Costume as Communication in Cable Girls: A Semiotic Analysis of a Spanish Period Drama
Ninzoli Enderlin, G.
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Costume in period drama represents a crucial element as it is through costumes, amongst other components, that the show manages to evoke the time period it portrays. It is well established that the historical accuracy of the show depends on the costumes. However, some scholars have identified other purposes for costumes that far exceed the historical representation. Roland Barthes first stated the connection between systems of signification based on signs and the fashion system, which he claimed being a metaphor of language. More recently, the discourses around fashion expanded and deviated from Barthes’ conception where fashion depends on language towards the idea that clothes convey meanings within their visual objects (i.e., colours, shape, fabric, etc.). These meanings have been discussed to be embedded in fashion choices that derive from social and cultural tradition. According to Pam Cook, costume in period drama can be historically credible or unfaithful. However, behind the choice of deviating from more accurate representations there are specific meanings. This analysis focuses on the meanings behind these choices. On the basis of Barthes’ idea, this research regards elements of the costumes of the Netflix series CABLE GIRLS as communicative of meanings, in particular colours, accessories, make-up, and clothing style. Moreover, it shows how the series creates the tension between the historical accuracy and the need to communicate to viewers. By answering the question “how do the costumes in the Netflix series CABLE GIRLS contribute to the construction of the female characters?” through a semiotic analysis and an initial textual examination, this research argues how costumes communicate something about the characters and work around this tension.