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Summer Glau Red Dress and Color Symbolism on Arrow

POSTED BY chrisdvanne ON Sep 26, 2013 / 3 COMMENTS

Comic book as well as TV show writers use copiously color symbolism; so when a TV show reimagines comic book superheroes, as it is the case for Smallville or Arrow, you can expect a lot of visual allusions, particularly to the colors used in the comics, some subtle, some not so subtle. 
Take these highly suggestive production stills for Arrow season 2 premiere:

Summer Glau and Emily Bett Rickards Dresses on ArrowSummer Glau red dress on ArrowEmily Bett Rickards blue dress on Arrow

When The CW released this still featuring Summer Glau's Isabel Rochev in a red dress across the table from Emily Bett Rickards's Felicity in blue, I knew that the choice of these primary colors was not motivated by fashion but was a deliberate choice from the writers.
Summer's red dress is a clear reference to Isabel Rochev as depicted in DC comics; check out theses pictures:

Isabel Rochev red dress in DC comicsIsabel Rochev red dress in DC comics

The color red symbolizes all things intense and passionate and I hope it will reflect in Arrow's version of Isabel Rochev (learn more about Summer Glau's character in a previous News).

Emily's blue dress is quite an improvement from Arrow season one and symbolizes her loyaulty to Oliver (the following screencaptures from Arrow episodes are in chronological order).

When we first met Felicity, she wore neutral white or grey colors that reflect her low level of investment on Oliver's business (she was just investigating things for Walter Steele, CEO of Queen Consolidated).

Felicity dress code in ArrowFelicity dress code in Arrow

As she begins to investigate for Oliver Queen, her colors became more deep and she wore bluish colors, in order to reflect her deeper involvement in Oliver's business.

Felicity dress code in ArrowFelicity dress code in Arrow

And when Felicity confronted Oliver about his mysteries and he finally revealed his secret identity to her, Felicity's colors turned to pink and purple, which symbolizes transformation and mystery (see Color Symbolism and Culture). Even her lipstick turned purple (third image) while it has always been red before :-)

Felicity dress code in ArrowFelicity dress code in ArrowFelicity dress code in Arrow

Purple is not a primary color, it's a combination of the two primary colors blue and red. At this point, Felicity wasn't a fully-fledged member of Oliver's team, she was just in-between. This reminds me of the Lex Luthor from the first seasons of The CW's Smallville, when Lex hadn't shifted to the dark side; remember those purple shirts he wore and the combination of blue/purple/red stain-glass windows in the Luthor mansion?


Nothing is random in a scripted TV show. Everybody who have seen Smallville knows that Clark Kent wears only blue and red colors (like Superman's costume) but his entire environment had the same colors; the Kent farm, the set, the furnitures, various papers. A similar color code  applies to Arrow to; this is why the color green is omnipresent on Arrow, but I think you got that already. The predominant colors on the show - at least when Oliver Queen/The Hood is involved - are solid green, red and blue and you find them everywhere; to give a simple example, since lots of scenes in Arrow take place at Oliver's club 'Verdant' (even the name ''vert' means green in French), Arrow's writers love to play with the colors of straws, as seen below:

Felicity dress code in ArrowFelicity dress code in Arrow


A similar study could be made for each character of the show and his environment. With more superheroes set to appear in season two, and their accompagnying costume colors, no doubt the writers, the wardrobe department and set decorators will have a lot of material to play with. I hope that after reading this small article, you will take a look at all these details that give a show a distinctive look and feel.

It looks like there is plenty to get excited for next season, premiering on Wednesday, October 9 at 8 p.m. ET on The CW.


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Total comments: 3

  Message #1 | chrisdvanne | 2013 Sep 26, 22:01 GMT

I've had feedback from friends saying that they found this Blog post fun to read; while I wrote this without pretention, that means a lot for me smile

  Message #2 | KevinInEngland | 2013 Sep 27, 02:24 GMT

Did you write this all from observation Chris? Or did some of it come from a magazine article?
It's true of course, I did notice that Felicity's lipstick was pink.
I wonder if the black hood and goggles from the magazine for Isabel Rochev, will be redesigned for the TV series? I have a feeling it might be, but wouldn't it be strange if we saw Summer wearing that very old-fashioned looking headgear.
There is another character who wears red. In fact there is possibly 2. I wonder if one will be orangy/red, one dark red and one light red?
Summer has hair similar in style to Laurel, it will be interesting to see how they are fashioned in each episode, otherwise I personally will accuse Oliver of only going for women with hair like that. (A fetish eh?)

  Message #3 | chrisdvanne | 2013 Sep 27, 07:29 GMT

Its 100% from me Kevin, this is simply based on observation and I write about this from time to time. The sentence about Smallville is a comment I made a while ago in the "Easter egg" thread in the forum.

I could also show you how the movement of the camera is used to highlight something but it would involve more than pictures.

There is so much to say about the use of colors on Arrow, this entire site would not be enough. As I said, the same study could be made for Roy Harper, always depicted with a red hood and I bet you that Barry Allen's environment will involve lots of red and yellow (The Flash colors). But I wanted to keep my observations on Isabel and Felicity.

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