Designing for female character empowerment within the adaptation of Flowers in the mirror : an exegesis presented in partial fulfilment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Design (Weta Workshop) at Massey University College of Creative Arts, Wellington, New Zealand

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Costume design for Characters within fantasy films can be a significant method to compare the personal growth and development of gendered character roles. Contemporary filmmakers use concept design to shape a fabricated reality of an imagined world, through characters and storytelling. How a character's outfit changes can demonstrate the personal growth of a character, and suggest a related social and gendered history to our own, in the way the costume responds to story development. In the popular Qing Dynasty story - Flowers in the Mirror - the heroine character epitomises the tensions between dutiful daughter and independent woman. The visualisation of the narrative needs to consider both character appearance and mental state, so people may experience self-recognition within the heroine's journey. Similar to the transformative character arcs of Sansa and Arya in Game of Thrones. As an aristocratic girl, at first, she hated the cold hometown and prepared to marry the prince with a romantic dream, but later, she lost most of her relatives and was controlled, utilized, and insulted by others. She learned to use power and strategy, and finally became the independent Queen of the North. On the other hand, another Stark girl, Arya, chooses a "masculine" way to become a fighter for revenge. This research adapts a fantasy novel set with historical Chinese culture, while considering its relevance to a contemporary audience, in east and west. Concept design for a Flowers in the Mirror adaptation explores feminism and self-identity, through a case study of character costumes for both genders which will inform the development of evolution of costume designs that encourage female empowerment. From a historical perspective, the study of traditional items within Chinese culture (costume, ornament, weapon, motif) and visual language is necessary to make the characters culturally grounded. My character visualisation will show the evolution of several key protagonists, including Shan and her gendered opposite, the Prince with the intention that the audience can feel personal resonance and empowerment with the female protagonist.
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