BUT... HAMILTON COSTUMING CHOICES!!
SO as someone who works in a costume shop, and likes to ignore her other responsibilities by analyzing art, I HAVE A LOT OF THINGS TO SAY ABOUT HAMILTON COSTUMING. Specifically, color symbolization.
(Disclaimer: I have had the insane misfortune of being unable to ever see this musical because I’m still at university, and I make my living in a costume shop (read: poor), so I’m basing my analysis off of pictures and gifs I’ve seen floating around Tumblr/Google Images.)
First, why is Hamilton in green so much? Is this because green is often a color of greed and ambition? Or is it because it’s associated with money, and he’s the Secretary of the Treasury? I feel that it may have to do more with the first one. Hamilton is GREEDY. He wants power and status and purpose in life, and nothing will stand in his way, not even himself (e.g. The Reynolds Pamphlet). His ambition is also what drives him into these higher stations, and the fact that he writes “like he’s running out of time” is the way in which he’s able to manifest these fantasies into reality.
Hamilton is in blue when he meets/marries Eliza. Why? Is it because blue is the color of reliability and responsibility (”Eliza, swear to god, you’ll never feel so helpless”)? Or is it because it’s the color of wisdom and intellectuality? Yes to both. Hamilton is smart, and he says to Burr in “A Winter’s Ball”, “Is it a question of ‘if’, or which one?” in reference to the Schuyler Sisters. So, before he even walks into this party, he knows he’s walking out with a wealthy woman on his arm. The blue color projects the reliability and responsibility outwards to Eliza in order to get her to fall in love, and it projects the wisdom and intelligence inward to show the methodical planning and aptitude that it takes to be Hamilton. The blue ALSO reinforces the idea of Hamilton being an unreliable narrator to the audience (I am ready to defend Hamilton as the main narrator for the whole musical, just say the word), in that we see the color of reliability and wisdom reflected on a character who is self-driven, and sees the world through the lens of “elevating his station”. We are less likely to trust this narrator when we believe that he is not working for the good of the rest of the cast of characters as a whole; just himself.
Jefferson is in purple a lot, but especially in the Cabinet Battle (not sure which one, the pictures I found did not specify, but the exact battle is not important). This could be due to purple being a symbol of wealth or extravagance, but I don’t think this is why Jefferson is clothed in it here. I feel that since Hamilton is our over-arching narrator, we only get the version of Jefferson (and all the other characters) that Hamilton knows/how he chooses to perceive them. Thomas Jefferson may have actually been a pompous asshole all the damn time, or he may have just had some really good points, and Hamilton hated him for it. Which is why I think Jefferson is in purple because it is also a color of pride. The audience/Hamilton’s version is prideful, and the deep, rich purple we get for Jefferson helps to play him as a character of deep pride (”such a blunder sometimes it makes me wonder why I even bring the thunder”).
MEANWHILE, Burr is brown and neutral tones a lot. EMPHASIS ON THE NEUTRAL. He can’t even commit to his own name in the beginning (”depends, who’s asking?”), let alone commit to a crazy color scheme. The only time we see him in a ‘committed color’ is when he’s dressed as a soldier, and in blue. But, even this clothing choice is non-committal, in that he is dressed like all his other friends. In this way, he does not have to make the choice to stand out or make a statement about anything. He’s just blending into his surroundings.
Let’s chat about the Schuyler Sisters, shall we? In the song named after their trio, we have all three of them in lighter, kind of pastel colors. I feel this is due to their direct involvement in politics and political shenanigans. While the rest of the main cast runs around in heavier colors, the sisters have lighter colored costumes, because their role in the revolution is a touch smaller. Angelica’s color is darker than Eliza and Peggy’s, though, because she does get more involved than those two (”and when I meet Thomas Jefferson/Imma compel him to include women in the sequel”), and Eliza’s is darker than Peggy’s for the same reason.
Eliza, however, is interesting. She spends the song “The Schuyler Sisters” in a pastel blue/mint green (it’s hard to tell which with the internet pics I’m getting ): ). This color scheme, to me, implies something along the lines of ‘Virgin Mary’ in that she’s much more naïve than Angelica (Angelica can see right through Hamilton in the beginning, knowing that he only wants her because she’s a Sister. Eliza cannot.). However, in “Burn”, her costume is a white dress, symbolizing her innocence and the fact that she’s merely a victim in the Reynolds scenario, and the small blue ribbon around her waist as a belt symbolizes her naivety, and how it’s shrunk way down and she is starting to see through Hamilton’s BS.
I could continue, but I have so much other work I should be getting done right now… Anyway, what do you guys think? Anything to add? @linmanuel did I get anything right, or everything wrong? Haha.