Monday, April 25, 2011

Film Costume: Rushmore (1998)

by Emily Mann

In Wes Anderson’s film Rushmore, Jason Schwarzman plays Max Fischer, a tenacious and rebellious prep school student, raised by his working class father and struggling with the death of his mother. Max’s Rushmore Academy uniform, which was his costume for multiple scenes of the film, was designed by Karen Patch. It first and foremost instantly identifies Max as a student of the prestigious and affluent school, offering false implications of his family’s wealth and status in society. Max’s costume differs from those of the other students at Rushmore in that he wears every possible piece of adornment from pins on the lapel of his jacket to his perfectly matched maroon red beret. The costume corresponds with Max’s outwardly overachieving nature while simultaneously communicating his underlying social insecurities. By flaunting the school’s insignia and embracing (and embellishing) its posh image, Max gives off the perception of being wealthy and fitting in, when, in reality, his lack of those two things is one of his main struggles throughout the film. As the film progresses, we learn of Max’s insecurities about his upbringing as he lies about his father’s profession, claiming he is a neurosurgeon, when in reality, he is a barber. The juxtaposition between Max’s systematically polished look and his father’s simple work uniform further stresses Max’s use of his outfit as a way to manipulate his appearance so others perceive him as affluent and high society.

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