. This shift is expressed instantly as she steps out of the hotel with a gold ruffle top, sky blue leg-of-mutton sleeves and bright yellow silk knickers. Originally Bella wears a skirt over the silk knickers, but she ends up leaving it behind. Holly Waddington, the costume designer for the film, wanted to convey Bella’s experimentation, stating in an interview with Vogue. This is her first time fully dressing herself. In a chat with Emma Stone for Interview Magazine, Condom Coats and Courrèges: Emma Stone Gets the Story Behind Her Favorite Poor Things Looks, Waddington dissects Bella Baxter’s costumes. She explained, “There’s this whole journey where she’s getting it all wrong, but actually it looks really good.” 


Throughout the grand tour, Bella evolves hastily alongside her wardrobe. Waddington and Lanthimos emphasized the exaggerated sleeve motif, signifying her growing curiosity and experience with the world around her. 


After giving away all their money, the grand tour reaches an end in Paris. Bella wears a latex, butter yellow “condom coat”, as referenced by Waddington indicating the start of her brothel era. In an interview with Vogue, ‘Poor Things’ Costume Designer Holly Waddington on Creating a Sexually Liberated Fashion Fantasia | Vogue, Waddington said she wanted to express a color story of skin tones while at the brothel. She focuses on how the clothes look while considering how they will come off during her sexual encounters.


During the brothel era, Bella decides to pursue medical school, in hopes of following in the footsteps of her beloved creator, Godwin Baxter. This shifts her style of dress more drastically towards big coats, boots with knee-high socks and no bottoms, using overall heavier  fabrics. Her looks are more tailored, and structured than ever before while embracing a darker color palette. She begins to blend in easier with the men in suits she attends classes with. However, she has no skirt with long boots and knee-high socks, thus maintaining the whimsical and absurd elements that make Bella so unique.


Poor Things conveys a story with stunning visuals, alluring characters and a superb cast. The evolution of Bella Baxter’s fashion plays just as vital of a role, exuding the power of clothing. 


Poor Things” is playing at MovieScoop Kent Plaza Cinemas in Kent, OH. A must-see in theaters if you get the chance!


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Hi! I’m Annie Gleydura, A Magazine’s editor-in-chief. My staff and I are committed to bringing you the most important and entertaining news from the realms of fashion, beauty and culture. We are full-time students and hard-working journalists. While we get support from the student media fee and earned revenue such as advertising, both of those continue to decline. Your generous gift of any amount will help enhance our student experience as we grow into working professionals. Please go here to donate to A Magazine. 

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