This is the post I wrote for my class, as referenced by the previous blogpost. Enjoy.
Maybe it's just my fascination with the fashion of the time, maybe it's my Higgins-esque desire to make a woman into a lady, but I found the costumes in Carrie to be most telling. Most telling, indeed.
I love, for example, Margaret White's frock. For the majority of the film, she is only seen in that huge black frock. It is like a nun's habit, but without the head covering, appropriate enough for a woman as tied to God as Margaret believes herself to be. But oh! It is so much more than just a frumpy frock donned by your everyday religious nut (Is there any other type? In the movies, I mean?). That final monologue Margaret delivers on her knees, in confession to the "devil child", is so telling. Succumbing to sex not once, but twice, despite praying for the strength to resist -- AND SHE LIKED IT! And at the beginning, the recitation of Eve's original sin as she smacks her daughter in the face with a pamphlet. It is clear that Margaret sees herself as Eve: having been tempted by the devil's forbidden fruit (sex, sex, sex!), she is forced to cover herself to hide her shame. A fig leaf for Eve is a black gown for Margaret.
Likewise, Carrie covers herself after the prom. She dishonors her mother, even forcing the woman down so that she can go to the prom. She allows herself to be "tempted" by a cute boy and a shallow gym teacher, even committing the sin of pride when she votes for herself for Queen, even tempting the Devil himself as she does so! And yes, she is punished for this by the blood of a pig, an animal sacrifice, perhaps, though one that comes from an unclean meat (Leviticus 11:7). (May I point out, though, how even at the prom, she still has a bit of her mother's infuence, covering her "dirty pillows" with a shawl until her name is called to go onstage?)
So, yes, after the humiliation of it all, after the mass murder, after sending John Travolta and Chris into a roadside fireball, after bathing the blood off (high school can be so treacherous, you know?) -- Carrie comes out of the bathroom in a white frock, matching her mother. And yes, it is a nightgown, and perhaps that's all there is to it, but think about it. After she commits her own sins, not only does she return to her mother, the only person left who she thinks can understand her -- she dresses conservatively, covering her body. Covering her shame.
And now she and her mother both wear white gowns, white ceremonial gowns. Which only makes sense, because Margaret is about to murder her daughter with a huge fucking butcher knife (can I say fucking in a post, Andrew?). Now, this follows two Biblical passages. While the action of murdering her daughter with that huge knife is primarily reminiscient of Abraham showing his dedication to the Lord by sacrificing his son Isaac, it is also in accordance with Deuteronomy 21:18-21, in which it is outlined that a disobedient child should be stoned to death. "You must purge the evil from among you. All Israel will hear of it and be afraid (DEU 21:21, NIV)."
Margaret becomes avenging angel, with her white gown, sleeves spread like wings. Check out that ceiling above her, with the light reflecting just so; a halo, perhaps? And she is so gleeful. She is finally doing the Lord's work, just the way she always saw herself doing. The Old Testament fire-and-brimstone thing, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, the death of Aaron's sons, Jezebel mauled by dogs. Of course, Piper Laurie's Oscar-nominated performance is just incredible, but the gown! The gown is really what sells this!
The religious elements of this film are just fascinating, and I adore how much of this is conveyed, not just through Margaret's dialogue or the creepy Jesus figure, but through these costumes. There is no better way to contrast high school and home, popular girls and outcasts, prophets and prom, than through these ingenious designs.
Do forgive the length, but Hot Damn do I love this movie!