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Crazy Rich Asians' Costuming

2018’s Crazy Rich Asians spans a broad fashion landscape ranging from haute couture gowns to elevated nightwear. Its setting among the Singaporean upper class sets up fashion as the ultimate tool to reflect the films characters, utilised as a visual device to show the audience characters’ personalities, connections and role in the story

Astrid Young-Teo

Although Astrid is not the main character, fashion is an integral part of her character, proclaimed by her cousin Nick as ‘a fashion icon’.

Astrid’s opening scene revolves around her purchasing appointment at a luxury jeweller’s. Perpetually sophisticated, Astrid’s first outfit boasts a baby pink Christian Dior gown flaring out at the hips, paired with oversized cat eye sunglasses, nude Valentino shoes and a mini Lady Dior — very reminiscent of the 60s timelessly elegant style.

Gemma Chan, who portrays Astrid, loves Audrey Hepburn. Costume designer Mary E. Vogt (Hocus Pocus) references aspects of Hepburn’s elegant and chic style to portray Astrid’s elegant, philanthropic and ladylike nature. This, in my opinion, is the pinnacle of Astrid’s fashion, establishing her character effectively upon first glance.

'Crazy Rich Asians'

At Ah-Mah’s Tan Hua party, Astrid wears a grey V-neck dress. Chan’s ‘dark winter’ temperament lends her to cool and distinct colours. This grey looks completely dull, especially clashing with the red lipstick worn. The upwards waterfall trim combined with the ill-tailored hip cinching creates an unnecessarily unnatural focus on on one side of the dress, leading it to look disproportionate, as well as shortening Chan’s trademark lean and tall stature.

A well seasoned costume designer such as Vogt does not make these kinds of rookie mistakes, however. During this party, Astrid stumbles upon a message on her husbands’ phone from his mistress. She also already developed a sense of apprehension to him meeting Rachel, a fellow ‘outsider’ at the party. The Tan Hua party is a nervous moment for Astrid, as the first domino in the topple of her marriage and eventual rise from the ashes.

'Crazy Rich Asians'

These earrings she purchases at the jewellers are an important symbol of Astrid’s self. They are described as ‘very special. Burmese pearl drop earrings. Set with emeralds, and rare pigeonblood-red rubies. They were worn by Queen Supayalat at her self-anointed coronation in 1878.’ Here, these signify empowerment for women throughout the whole scope of time, and emphasise Astrid’s’ timeless style and intelligence, specifically her graduation at the top of her class in Oxford. To Astrid, these earrings signify her own self-confidence, and go to show that although wealthy, she isn’t vapid, and places meaning on her investments.

Rachel Chu

Rachel Chu is our titular plucky, charismatic, and humble protagonist. A New Yorker —and an NYU Game theory Professor at that — she’s emblematic of a simple life, displayed through her clothing choices. Her first scene comes from a game theory demonstration lecture, playing cards with her teaching assistant, wearing an intimidating poker face and a plain white tank top with a thin red choker. Her white top is ultimately simple; a reflection of her humble upbringing and her place in the film, pure hearted and untouched by the fierce world of the rich and scandalous. Her red choker is a symbolic lifeline to her Chinese heritage, a lucky colour in Chinese culture, and significant of her self-confidence and connection to her mother. After class, Nick takes her to a restaurant, where she wears a nude motorcycle jacket on top. Director John M Chu mentioned the idea of ‘fairytales in terms of the characters’ colour palettes’, something Vogt reflected in the costuming. ‘When Rachel and Nick Young (Henry Golding) are in New York she wears a lot of black, white and grey clothing. In Singapore, an explosion of colour, like The Wizard of Oz occurs.’

'Crazy Rich Asians'

Rachel’s most stunning look takes place at Colin and Araminta’s wedding, donning a baby blue Marchesa dress. The flower motif trails along her neck and shoulders to frame her face and soft pink makeup. The dress was a hit with Singaporean news sites, and took the internet by storm after the films’ release as well!

'Crazy Rich Asians'

Fiona Tung

Fiona is a secondary character, the wife of Young family cousin Eddie — however, I would have loved to see her more prominently if only for her amazing costuming. Her first appearance places her at a Vogue Hong Kong shoot in a vibrant pink floor length gown, with a scarf around her neck falling down her shoulders-very goddess like. Whilst her husband reprimands the gorgeous gown she wears, she says, ‘You can wear that gown to hell, Eddie.’ Seems like she is just as obsessed with that gown as we are!

'Crazy Rich Asians'

At Ah-Mah’s Tan Hua party, Fiona is costumed in a sleeveless silk plum gown with a thin silver necklace. The colour is a perfect match, and the cut is so timelessly elegant, with the colour more than compensating for the simple design.

'Crazy Rich Asians'

Words by Piangfah Arnprakhon

(@piangfaharnprakhon on IG)

Edited by Lucy Eaton

(@llucyeaton on IG)


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