(CNN) — A single braid down the back, a light hunting jacket, a pair of sturdy leather shoes and a small golden pin; not exactly a culmination of things you would call fashionable.
But these are the key accessories to one of the hottest new characters to hit the big screen: Katniss Everdeen.
Katniss, the arrow-slinging, tribute-hunting teenager from the upcoming movie “The Hunger Games,” based on Suzanne Collins’ bestselling book, has made a huge style splash on the Web. Dozens of “how-to-dress like Katniss” web pages, blog posts and articles are being bookmarked and pinned up by girls of all ages. But when did hunting gear and cotton dresses become so fashionable?
For the same reason the little black dress from Audrey Hepburn’s “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” is still a staple today: It’s not just the look that audiences are responding to, but what that character represents, explains Teen Vogue’s News Fashion Editor, Jane Keltner de Valle.
In the case of Katniss, “Hunger Games” costume designer Judianna Makovsky kept in mind that the character’s style had to tell the story of a distinctively strong young woman who doesn’t yet know her own strength.
After all, Makovsky says, Katniss is a character who’s “just trying to survive.”
So when she created those costumes, she looked to the past for inspiration, creating items for Katniss’ home of District Twelve by incorporating themes from the Great Depression.
As a result, “Katniss has practical clothes — it has to make sense where she got them,” Makovsky says. “District 12 is American work wear, and that is what she would wear while she hunted.”
Katniss isn’t the only recent movie character to rev up the fashion scene.
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s” Lisbeth Salander enthralled viewers with her distinctive punk style, and even “Twilight’s” Bella Swam gained fashion popularity with her simple wedding dress seen in “Breaking Dawn” and Northern Pacific coast fashion.
“The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s” dark urban look was recreated for consumers by Swedish retailer H&M, which released a limited edition Lisbeth Salander-inspired line, featuring key leather pieces, torn and worn shirts and hoodies, all tied together with an industrial color scheme.
One Los Angeles store sold out of the line in 10 minutes after the line went on sale, according to “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo’s” costume designer, Trish Summerville, who worked in conjunction with H&M to create the line.
Teen Vogue’s Keltner de Valle also notes how that theme resonated on the runway during the fall fashion season in 2011. “For so long, designers were collaborating with mass retailers, [but] a new trend could be costume designers collaborating with mass retailers to create [a] character-inspired wardrobe. It almost seems like a no-brainer.”
And yet, while Summerville created a character-inspired line with Lisbeth Salander, Makovsky said that’s currently not her intention.
“I didn’t want the fashion to take over, [because] that is not what the movie is about,” she said. “The movie is about a girl’s journey. That is what a costume designer does, we tell the character’s story.”
Whether the clothing ends up being crafted specifically for fans or not, it’s always that story told through a character’s costume that the consumers cling to. To dress like Katniss, in some regard, is to adopt her trademark characteristics, and the popularity of her clothing points to a characterization that’s hit home.
“There was a time when being powerful and being pretty were mutually exclusive, and these strong female archetypes are becoming really popular and girls are really responding to that,” says Keltner de Valle.
InStyle.com entertainment editor Bronwyn Barnes agrees, positing out that the look and feel of characters like Katniss and Lisbeth are so appealing to audiences because these characters are in charge of their own destinies.
“I think these characters struck the right time in pop culture,” Barnes said. “People are looking for the modern day heroine.”
And to dress like one, too.
(Story By Jareen Imam)