God Style: The Costumes of “American Gods,” Part Five: The Showdown

Posted on June 23, 2017

You guys, we’re almost a little sad writing the last post of this series until it returns next year. From a costume perspective, it’s like the show unexpectedly dropped a spectacular eleven-course meal on us and then Bye-Felicia’d it’s way out the door.

And if you haven’t read the other entries in this series, you need to get cracking, if for no other reason than to take in the eye-popping work of costume designer Suttirat Anne Larlarb – but also because most of the major costume analysis has already been done by us. This post is just going to be the wrap-up. Every costume motif has already been established by now. In the final scenes of the season, we’re just watching them all play out one more time.

 

Easter/Ēostre/Ostara

We’ve already documented all of the motifs of Easter’s costume, which up until this moment looked like a ramped-up take on church lady Sunday best. Here, with her hair wild and free, she not only looks more powerful somehow (in a nature-witch kind of way), but also more in touch with her true self. So much of the story of the gods was told through their hairstyles this season, culminating in this one spectacular moment of hair-based emotional and physical metamorphosis. Note that her “godflesh” form is flower petals, which makes a perfect thematic accompaniment to Odin’s true form:

 

 

A storm cloud. There’s a reason the new gods showed up at Ostara’s party. Because they knew an alliance between her and Odin would mean an alliance between the earth and the sky.

Contrast these powerful nature-based images to the glitchy godflesh of the new gods:

 

Admittedly, Mr. World’s glitching is a lot more ominous and creepy than Odin’s cloud face or Ostara’s flower face. But it also underlines that he is, like Media and Tech Boy, not remotely natural, while the old gods are literally made of nature. The war may be framed as one about gods, but the way these gods are depicted and rendered underlines the point that it’s really a war between the natural, old world of earth (Ostara) and sky (Odin), and the new world of systems, media, and technology. It’s nature vs. machine on a divine level.

 

First: this is a stunning design that could walk a menswear runway for a major designer. Seriously. It’s a gorgeously updated take on the classic black tie and tails. Many designers have tried to do an update on this look and most of them have failed. Note the ombre effect on the vest, which is so subtle it almost looks like a digital effect. Note how incredibly angular the design is, like almost everything Tech boy wears. Modern technology is a product of mathematics and subsequently Tech Boy’s clothes tend to look like they were designed using a calculator and a protractor.

On a visual level, the various men in black tie and white waistcoat serve as counterpoints to Odin’s white dinner jacket and black vest. On a thematic level, they’re dressed this way to present a unified front with Media, who manifested as one of the most pervasive media representations of Easter in America:

 

 

Which is why you see Media dancing with a faceless man in Fred Astaire drag when she first appears:

 

It’s interesting to note that Larlarb got every detail of the original Judy Garland costume exactly right, down to the brooch, earrings and unusually shaped purse; every detail a perfect match except for a major one: the color. Garland’s costume was white and Media is wearing pink. On a practical level, it prevents the character from reading as a bride to a modern audience who might not have gotten the reference immediately. On a thematic level, it helps tie her costume that much closer to Easter’s. On a very subtle, possibly unintentional level, her massive hat resembles a satellite dish, which strikes us incredibly witty, even if it’s just a coincidence.

As for the meaning behind the manifestation, as we noted before, Media takes on forms based on what her intentions are; Lucy Ricardo to make a business offer, Marilyn in order to tempt, Bowie in order to threaten. Here, she manifests not only as the quintessential media image of Easter, but also, in an attempt to pass herself off as a concerned and close friend to Ostara, as the friendly-to-a-fault chronic people-pleaser Judy Garland. Note that once Odin enters the scene, she immediately drops the Judy impersonation, just as she immediately dropped the Marilyn when Odin turned down their offer.

That’s it for this season, dolls. Don’t forget to catch the other entries in this series, and if you enjoyed this and haven’t caught our other costume analyses of shows like Big Little Lies, Feud: Bette & Joan, The Crown, Outlander, Fargo, and Mad Men, as well as a few classic movies like Clueless, Pretty Woman, and Cinderella, you’ve got enough reading to last you the rest of the summer.

 

 

[Photo Credit: Starz – Stills: Tom and Lorenzo, Starz]

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