Semester of Graduation

Summer 2021


Master of Arts (MA)


French Studies

Document Type



This study examines the communicative role of clothing in film. Using the skillful costume canvas of French designer Anaïs Romand, we explore the possible visual messages and potential cultural and linguistic meanings that clothing choice conveys. This analysis uses Roland Barthes’ Theory of the “Five Codes” from his book S/Z as well as psychological sources about color analysis as its methodological basis. Images from each of the five period piece films were chosen and analyzed using semiotics. The costumes in all five films chosen for analysis were designed under the direction of Anaïs Romand and were all either nominated for, or awarded, a César award in the best costume category in France.

While there are many studies on the various symbolic aspects of French film and equally as many on French fashion, this research centers on one designer across genres and time periods to draw conclusions about costume and, particularly, about its symbolism within cinema. Through Barthes’ five code framework, we observe, in detail, the ways in which dress serves to be a vital communicator. And by exploring the linguistic essence of each garment, each costume, and each color choice, we are able to draw meaningful symbolic and cultural conclusions. This thesis expands the literature on clothing and costume design from a semiotic standpoint and highlights the significant role fashion and dress play in film.

Committee Chair

Dr. Sylvie Dubois