Umpteenth reason why I love My Fair Lady + a hefty over-analysis of color cues:
So Eliza starts out in a wardrobe of kind of forgettable colors. As a flower girl she wears muted colors and earth tones, the same colors all the extras are wearing so they blend into the scenery. The clothes that she wears while she’s having lessons in the Professor’s house, though more expensive, are in the same general palette as her flower girl garb, a signal that she’s still one of the downtrodden even though she’s been cleaned up.
For the most iconic scenes (Ascot and the Embassy Ball) she graduates to black and white, but now the sets are white too, so she’s still blending in. Though these costumes are more sophisticated, there’s something austere (yeah, even though she’s dripping diamonds) and stifling about them. The lace and bows of the Ascot dress practically drown her; her ball gown is sleeker, but the choker necklace is so extensive that it grips her entire throat (even though Audrey Hepburn had like the longest neck in history). To me this says Eliza has learned what it takes to cut it with the upper class, but this lifestyle isn’t really ‘her.’ Higgins’ throwaway line about how she’s being pinned because her clothes ‘don’t quite fit’ seems like a nod to this.
But as soon as Eliza stands up for herself, she gets color. When she fights with Higgins after the ball, she’s wearing that intensely red opera coat. When she leaves the house and has it out with Freddy, she wears a bright pink suit. The biggest win of all comes when Higgins finds her at his mother’s house and she serenely explains that she’s risen above him. Here she gets her final costume change. It’s not just pink. It’s a pink pile of tulle, a frilly, flowery cupcake of a dress, almost aggressive in its femininity, the 1910s equivalent of a Princess Peach gown. I love that Eliza looks so soft in this dress and acts like a complete bad ass. Also the scene takes place in the conservatory, and she keeps floating from plant to plant with a watering can. She looks very at home here. The plants are about the same dark green as her flower girl coat. Old Eliza would have blended right into the scenery, but new Eliza stands out against it, her own fully-formed person.