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Weaponizing the wedding dress and transforming the Final Girl in Ready or Not
When Grace (Samara Weaving) said yes to the dress, the only ceremony she expected to take part in is one steeped in matrimonial tradition — but in Ready or Not, "till death do us part" is a notion that might take immediate effect.
The filthy rich Le Domas family insist on the wedding taking place at their luxurious estate. Who wouldn't want to get married in a location this stunning? The other stipulation is less conventional; the party turns into an exclusive game night, as a way to officially welcome a new member into the inner circle. This is not the typical behavior for wedding evening consummation, but Grace goes along with this ritual after her new husband, Alex (Mark O’Brien), springs it on her last minute. She doesn’t even have time to switch out of her wedding gown for something more appropriate.
Spoilers for Ready or Not ahead.The Le Domas family made their fortune off board games, but this success has come at a price. To maintain this hot winning streak, there are certain terms and conditions they have to adhere to. Playing a game that is picked by a mystical box is a big part of this long tradition, as they need to honor Mr. Le Bail, the mystery benefactor behind the wealth they have enjoyed for generations. Most of the activities are harmless, with past inductees enduring chess or Old Maid; however, Grace draws the only card that comes with deadly consequences. Hide and Seek is pretty self-explanatory, but in the world of Ready or Not, there is another level to this childhood source of entertainment. When Grace is found, she will be sacrificed as part of a long-standing ritual.
The white of a wedding gown traditionally symbolizes purity, but this is no virgin sacrifice. Even though Alex and Grace were interrupted before they could make this marriage legally binding, their active sex life is mentioned before they have said their vows. In fact, Grace’s gown both leans into wedding ceremony conventions and then subverts what this attire typically means as the movie progresses. The Final Girl typically wears something less flashy than a frock like this, opting for some variation of jeans and T-shirt. Despite the slight deviation, everything about this costume adheres to this archetype.Before she realizes that losing will have grave consequences, Grace rolls her eyes at how silly it all seems. The idea of hiding until dawn is ridiculous, so when she climbs into the dumbwaiter she has no intention of squirreling away all night until sunrise. She takes off her bridal pumps — the first of many practical outfit modifications throughout the movie, which makes sense from both a practical character point of view and to protect Weaving during the more physical scenes. Bridal shoes are not made with running in mind.
Some brides have different dresses for daytime and evening, but Grace only has one. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that costume designer Avery Plewes doesn’t get to have fun with modifying the frock as events get increasingly perilous for the bride. The traditional lace design draws on two iconic royal gowns as worn by namesake Grace Kelly in 1956 and Kate Middleton’s 2011 nuptials. Grace isn’t marrying a prince, but she is joining a family with a long legacy. Bridal attire does reflect trends of the time, but there is also a timelessness to certain styles. The long-sleeve look with a high lace neckline is classic without looking old-fashioned.
The genre of this particular movie also helps determine not only the design but also the material used. In an interview with Fashionista, Plewes explains, "Lace ... uh, reads blood really beautifully. The lace started with Grace Kelly and ended with how well the blood would photograph on camera." If a character wears white, it can act as an early warning sign that it will eventually get splattered with blood — particularly in horror, as the vibrant contrast is part of the overall visual language. As soon as the rules are laid out in Ready or Not, this gown will inevitably end up an entirely different color. Furthermore, the journey it goes on before it ends up a shade of red is one that doubles down on Grace’s Final Girl status.
After getting bored pretty fast in the dumbwaiter, Grace accidentally rips her floor-length dress as she exits her hiding place. This emphasizes how easy it is to tear the fabric, laying the groundwork for when Grace purposefully alters her dress after she discovers the Le Domas family's version of Hide and Seek is unlike any other she has played. She has already taken off her impractical heels, but her new husband Alex makes sure she picks up her yellow Converse high-tops when they briefly return to the bedroom. There isn’t time to change out of her gown, but she now has footwear she can run, climb, jump, and hide in. The bottom of her dress has to go, as it keeps getting caught on her feet. Without any scissors she haphazardly rips it, turning it into a ‘50s tea-length style. While the gown Samara Weaving wears is a custom-build by Plewes (they needed a whopping 24 multiples), there is a market for this particular design and the various modifications. We also have a contender for a Halloween 2019 costume idea.
As I watched Ready or Not, I got flashbacks to my wedding day. Thankfully, it was for aesthetic reasons and not because I escaped a family who has a pact with the devil. My wedding dress looks similar in silhouette to Grace’s after she makes it easier to run in. As someone who is inherently clumsy, I knew a floor-length frock would make walking down the aisle far more precarious than it needed to be; all that extra fabric would be an unnecessary obstacle. I also switched from stilettos to Converse for evening activities. However, the only game we had was Giant Jenga and the Chucks were for dancing, not running for my life. Thankfully, the only red liquid that almost ended up down my dress was wine.
Grace has less luck on the difficult-to-get-out stain front. Not only does she get shot in the hand, splattering her dress with her blood, she then falls into a pit of bodies in various stages of decomposition. Her dress goes from ripped to totally trashed. Even the best dry cleaner will struggle (and this is before the climax of the movie).
A wedding gown isn’t the most Final Girl of attire, but Grace's resourcefulness with her limited clothing puts her squarely in this camp. The earlier modifications coupled with the sneaker switch and brief ammo belt accessory is part one of the transformation. After she has been shot, she tears one sleeve of her gown to use as a makeshift bandage. Sure, the dress gets torn (along with her skin) as she squeezes through the iron gate, leaving behind evidence of her escape, but she also uses her sash as a weapon to subdue her attacker.
The image of a bride on her wedding day doesn't typically conjure up the notion of battle-ready attire; it isn’t common for a gown to become a weapon or a form of protection. In Ready or Not, Grace’s ensemble quickly transforms from a demure vision into a fierce frock that symbolizes survival. She might look like “a little blonde twig,” but this bride isn’t going down without a fight.