Happy Hearts & Matching Outfits: A Romance Trope (Analysis)

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Source: For Better of For Worse

By: Peggy Sue Wood | @pswediting

I know I have mentioned this before, but I love seeing matching or complementary outfits on couples (particularly in comics). They are probably my favorite part of costuming in any visual media.

I love matching outfits in comics since it usually symbolizes one of two things–love interests and/or a mental connection with another person. One of the first things to show a couple is in-tune with each other in comics is generally an accidental match up for a ball or outing–something that probably wouldn’t be a surprise if the pair had planned it before hand, but almost always is because they did not plan for it. 

Likewise, when the pairing is in distress, the first thing that is usually replaced, thrown out, or lost, is that matching element in their clothes. Maybe the color scheme changes, the design no longer match, the accessory base is different, different or conflicting pattern (like one wearing florals, and another with cosmic star patterns), etc.

The trope of these coordinating outfits is so prevalent in the romance-based isekai/transmigration stories that I read, that I can pull numerous examples (and have collected some of my favorites below). Moreover, even some series are beginning to point it out through the story, like in Chapter 3 of It’s No Use Hanging On, where the main character identifies how her choice between the dresses she’s been given by two different princes for her cousin’s coming of age ceremony doesn’t just match her with one of them, but also identifies what it means for her relationship with them in front of people. It also goes to show who she is going to align herself with–something that does not go unnoticed by either man. 

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Source: Chapter/Comic Episode 3,  It’s No Use Hanging On

The results of said choice are then played out over the course of the following chapters that take place at the coming of age ceremony.

With that in mind, these match ups don’t always mean that the couple is happy in the moment that they’re wearing coordinating outfits–though, it does still generally mean that they are of the same mind or have similar feelings in the moment. For example, this image from Wendy the Florist:

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Source: Wendy the Florist

In the chapter that is taken from, while both Wendy and her partner look very good together and are clearly matching, they’re doing it for duty-based reasons. They have to attend an award event following a royal hunt in which they were hunting partners. Since they were partners at the hunting event, it’s implied through pressure put on by the prince hosting the event that the two have to stay as partners and attend the award ceremony. 

In this moment, while they have to attend the award ceremony together, they do not have to match. Yet, here they are in matching colors and themes.  

The costumes have medallions–showing that they are being honored or that this is a royal event. Their blues are the same, with similar framing of the medallions at the center of the chest rather than off to one side. The two are stone-faced, and hiding what they know from others (their similar minds in this moment). 

Complimenting the floral pattern of Wendy’s clothes, her love interest has a leafed design or pattern both on the embroidery of the blazer and inner vest. They are not yet an established couple, but are showing interest for each other or, at least, a similar mindset while attending this event.

We can also look at this example from Charming and the Beast:

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Source: Charming and the Beast

In the image above, we see Alexa and her love interest in matching outfits even though, in the moment, they never actually see each other. Alexa remains behind a closed door, ironically upset at the Duke’s reluctance to talk about what he’s thinking. Their matching outfits are reflective of their mental and physical states. He has, metaphorically, shut himself behind a closed door–refusing to tell her what’s going on in his mind, while she is physically behind a door, unable to talk to him over the pain of him hiding his secrets and its reminder of how she is hiding her own. The two, while unhappy and closed off, are of the same mental state.

I also like the costuming in I Raised A Black Dragon–in that work, the baby dragon and the main character wear a lot of matching outfits, but she and the love interest do not wear matching or coordinating outfits until chapter 14 when they are finally on the “same page” about moving forward with the investigation into how the dragon’s egg came to her humble abode:

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Source: Chapter 14, I Raised A Black Dragon

Interestingly, as a couple gets closer and starts to establish itself more in the heart of a particular character more than the other, I’ve noticed the usage of green. I wonder, vaguely, if it ties to the idea of Spring, which is often considered the season of new beginnings for characters, particularly in romances (at least, of what I’ve seen). Some examples include: 

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Source: Chapter 116, Who Made Me a Princess

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Source: I’ve Been Proposed to By a Villain

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Source: Chapter 17, What It Means To Be You

I’ve noticed just as many examples of couples wearing blues and shades of pastel purple, though contextually I see it most often once the two have confessed to each other or established the relationship canonically. 

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Source: I Stole The Male Lead’s First Night

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Source: I’ve Been Proposed To By a Villain

Perhaps most interestingly, this costuming choice where a couple wears matching or coordinating colors also seems to be growing in same-sex/lgbt+ sub-genre of romances. One example of such is a work I’ve mentioned before regarding this same subject

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Source: Smurf’s World

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Source: Chapter 37, You Own My All

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Source: Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon Eternal Part 2Sailor Moon S

Costuming is a very cute way of adding to the romance elements of a work without needing to tell us in words how the characters feel in that particular moment, and I appreciate that from both an editorial and personal perspective. 

One of the coolest ways I’ve seen costuming used to add to the romantic elements of a story is when the creator(s) use it to show potential love interests or pairings. For example, in When the Villainess Loves, Libertia is shown to match the different male leads at different times. The first example is when she matches Eugene, her knight: 

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Source: Chapter 17, When the Villainess Loves

In the scene above, Eugene is wearing his official knights uniform as a member of the Princess’ staff rather than his freely worn day-to-day clothes (typically a white shirt with opened buttons and a blazer free of any military additions) he was shown to wear earlier. 

Libertia is wearing a dress just as decorative as many of her other clothes, though this one is notably darker than her regular choice of bright colors or pastels. Since she typically wears dark clothes when meeting members of her family (the Emperor/her brother) or specific staff (like her doctor), I’ve taken this to mean that its more attuned to her villainess princess persona (even though she can’t pull off the original Libertia’s villainous persona with her current personality). 

The two are clearly matching in the above image–they have the dark blues, the white accents with metallic additions. They’re both dressed “officially,” with Libertia in the darker colors and Eugene in his uniform. It’s a kind moment between them, as it’s his first time appearing in the uniform before her and the audience. 

It’s here, through this presentation of the uniform, that he has officially turned or joined her side, as before this he was either against her or on the fence about his impression of her. In later scenes, we will see him continue wearing his uniform (though not all of the time). 

However, Libertia is not seen in this outfit again, nor does she match him again in the series thus far. Instead, she is next shown to match Duke Kain in the image below: 

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Source: Chapter 19, When the Villainess Loves

It’s a bit hard to see in the screenshot above, but Duke Kain (right) is actually wearing a similar yellow to her dress in his accent pieces (the handkerchief, the clip on his ascot, etc.). And, featured in the same chapter, earlier, he’s shown to be wearing the dark red that is now the major color of Libertia’s (left) dress in this image. Even in the next chapter, Kain is featured again in the same darker red. 

The costuming here is not a show of her beginning to like him more, but it is a show of their growing closeness while also foreshadowing, I suspect, missed opportunity or timing. The three are never, at least as far as I’ve read (which is into the 60s), shown to be as closely dressed in coordinating outfits/matching color schemes as they are in these late-teen chapters. 

So, while introducing the two men as potential love interests, the creator(s) are also pushing them out of the romantic category–setting them up to be her close friends and support rather than love interests. 

To conclude, this particular romance trope is, by far, my favorite of the genre. If you haven’t noticed it before, I hope that this posts helps point it out to you, because it’s a wonderful, lighthearted, and cute addition to many works that I think often gets overlooked. 

If you have more examples (as there are a lot of other series I did not mention where this is featured), I hope you’ll share them. 

Also, with hearts day happening later this week I just want to add:

Happy Valentines Day, y’all 💖

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