Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Liberal Studies


Eugenia Paulicelli

Subject Categories

Arts and Humanities | Fashion Design | Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Film and Media Studies | Women's Studies


Cinematic costume design functions as a system of visually-perceived, material and indexical signifiers, an effective and compelling language further informed by styling and embodiment. Sartorial semiotics support and inflect role characterization, while equally underpinning or subverting tropes generated by ideological paradigms. The following methodological approaches were adopted in scrutinizing this topic: Roland Barthes’ application of semiotic theories to the domain of fashion in The Language of Fashion, and Laura Marks’ discussion of the dialectics of optical and haptic visualities in apprehending film images in The Skin of Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses.

By examining the costume designs of Edward Stevenson for Murder, My Sweet (1944), Leah Rhodes for The Big Sleep (1946) and Key Largo (1948), and Yves Saint Laurent for Belle de Jour (1967), constructs of female gender and sexuality surface within the context of two eventful and transformative periods: the 1940s in the United States—as depicted in crime drama belonging to the film noir genre—, and the late 1960s in France—as epitomized by Buñuel’s masterpiece of surrealist erotic cinema. Finally, this research addresses the collaborative dynamics between costume designers and actresses, and the permeable borders between cinematic costuming and mainstream fashion.