After that night, Lora’s outfit color, structure, and pattern continue to show off her successful achievements and new-found upper-class status. Even during her downtime Lora presents herself in the most lavish pieces of clothing. The audience witnesses the movers adding massive amounts of stuff to Lora’s lofty abode. Not being outdone, Lora wears a very eye-catching hot pink and pastel ensemble. Michael Stern explains in “Imation of Life, that the two-piece cape, pink dress implies “her miraculous montage of success, its excess to mock that which it seems to signify” (282). Lora’s matching pink gemstone earring and necklace set with diamond bangles glitter in the shining light. However the pieces of jewelry hid Lora’s true character. Lora seen as “anything but the soft, pastel shaded person that pink implies”, realistically she becomes completely involved and consumed in herself, as well, material success. Deep down Lora desire for success came from good intentions, a better life for Susie and herself. A dichotomy of Lora’s happiness (pink) and her bleak attitude on life (gray) has Sirk presenting her in a bipolar identity.
The clothing represents Lora’s imitation of her actual self. Prior to her stardom, the color of pink expressed Lora’s true self. Sirk fashions Lora in the first half of the film with black, gray, and white; the opposite of Lora’s real coloring of pink. Presently, Lora’s pink attire plays up a façade that Lora idealizes for upper crust society. Laura really tries to convince her own self and others that she’s comfortable with her success. A lie, considering she has a bleak (black) outlook eating herself inside. After her transformation, Lora’s ambition starts corrupting her, but portrays herself on the outside with a “mannequin-like quality” (Rooney, 1). Lora’s color scheme an intentional look to fool everyone, including herself.
Currently in the film, Lora appears as a cheerful, successful actress. On the inside Lora continues to struggle, like the drab colors, pre-fame and fortune. Lora fakes a happy face, but her character is more vulnerable now than ever.
Lora’s attire masks her current vulnerable status. Lora strives to not give up on the ambition and dream she had once before. Once again, Sirk places Lora in a pinkish-coral dress. A noticeable fur lines the dress’s collar and selves. The fur helps to flaunt Lora’s wealth, while she covers up her true thoughts and feelings. A diamond ring, heavily sparkling and shining, is placed on a figure of Lora’s left hand. Lora contrasts Annie, while they discuss commonality, their daughters, and how they are now young women. Lora seems fine, but a breaking point is fast approaching. The breaking point that happens soon after Lora’s talk with Annie, affects her clothing choices.
Susie finds out Lora and Steve plan to wed. The mother-daughter relationship comes to a screeching halt. Jeremy G. Butler writes in “Imitation of Life (1934 and 1959): Style and the Domestic Melodrama”, the “unspoken tension finally becomes articulated”(297). Lora thus chooses to confront her young teenage daughter. In Susie’s room Lora has on a white house-dress. The dress, similar to the one Lora wore on the beach, ten years prior. This dress is more regal and elegant than the dress on the beach. The current white dress has a lacy texture paired with a flowery design. Lora tries to display a non-threatening demeanor through her dress, when she decides to speak to Susie. Sirk sets out interact Lora’s battle between ambitious fame and a healthy relationship between mother and daughter. Taking a break from trying to imitate a high-class woman, Lora shows her honesty and vulnerability. In this moment, Lora wants to show her true self, and identify herself as a mother to Susie. Susie sobbing yells to her mother, “Stop acting, and stop shifting people like they are pawns on a stage”. Susie continues “Please don’t play the martyr”. Lora’s disconcerting expression evident, she tries to grasp Susie’s ideology. After a second, Lora finally realizes her long-standing obsession of being someone has made her neglect her own daughter. Lucy Fisher writes in “Imitation of Life”, Lora’s “salvation on stage” creates her maternal presence to become “contaminate by her dramatic role” (19). Susie’s honesty to Lora and having a relationship with communicating starts breaking both characters down. Particularly with Lora’s character, who starts to understand she must have a balance between fame and motherhood.
Slowly, Lora’s new found balance becomes obvious in her new clothing. Lora’s changing of style has her wearing her heart on her sleeve. Semi-comfortable career wise, Lora now has time to spend focusing purely on Susie. Towards the end of the film, Lora’s new thoughts and feelings are reflected by her green and gray dress. Looser than previous dresses, Lora’s dress helps to explain that she’ not constrained anymore by her ambition of fame and success. Unlike before, the dress outfit only tastefully exposes skin. The jewels are extremely tasteful compared to before. The jewels signify Lora’s success, but do not over take her natural beauty. The colors of the outfit denote a new beginning and abrupt end. Lora’s new beginning (the green) as she accepts that she has always been a success. Her ambition of fame has disappeared, not needed anymore. Lora’s new attitude and fresh take on life embodies the green coloring of the dress. The grays show off reality that Lora used to hide. Annie’s death exposed through Lora’s gray coloring. The gray color explains that Lora’s chapter with Annie and her obsessive quest for fame has died.
A beautifully wrapped piece, Sirk excels in ending Lora’s strive for ambition through clothing. The film has the audience witness Lora striving for imitation, ambition, and desire of something she is not. Also viewers see the turning point in Lora’s life. Lora has started to spark other ambitions. Her main focus realized, Lora’s ambition switches to her need to take care of Susie. She also lets a man love her, and make her his wife, accepting Steve’s advances. Lora’s ambition to carry on Annie’s legacy sparked, realizing Annie was the guiding force in Lora’s ambition succeeding.
Curator: Erin Bowers