How Kill Bill tells his story of rebirth through costumes

In the foreground of the revenge action movie’s roaring rampage Kill Bill Vol. 1, we see an as-yet-unknown bride, cowered on the ground, bloodied and beaten, and staring at the barrel of a gun. While a wedding is often seen as the start of a new life, this scene presents an alternative: a bride’s wedding day is not a start, but the end. Her white dress and the blood splattered on her face, dress and veil, shown here in black and white, are even more eerie than if we could see the crimson against the starched white. Invoice (David Carradine) pulls the trigger, and with just that first shot, Kill Bill initiates the process of telling not only a story of revenge, but also a story of rebirth, through his costumes.

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So the bride (Uma Thurman) dies. At least, as the unnamed bride is shot in the head, that’s what her attacker thinks. But metaphorical death has as much weight here as the expectation of Bill’s physical death. All expectations of a wedding dress are thus contrasted by the bloodiest metaphor of marriage at its worst: a man standing over the bride putting a bullet through her head. While marriage has been peddled as the ultimate end for women and has historically remained an important factor for many women with respect to both survival and status, in the case of the bride it is also literally the end of everything – to happiness, to a chance for a normal life, to a family. From there, we see a striking juxtaposition in the way The Bride is presented to the viewer.

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After surviving the gunshot to the head, the bride arrives at the suburban home of Vernita Green (Vivica A. Fox), a member of the Deadly Viper Assasination Squad. There’s no time for words: As soon as the door opens and the sirens wail, the two women are shoved into a knife (and shelf and cereal) arguing over Green’s part in the massacre of ‘El Paso. For that rumble, The Bride is practically equipped. Simple dark jeans, a thigh knife holster and a tan leather jacket adorn the revenge seeker, evoking the desperate simplicity of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Because this is the first time we’ve seen The Bride after the assassination attempt, her transformation is all the more shocking. Although she says things that present a stark contrast to bridal showers and babymoons like “It’s mercy, compassion and forgiveness that I miss,” the visual transformation gives us an even more emphatic reiteration of the belief. of this character’s warrior. As she emerges victorious, telling Vernita’s child to come find her someday, she is bloody and bitter, with the stoicism and machismo of legendary heroes of the West and an outfit to match.


This pattern of communication of harshness through the evocation of the protagonists of the American West via the wardrobe continues in Kill Bill Vol. 2, set in unspecified deserts filled with neon-lit clubs and caravans clinging to nothing. Here, The Bride offers us more androgynous and borderline masculine sartorial choices: snakeskin cowboy boots (knives included), straight jeans and typical western style buttonholes in sand tones. The despised assassin rises from his coffin with the determination of any Leone leader, and is dressed in the same way.

By choosing outfits that are if not referential at least evocative of the lone warrior wolf of the Western canon, a sort of armored cocoon is built around our heroine. She was at her most vulnerable and unsuspecting as “the bride,” wearing pristine, delicate white jewelry punctuating her ethereal dress. And behind all this carnage, though aided by several women, was the ultimate symbol of male dominance: Bill. If this man had the power to destroy her life and lead a team of world-class killers, The Bride (intentionally or not) tries to evoke her power by mimicking her wardrobe. So the straight silhouettes and ensembles of lonely cowboys not only imbue Beatrix with decades of cinematic source material to invoke on her journey, but also protect her, for as long as possible, from the true and sinister misogyny of crime. As universities use Greek architecture as a reminder of scholarship and history, The Bride uses her clothes to convince us, and herself, that she has what it takes to kill Bill.


Along the same lines, there is the quintessence Kill Bill outfit: the yellow and black tracksuit. Although full of vibrant personality, the choice is in keeping with The Bride’s habit of wearing outfits borrowed from the boys, in order to build an air of authority. Influenced by (if not simply a modern interpretation of) dress Bruce Lee worn in game of death, the tracksuit is perhaps the most masculine clothing choice The Bride wears; to face her first target, she literally fights in a man’s suit. Just as The Bride chooses ensembles that evoke images of plains wanderers rescuing damsels in distress in the great spaghetti westerns, this look taps into a strain of Eastern masculinity, full of combat prowess, for its trip to Japan.

When we see the bride chop off O-Ren’s head, she is first depicted as a splash of scarlet red on the snow; the parallel of the bloody snow and the white dress sprinkled with red acts as the first tip of the scales of punishment, as another woman in white falls. Although The Bride demands a new facade of badass with every new place she goes, when not covered in the male warrior’s stuffing, she appears in completely anonymous and unspecific clothing.

Take the hospital for example. A look back at an aborted assassination attempt by Elle Driver (Daryl Hannah) shortly after her hospitalization, and the moment she wakes up from the coma in a completely faceless hospital gown. She then travels to Okinawa to order the best sword in the world from Hattori Hanzo (Sonny Chiba), a retired samurai sword maker. He consents, and during the ceremony in which he presents The Bride with the sword, she wears a kimono, virtually indistinguishable from her counterparts, once again lacking in individuality. In Vol. 2, she is also seen as a student of the sadly cruel Pai Mei (Gordon Liu). It’s the only time we see a hint of youthful femininity, when she’s dressed in a breezy peasant blouse and capri jeans, but that’s long before Bill’s orchestrated massacre, and apparently near the start of the duo’s relationship. Once accepted as a student, she wears a uniform, stripped of any self-expression or overt indications of femininity, mirroring the kimono costume while waiting for Hanzo’s sword.


These moments of anonymity are equally important to The Bride’s costume arc, as they indicate not only a stripping of personality at the hands of Bill (both before and after the assassination attempt), but also a internal self struggle. . She resurfaces, after the coma, in multiple cultures’ idea of ​​what a strong and fearless warrior should look like, demonstrating a lack of self-confidence and providing evidence that the emotional side of her quest is incomplete.

Next comes the last big change in Kill Billcostume tale saga. After fighting in the desert and the snow of Tokyo, defeating all who cross her path (or lucky when they turn around), Beatrix Kiddo, finally named, tracks down her true and singular target: Bill. She follows him to a hacienda in Mexico, for this final battle, the culmination of his roaring rampage of revenge. And at this crucial moment, Beatrix Kiddo is wearing a skirt.

After seeing her kicking and punching in jeans, leather and uniforms and finding clothes, for the defeat of her oppressor, the architect of her pain and the patriarch of the Deadly Viper Assasination Squad, the once-unnamed bride chooses her most feminine look from the film. This is a bulky, impractical, swirl-prone maxi skirt in a soft baby blue.

Female movie renegades are often required to fill one of two categories: ultra-masculine to prove she’s tough (as we saw earlier in the Kill Bill movies), or completely gendered to assuage audiences’ fear that she’s a real threat (think Cat Woman throughout her cinematic history, or any model-turned-assassin movie). Beatrix’s alternative offers a truer view of the intersection of woman and warrior: she’s feminine, but only as an average American woman would be in 2004, while retaining the ferocity she’s cultivated throughout. movies.

She kills Bill in this costume and finds her daughter. It’s unfortunate that Beatrix’s arc has to span from “The Bride” to “Mom” (as if those are the only two things a 30-year-old woman can be); however, his rebirth is complete; the bride now has a name, a family and a new life. As she writhes on the bathroom floor in one of the final scenes, grappling with all her losses and triumphs, she appears all white again, as she was on the day of her massacre. general repetition. Kill Billin these final moments, cleans the slate once bloodied with the sins of her male oppressor.

And without a drop in sight, the blood-splattered bride finally becomes herself. The lioness dressed in white, mistress of the jungle.