To Understand Us, Pay Attention to the Outfits
…Despite this victory, something feels off. For those paying attention, one visual clue hints at the big twist to come: Adelaide’s white T-shirt and hooded cardigan are absolutely covered in blood. In a final sequence, Peele flashes back to Adelaide’s childhood, revealing that the protagonist herself is actually a Tethered—as a girl, she kidnapped and traded places with the real Adelaide, who grew up in the subterranean world of the Tethered to become Red. As the existential showdown with Red neared, Adelaide’s clothes took on the same color as Red’s jumpsuit, signaling the duo’s deep and violent connection.
In other words, Adelaide’s outfit functions as a window into her true identity. Observant viewers might notice the many ways in which Us uses clothing to tell the story of the Wilsons and the uprising of the Tethered. Every detail about the outfits used in the film—including the doppelgängers’ instantly iconic jumpsuit uniform—was meticulously planned by the movie’s costume designer, Kym Barrett. Best known for her work on The Matrix, Barrett thought carefully about the decision to have Adelaide wear white. “I wanted her to be the lantern that led her family,” Barrett told me recently, after she had seen the completed film for the first time. “Along the way, that light is continually flickering … She’s getting more and more and more covered in blood. The idea was that [by the film’s end], she’s almost as red as Red.”