Color Analysis in Pretty Woman

Armocromia Pretty Woman copertina

Color Analysis in Pretty Woman

Some time ago I told you about the use of color in the cinema, mentioning the case of Gone with the wind.

The article was very popular and many asked me to analyze Pretty Woman (1990), starring the beautiful Julia Roberts.

Let’s see together the color palette used to henance this beloved character.



We know the plot of Pretty Woman: a casual encounter changes the life of the protagonist forever.

But the before-after is also about her look and … her colors!

In the first part of the film cool colors are used, not in harmony with Vivian’s complexion: the ashy blonde of the wig and the black-gray make-up, in fact, give her a more messy and vulgar look.



White is a recurring color in Pretty Woman, because it is a symbol of rebirth.

The white bathrobe, combined with a face without makeup, reveals a clean Vivian, in every sense: here the color reinforces the message of cleanliness, innocence and simplicity.

To go out shopping and redo her look, the protagonist wears a white shirt over the “working” micro dress …



And speaking of rebirth and change, the white comes back in a domineering way in the famous scenes of unbridled shopping.

Just a few boutiques (and an unlimited credit card) and our Vivian is transformed!

Once again, the protagonist of this metamorphosis is the total white




The color palette of Vivian – Julia Roberts is decidedly warm and, therefore, little in harmony with the black.

The use of this color therefore involves only a few scenes, with precise meanings.

We remember an awkward Vivian accompanying Edward to a working dinner.

The look is impeccable, but rather obvious: the outfit has been proposed by a kind saleswoman, but Vivian does not have a defined style. Even the hairstyle, a little ‘lady, does not belong entirely: the metamorphosis is not yet complete …

In short, the little black dress is beautiful, but simply appears as the less risky choice: there could have been more and in the next scenes we’ll see …



Other occasions when black reappears are the saddest and most dramatic scenes of Pretty Woman:


And of course that of farewell

The jacket gives Vivian a more serious, almost chaste, and even a little dark image.

The black color, definitely off the palette for this magnificent redhead, underlines in fact the most melancholic moment of the film.



Now, let’s dive into the color palette of the protagonist.

Who does not remember the brown dress of the polo match? Finally, even the make-up has the same warm colors …

The style of the protagonist is evolving with the character himself.

The use of the polka dot, also emphasized by pearls and combined with gloves and cap, gives it a romantic touch absolutely in line with the most sentimental moment in history …



Few colors are powerful and evocative like red. And when we approach them to a warm complexion it is truly the apotheosis!

Not surprisingly, red is the protagonist of the film’s climax: unforgettable the carmine red dress for the evening at the Opera, reinforced by the lipstick and and by the rubies of the necklace.

Also this time the hairstyle is collected, but unlike the first evening  when she wears black, the hairstyle is much more in line with the personality of Vivian.



Together with the dress for the Opera night, this one in coral red is my favorite.

It is one of the final scenes: Vivian’s metamorphosis is now complete from all points of view.

She is a confident and conscious woman and her look proves it: elegant and refined, but without losing the verve and vivacity that distinguishes her.

To note her blush and lipstick in the same shade, which make her simply radiant.



After analyzing the color in Gone with the Wind, I hope you liked Pretty Woman.

What other films would you like me to analyze?



Rossella Migliaccio
Italian Image Institute