Arwen’s Best Looks in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ Trilogy

December 19, 2021, marks the 20th anniversary of the release of The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, the first of Peter Jackson's adaptations of J.R.R. Tolkien's beloved trilogy. With the highly anticipated Prime Video adaptation on the horizon, we're commemorating the anniversary with a series of essays and lists devoted to The Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Arwen's Best Looks in The Lord of the Rings Trilogy

Arwen and Aragorn Lord of the Rings

There are no two ways about it. The Lord of the Rings is extremely male-heavy. So as a young girl watching these movies for the first time, it’s little surprise that Arwen (and later Eowyn) imprinted on me the way she did.

One aspect of Arwen that sticks with me to this day is the dresses she wears, which are a far cry from the muddy, travel-worn clothing worn by the other characters most of the time. Each is beautiful, ethereal, and ornate in its own way and speaks volumes about the state of her character, even when the story itself doesn’t have the time to devote to her. Below, we have listed the eight standouts from among her wardrobe.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

Blue and Silver Dress

Arwen Blue Dress

This dress is classic Arwen, which is saying something when speaking about a woman who doesn’t wear the same thing twice. This is the one that is the perfect culmination of her personal style, but it actually doesn’t appear until Return of the King. The timing, however, is perfect, as this is the dress Arwen wears when she is meant to be traveling into the Undying Lands.

Until she makes the choice to stay behind and have a life with Aragorn instead, she is the culmination of her father’s expectations for her, and she certainly dresses the part. The blues and silvers. The low neck and dramatic sleeves. These are all design elements we’ve seen repeated over and over in her looks. Arwen’s accessories are usually few, but in this case, even the embroidery is more subtle than usual. The dress is also remarkable in its simplicity, stripping her down to her visual essentials.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

Purple Cloak

Arwen Cloack Dress

This is technically cheating, as it isn’t an outfit on its own, but rather just a cloak work overtop her blue and silver dress in Return of the King. Still, it stands out as being one of the few cloaks in these movies that weren’t ever burned, torn, or caked in mud. She does throw it to the ground in spectacularly dramatic fashion though, so that’s something.

Cloaks like this aren’t worn by all Elves—as evidenced by her entourage, who all go without. But there is something inherently otherworldly about the sweeping lines and the sheer length of it, adding power to the scene where she casts it to the ground, a final definitive statement in her casting Elrond’s wishes for her aside as well.

Chase Dress

Arwen Chase Dress

In retrospect, the dress we first see Arwen wearing in The Fellowship of the Ring is actually very similar to what Tauriel (Evangeline Lily) wears in the Hobbit films. It’s cut for practicality, but never loses the flair and style that Elves are known for.

As most of Arwen’s time across the trilogy is spent in reflection, contemplation, and yes, a lot of pining, giving her a moment off the top where she can step into a more proactive role is a very welcome addition. This isn’t to say that all characters—female characters in particular – must necessarily be able to fight in order to have value. But threats from Mordor and elsewhere are in fact a very real facet of Arwen’s life. Having her come to the rescue, clad in her signature blue, shows that this version of her is no less a part of her than anything else the audience is about to see.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

Funeral Dress

Arwen Funeral Aragorn Death

Arwen’s funeral gown, seen by Elrond in a vision in The Two Towers is as gorgeous as it is heartbreaking for all it implies. In the scene, the still youthful Arwen—now Aragorn’s queen and widow – mourns her husband. The colour palette of the dress is visually quite similar to her Death dress from Return of the King, a much darker shade than she would normally wear and embellished with red and gold.

