In Higher Ground, Shane's wardrobe was perhaps the most consistent it has ever been, standing as a silent, but firm, reaffirmation of the state of her heart, which was decidedly fixed on Oliver, even when that relationship came briefly into question.
Before She Left
Her date attire is also very different from the bright pink, romantic fantasy of a tea-length dress of From The Heart/One In A Million. In fact, it's a red sheath dress with black lace overlay. There's something distinctly feminine, but modern, about it, and it's much more understated and elegant than the pink dress. Not only does it better reflect her, it also matches her very handsome date, and elicits the compliment "you look beautiful" almost the moment he sees her, little did she know it would be the last time she would hear it for a while.
Far & Away
We're going to skip ahead to Shane's time on assignment for the government because I'm saving the gray coat for a little later. But what's important about her clothing while away is that it's very utilitarian. No frills or extras, lots of khaki and army green, and, while decidedly stylish, blends her into her environment. She is also wearing pants, which very much harkens back to her "wilderness weekend" in Lost Without You, as well as earlier stages of the series. Similarly, each time we join Shane, she is solely focused on her work, and nothing else, like she was that weekend.
You can't help but get the feeling that pouring her energy into her work is a way to move things along so that she can come home sooner and all of her efforts, including the simplicity of her wardrobe, is the quickest and most efficient way of achieving that goal.
When Oliver goes after Shane in D.C. there's something very important occurring in that lobby not just in terms of their interaction, but also in terms of wardrobe.
First of all, Shane has transitioned back to dresses, and not just any kind of dress, but specifically a shift from the structured sheath dresses to one with a bit of an A-line construction that produces a feminine swish as she walks. What's more, this particular dress is black and red floral print, with the red a particularly deep shade. Remember that the last dress she was wearing on U.S. soil was the one she wore on her date with Oliver, which was also black and red, but the red was a bit brighter.
This reprisal of her dress from their date is a subtle sign that her feelings remain as they were before she went away. The new construction of her dress is a hint of some fine-tuning she underwent while on foreign soil, which we understand most fully when she returns to Denver, but we also begin to get a sense of in her decision to continuing pursuing Hattie.
To continue the search was a way of keeping close to her POstable family, and Oliver in particular, whom she had charged with finding Gabe. To do so clearly signaled her intent to continue the work they began together.
Unfortunately, both her gesture, and her clothing, were critical, but apparently missed, signals.
Between her coat and her dress, Shane sends a very distinct, unmistakable, and powerful message with her wardrobe in that epic sequence that closes Higher Ground.
For Oliver to return to the DLO on Sunday morning and find Shane's bag at her desk, and her coat on the rack, is very symbolic. Many of you pointed out that Shane's coat on the rack was a callback to From Paris With Love, but where Holly hung her bag and never took off her coat, implying she had no intention of staying, Shane has removed her coat to signal the exact opposite. Her coat is also important because it was the coat she wore when she and Oliver shared their first kiss, as well as the coat she was wearing when she promised to come home. In many ways she used the coat as a visual signal of a promise kept and a permanent, irrevocable intent to stay.
But while Shane did, indeed, keep her promise, she didn't do so without a troubled heart, which is reflected in her wardrobe.
Notice that her wardrobe gets increasingly dark over the course of the film, from a bright blue, to olive green, to a deep red, to indigo. Indigo is the deepest shade of blue, and it hit me that blue is not only a color, but a description for the state of one's feelings, which can include loneliness. Shane is literally wearing her feelings throughout this scene. Upset and confused by how things were left in D.C., Shane is feeling lonelier than she ever was abroad.
Interestingly, she seems to be expressing and acting out everything Oliver, stunned and silent at this point, has been working through during the entire film. So it's no its no wonder that she and Oliver's wardrobe are nearly identical in color. As the scene progresses, we find that their feelings for one another were, in fact, "in concert." Not only that, Shane wrote letters expressing the same while away, the subtle fine-tuning I alluded to earlier, visually complimented in the shift in construction of her dresses.
At each stage of the film, Shane demonstrates a more sophisticated and nuanced expression of her feelings and intentions both in the clothing she wore and in how she used pieces, like her coat, to convey specific messages. While the color, construction, and even fabric, of Shane's wardrobe shifted and transformed throughout the course of Higher Ground, her feelings for Oliver, while perhaps having the chance to deepen and become stronger, fundamentally never changed, a fact her wardrobe clearly echoed.