Couture costumes lose ground to warrior wardrobe in 'Mockingjay -- Part 2'

Fans of the “Hunger Games” franchise who headed to “Mockingjay -- Part 2” over the weekend hoping to find a high-fashion feast probably walked away feeling like they'd suffered through a starvation diet -- at least in comparison with the previous films in the series.

That had less to do with costume designers Kurt Swanson and Bart Mueller (aka Kurt & Bart) and almost everything to do with the story line: essentially getting the band of heroes from point A to point B through a war zone's worth of hazards where the opportunity to don fiery frocks and the like were few and far between. It's true that Katniss Everdeen does work a serious warrior/princess vibe for a good deal of the film but it's literally so last movie, versions of the outfit (reportedly inspired by a type of Japanese archery armor) having first appeared in "Mockingjay -- Part 1."  (Even so, at one point Katniss does manage to disappear into the folds of an eye-catching hooded quilted cape coat so voluminous it must've had the Capitol Quilter’s Guild working overtime.)

Still, there were a couple of Fashion-with-a-capital-f moments worth mentioning; including Effie Trinket's "sunrise of one" kimono-inspired fuchsia wool felt suit with sculptural shoulders and the dapper/deadly President Snow turned out in a blood-red floral brocade smoking jacket with quilted velvet lapels. 

But they're two of the few exceptions; the rest of the cast -- especially the heroes at the heart of the story -- spend the bulk of their screen time in the tactical military uniforms bristling with buckles, straps, grommets, rings, pouches, pockets and protective chest plates. Uniforms? Yes. Standard issue? Hardly.

Anyone watching deep enough into the end credits might notice that the concept for the District 13 combat uniforms is credited to Aitor Throup, a U.K.-based artist/designer who has worked with an eclectic group ranging from the G-Star Raw label to the musician Flying Lotus. That the costume designers sought out Throup for the project makes sense, since the utilitarian garments and accessories he creates articulate and conform to the shapes they cover in an almost organic way. (For example, an exhibition of his debut collection at H. Lorenzo two years ago -- inspired by post-Katrina New Orleans -- included a jacket with a foul-weather panel that could be removed and converted into a saxophone-shaped carrying case.)

Bits of Throup's Goth-ninja aesthetic can be seen in the black combat uniforms; details like cowl-necked jackets, detachable hoods with built-in brims or visors and a gray hybrid backpack/vest that ergonomically places utility pouches at the left and right side of the ribcage. Like most of Throup's creations, these uniforms look like they could unbutton, convert and reconfigure on the fly -- especially the hard-sided backpack-like items being lugged around by Castor and Pollux that looked for all the world as if they'd been inspired by the overlapping armor plates of a lobster tail. 

These costumes from "Mockingjay -- Part 2" managed to inject fashion-with-a-lowercase-f into the tactical/military silhouette in much the same way the athleisure trend brought the gym and the runway a few steps closer together. Whether there might be an appetite for this kind of "milthleisure" at the consumer level is whole different question (and one that might be answered shortly as Throup's own website is set to relaunch shortly).

But in an era in which our television screens are increasingly filled with images of soldiers in the field and SWAT teams in the streets clad in not-so-dissimilar types of uniforms, the notion of adding a slight dash of street style to the warrior's wardrobe isn't as odd a notion as it should be.

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