The saddest detail of all is the circlet she wears on her head. Though it doesn’t appear to be physically very heavy, the gold stands out in sharp contrast to her dark hair. What was once a symbol of the role she chose for herself, and one that she assumed proudly at her husband’s side, has become a prominent and cumbersome reminder of everything she has lost and will have to live without for an eternity. Even as the scene jumps to years, possibly decades into the future, she still carries the memory and the weight with her.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

White Rivendell Dress

Arwen White Dress

The standard set by her more practical garb in the chase scene is the exception rather than the rule for Arwen. But even then, the gown she wears when the soon-to-be fellowship begins to converge on Rivendell in The Fellowship of the Ring is more ornate than what she usually wears.

Dressed all in heavily-embroidered white, Arwen is sharply pulled back from necessity-driven action and into the role she normally fulfills, that of a lady of Rivendell. The gown serves the dual purpose of visually communicating to the audience as quickly as possible how inaccessible Arwen is to Aragorn, while also reinforcing the same idea to the man himself. Dressed in anything less than this visual splendor, and the point wouldn’t have been made.

It’s also one of the times that her accessories bear some kind of significance to her story. It is in the scene with this dress where she gives Aragorn her pendent and with it, chooses to live a life with him rather than retreat into a distant immortality with him as only a memory. The almost angelic quality of the dress makes the scenes with Aragorn appear very dream-like, as well, as if they exist outside the reality of the story.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

Dream Sequence Dress

Arwen Dream Dress

There is something beautifully intimate about this lilac gown Arwen wears in The Two Towers. While it’s unclear in the visual language of the film if this is meant to be an actual dream or a memory of Aragorn’s, there is no denying the dream-like quality of the whole thing.

The dress has a more floaty quality about it, the cut is drastically different, and her arms are bare. It is, as mentioned above, the most intimate dress we see her wear.

The word “ethereal” is very easily applied to Arwen in many contexts, but it is felt here more than elsewhere simply because this is the first time she is properly seen by the audience through someone else's eyes. It feels otherworldly too because of how much she stands in contrast to the overgrown wilderness that surrounds her and Aragorn. He fits right in, but she is something else, something above, which is exactly how he sees her.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

Wedding Dress

Arwen Green Dress

Arwen’s wedding dress, which she wears in her last scene in Return of the King is the closest she ever comes to looking like a literal Elf princess out of a storybook. The gown is cut in her usual style, a low scoop neckline, and long dramatic sleeves, but instead of her usual cool blue shades, this one is in a soft, vibrant green. Middle Earth is being reborn out from under the shadow of Mordor. Arwen’s dress is like the arrival of spring after a very long winter.

Her ornate silver headdress is another stunning detail. Generally speaking, her ornamentation is left for her clothing. Other than this scene, the only other prominent hair accessory that really sticks out is the gold circlet she wears in her vision of Aragorn’s funeral. Where that feels cumbersome, and pins a literal veil in place on her head, this feels much lighter, even if it is far more elaborate.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

The ‘Death’ Dress

Arwen Dying Dress

Also known as the “mourning dress” by some, Arwen’s ‘death’ dress is, simply put, the most stunning piece Liv Tyler wears in all three movies. She wears the bluish-black dress with sweeping red sleeves in Return of the King, just as her decision to renounce her immortal life and the Undying Lands in order to remain and be with Aragorn begins to take effect on her.

Most of the dresses Arwen wears throughout are in beautiful shades of blues and purples, which makes the sudden transition to a red and almost-black dress a pronounced one. In many cases, as a character's arc progresses, they begin to favor darker colors, a visual shorthand for maturity. While the blues she wears earlier on waver back and forth between light and dark, her donning a black and red dress symbolizes the first, true irreversible decision we see her make for herself. Adulthood is making these kinds of choices, and Arwen enters metaphorical adulthood in glorious style.

Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

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Image Credit: Amazon Studios. 

This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Featured Image Credit: New Line Cinema. 

Arezou Amin is a freelance writer with a lifelong love of Star Wars, romance, fantasy, and all things pop culture. She is the host of Space Waffles, a Star Wars-focused podcast on the Geeky Waffle network, where she also co-hosts the flagship show and writes reviews and recaps for the site.