We all remain mystified by the ending of Christopher Nolan's Inception. It's the kind of mind-frak most directors only wish they could pull off. But did the movie's costume designer just give away the secret of what really happens? Spoilers!
New York Magazine's Vulture blog noticed this telltale exchange in an interview with costume designer Jeffrey Kurland:
How much does costume reflect the inner machinations of the plot, particularly in a film such as Inception? For example, Cobb's children are wearing the same clothes at the end of the story as they are in his dream 'memory' throughout the film. Is there something to be interpreted here?
Costume design reflects greatly on the movement of the plot, most significantly through character development. Character development is at the forefront of costume design. The characters move the story along and with the director and the actor the costume designer helps to set the film's emotional tone in a visual way. In a more physical sense the costumes' style and color help to keep the story on track, keeping a check on time and place.
On to the second part of your question, the children's clothing is different in the final scene … look again …
So the children are finally wearing different clothing when we see them in the "real" world. And Vulture points out that they're also played by older actors than they are in other scenes. And actor Dileep Rao also told Vulture, in another interview, that at the very end Dom Cobb's top is supposed to sound as though it's wobbling and about to fall. So is Cobb really awake after all? It sounds like it... for now, at least. We'll have to re-watch the movie another half dozen times to be sure.
Oh, and the whole costume designer interview is worth checking out, to see how much thought went into all of those amazing outfits. [Clothes On Film]