If you want to watch a totally weird film, this is it. With a luscious hypnotizing style, this film is gorgeous to look at, but maybe harder to understand.
In fact, it maybe is just a visceral horror that alludes to a creeping feeling, not to a rational explanation at all. Horror is supposed to give you a sense of dread and terror and even the more so when it’s about surreal daunting images you fail to understand. What’s more scary than that?
Of course, In Fabric is a film that addresses your own personal take on the film, for it’s mostly a visceral experience. So although this is not the explanation of the film, it’s a personal interpretation, that you will hopefully enjoy reading.
Sheila is a single mother who has a son who should have moved out years ago, but instead lives at home and invites his girlfriend over, while he takes sides with his father who has left Sheila. Sheila has a job at a bank where she’s not appreciated. But when she finds a gorgeous red dress in a department store, she decides to buy it to wear at a date. But there’s something wrong with the dress, causing havoc in her life. And when she brings it to a thrift shop, a deadly fate strikes and it has the same in store for the next buyer, Reg.
The Comical take
In spite of the elusive style and story, it does has one fun and original way to look at it. And that is to view the film not from Sheila’s of Reg’s perspective, but to view it from the point of view of the dress. For the dress, even if it is a lifeless object, is much more than that. Instead of a haunted house that brings death and dread to the people who live in it, now it’s the dress that people wear (live in it) that causes their own demise.
So you might say the dress itself is the main character and Sheila and Reg and Babs, even Luckmoore are just passersby in the indestructible life of the dress.
The dress haunts them who wear her. She gives them horrible dreams and even causes their horrible deaths. The dress is evil and she knows it. She’s evil to Gwen, who maybe actually deserves it and for a short while maybe the dress gets attached to Sheila. But the dress doesn’t like to be mistreated and put in a regular washing machine and she makes that very clear. And when Sheila gives her to a thrift shop, well that does it. No one puts the dress in a corner.
When Reg picks up the dress at the thrift shop, he doesn’t respect her, but wears her to his bachelor party so his friends can make fun of him, and her. Well that’s not a good idea either. And he gets his as well.
Maybe Babs treats the dress better. But when she wears it to Dentley and Stoper’s to try on other dresses, jealousy kicks in and all hell breaks loose. While everybody else in the store is looting and fighting, the dress catches fire, she’s enraged and kills everyone in the store, including Babs. Except for Luckmoore, she manages to escape, only to descent into hell.
This perspective makes it a fun watch, in which the dress is a malicious serial killer, with humanlike traits. She wants to be loved, to be treated well and with care, she is the key piece and wishes not to be ridiculed or to be traded in for some other dress.
The Symbolical take
So far the comic part and comical view of the film and the story of the dress. For it can also be seen as a symbolic journey. The dress as an object and not as a subject, that symbolizes much more.
It is shown in the way the dress is used. First by the people of the department store, Mr. Lundy and Miss Luckmoore, who almost absorb and look at the dress in a fetish-like way and sell the dress, idolizing consumerism, selling it with a certain fortunetelling style, promising you a better life, just by buying this dress.
Sheila uses the dress to make her feel beautiful, confident and feminine again. But after a couple of incidents gives it away. Because it’s our internal incentives that counts not external ones.
All consumerists aspects, the selling, buying, wearing, feeling, stealing, returning, giving away the dress, are displayed, but in a very stylish and strange way.
Reg then reduces the dress to an object of ridicule, a costume. But his hypnotizing manner of speaking reflects also the mesmerizing effects the dress has on people. It changes ones image. Because it not only fitted Sheila and Reg, Babs fits into the dress as well, although she’s a smaller size. Consumerism is a one size fits all kind of thing.
Finally when the costumers start to fight over all the goods in the store, it symbolizes the ultimate greed. And in the basement, in hell, the dress is spon from our own blood into a tangible object, a dress, to symbolize greed, vanity, consumerism. So it starts with us, conjuring and cursing the object that will haunt us.