Welcome to Thanks, I Love It, our series highlighting something onscreen we’re obsessed with this week.
Netflix’s Over the Moon, which tells of a spunky girl named Fei Fei (Cathy Ang) who tries to travel on a rocket through the stars to prove the existence of the legendary Chinese moon goddess, has a lot to brag about. It has a talented all-Asian cast, vibrant visuals, and a touching story.
But at the center of it all is Chang’e, a goddess so magnificent that she demanded her own costumer — and that job fell into the hands of world-renowned Chinese fashion designer Guo Pei, who is perhaps best known in America for designing Rihanna’s yellow gown at the 2015 Met Gala.
In a Zoom interview with Mashable, the film’s producer, Peilin Chou, explained how Guo seemed like a natural choice to dress Chang’e.
“We definitely wanted somebody that was going to like really be able to root her in authentic Chinese roots,” she said, “but at the same time, we wanted her to be fresh and modern and larger than life.”
There are many legends about Chang’e, but her story, as told to Fei Fei by her parents (Ruthie Ann Miles and John Cho) at the beginning of Over the Moon, is simple. Chang’e was once in love with an archer named Houyi (Conrad Ricamora), but after she took a magic potion to become immortal, she floated away to the moon without him. However, there is very little written about what happens after she gets up there — and that’s where Chou and the team decided to take creative liberties.
They imagined Chang’e creating the civilization of Lunaria and developing a giant persona as a way to cope with her grief. They wanted this to spill into her character design, which works to tell the greater story.
When Fei Fei first arrives on the moon, she’s greeted by a pop star version of Chang’e, who performs original song “Ultraluminary” at a giant, glowing concert. Chang’e’s dance moves are choreographed by Kyle Hanagami, who has worked with stars like the members of Blackpink and Jennifer Lopez, while her voice is graced with the powerhouse talents of Hamilton‘s Phillipa Soo.
She has volumized hair, a fierce makeup look based on singers like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry, and a sparkly pink and yellow dress that evolves as she dances. Her dazzling outfit is meant to match the electrifying energy of the scene, and it’s one of the biggest stars of this scene, even considering there’s so much to pay attention to — which speaks to Guo’s talent. Chang’e wants to feel untouchable, but she can’t protect herself forever. Her later costumes slowly unfold this shift in character.
At the conclusion of the song, Chang’e changes into her royal red gown. She wears this anytime she’s lounging around her chambers. It’s bold, it’s bright, and it perfectly matches her lipstick and nails. But, at the same, it hints at a more vulnerable side to Chang’e because her love story is digitally stitched into her robes.
“When she’s really missing Houyi, when she wants to be close to him, when she’s feeling nostalgic about him, she’s in that gown,” said Chou.
Chang’e’s look further softens when, at the climax of the film, she reunites with Houyi in the traditional Chinese garments that are classically associated with her character. Through these, she’s pulled even further to her roots, away from the glamorous goddess she’s become and back to the person she once was thousands of years ago when she knew Houyi in ancient China.
Then comes her final costume — the one that strips down every wall Chang’e had built up and leaves her sorrows fully exposed. It comes after Chang’e learns that Houyi is gone forever and enters the Chamber of Exquisite Sadness. She has to let him go. Her hair is left long, representing all of her grief. Her face has been wiped of the dramatic makeup. And her new gown is made of flowy, translucent material that represents an empty shell of a person.
Chang’e’s story doesn’t end here, but her fashion journey does. And because of Guo’s masterful work, every one of Chang’e’s looks serves the larger narrative. The extravagant, glittery diva who first meets Fei Fei is only using her appearance to disguise the pain underneath. Now, others can empathize with Chang’e as well.
“I definitely grew up knowing the legend,” said Chou. “The notion that children all around the world now can know who she is and her story is pretty amazing.”
I hadn’t heard of Chang’e before watching Over the Moon, but I’m glad to know of her now. And while I’m sure I could have come across the legend in other ways, it seems fitting that I and others get to watch Chang’e make her grand entrance wearing only the finest. Thank you, Guo Pei.
Over the Moon is now streaming on Netflix.