Katniss’s faded blue rayon dress tells us of the dire straits District 12 residents are under. The fabric limp and sagging after too many wearings and hand-washings, a shade too tight on actress Lawrence’s body, and cheaply made, the dress echoes American fashions in 1939-1940, when the Depression was still hurting household budgets, and British fashions in the late 1940s, just before the Depression and postwar economic struggles were starting to lift. The poorly-sewn hem speaks of poverty, but worse, it tells us of Katniss’s mother’s neglect of her children and herself. This is an unloved dress for an unloved girl in a neglected populace.
The style of the dress is one popular throughout the twentieth century after around 1930. The lightly puffed shoulders on the armhole, the relatively highly-set armsyce (armhole assemblage) that constrains free arm movement, the primly-buttoned front that extends only to the waist on Katniss’s dress are ways in which the construction of the dress constrains the movement of the body within it. The 1941 sewing pattern from McCall is a near-match for the dress. This is not a power dress, not a style of resistance: this dress speaks of traditional femininity. The fairly tight sleeves end in a restrictive cuff, the fabric lays against the body revealing without enhancing. The narrow waistline created by a self-fabric belt gives the dress lines echoing 19th-century dress. The New Look pattern from the 2000s suggests the ways this is a dress of grown-up girls, not powerful women: the colors of deep to rose pink, celery green — these are the tasteful colors of young girls before adolescence hits. It’s a dress that exploits the sexualized attributes of women’s bodies (the gathering above the breasts that pucker the fabric around them rather than a more complicated construction of darts that skim the surface of the breast), the waistline that sits awkwardly at a non-waist position (see the contrast between Katniss’s waistline — she is wearing flat shoes — and Effie’s waistline of her jacket that ignores her natural waist and goes to just below the rib cage).
The faded blue of Katniss’s dress hints at the otherwise-hidden strengths of the young woman. Of course, when her sister Prim’s name is called, Katniss puts herself forward as Tribute, sacrificing herself for her sister. The faded blue makes sense at this juncture, because it echoes specifically the faded blue of Red Cross nurses during World War II for both the Americans and the British forces.
We know it’s going to be a bloodbath — one glance at the rippling horror-skirt of Effie Trinket standing next to our martyr tells us that. Effie, in her deep pink costume of exploding femininity, stands next to where the real power of women lay, in the narrative of the film. The slight, faded echo to a shade of blue few viewers would consciously identity as “Red Cross Blue” hints at the ways Effie’s world will be taken down, bloodbath and all.