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Lights, Camera, Fashion: Fight Club, August 2013

Marla Singer a fashion icon? Don’t tell her that!


Fight Club holds no restraint in parading it’s brutal distain of commercialism and the material expectations of living, so refining a character bold enough to stand their ground between the volatile mindset that is Tyler Durden comes with perilous uncertainty that the film’s entire anti-capitalist beliefs could be lost through the mere slip of a costume choice.

A woman with no history to speak of, Marla Singer needs no introduction. From the thick mass of smoke clouding her dark exterior, to her unorthodox attitudes to trespassing support groups for terminal illnesses; she’s got an undeniable presence achieved not through a refined practice, but through her aimless disregard to what she wears.

Marla’s unconventional clothes remind us that she takes no inspiration for her choices, they are merely chosen for practicality and the restraints of her purse. Despite her strong self confidence, Marla wears dark clothing to conceal herself from the society she is confounded by and doesn’t care for fitted clothes that flatter her figure.

An eclectic hit and miss of vintage glamour and cheap basics, one scene Marla is clad in thin cotton and baggy lycra, the next she’s wrapped under a fluffy jacket and flaunting platform heels – black of course. Marla’s most striking outfit was sought from the charity shops from which she acquires the majority of her wardrobe. Styling a baby pink tulle dress, there’s no mistaking the feminine denotations it brings.

With Tyler having cracked Marla’s tough shell and earned her trust, her defence is lowered and she reveals the naive girl beneath. Elaborating a sorrowful story of the dress’ journey, her vulnerability is revealed when she compares herself to the $1 garment, stating, “It’s a bridesmaid’s dress. Someone loved it intensely for one day, and then tossed it. Like a Christmas tree. So special. Then, bam, it’s on the side of the road.”


Shortly after Helena Bonham Carter was cast, she reportedly rang costume designer Michael Kaplan in turmoil for finding who Marla was, “I’m gonna need your help – who the fuck is this Marla Singer? I haven’t a clue!”, to which Marla’s look became inspired by Judy Garland; “think Judy Garland, for the millennium.”

Of his partnership with Helena, Michael speaks fondly of the experience and her patience for the throes of styling. The platform shoes however tested even the most patient of wearers, “Helena was a bit peeved at the extremely high platform shoes I expected her to wear – she kept ‘falling off’ them!” Fortunately this worked in favour for Marla’s diabolical nature and dreamy state as she teeters slowly through life.

 Kaplan “tried to dress Marla from the inside out; a dimensional character, not someone merely wearing cool or beautiful clothes. This is my job and what I always attempt to do. I don’t know about Marla being a fashion icon, although the character as well as the film has become quite iconic.”

An incredibly in-depth character, the layers of Marla’s personality are as divergent as the clothing she wears, but while her costumes and mood flicker in slapdash fashion, there’s one thing Marla will always be styling – a cigarette pursed between her dark lips.

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