**Obviously, this story has spoilers and if you haven't seen "Inception" or don't want your interpretation of the ending ruined, please read something else.**
Christopher Nolan's brainy summer blockbuster "Inception" has had tongues wagging for a variety of reasons including its twisty, multiple layer narrative; it's bold action setpieces; and the refreshment that an original idea has been brought to multiplexes wheezing from sequels, remakes, reboots and comic book movies. However, nothing has spurred more discussion (and arguments) than the enigmatic ending to the film.
As you might recall, the film closes with Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) finally reuniting in the United States with his children. He enters their home and not quite sure if he's still dreaming or not, spins his totem and walks off camera to join his family. We continue watching the totem to see if it will waver or not, revealing a dream state or reality, and before we can get a firm answer the scene smash cuts to the end credits. Some swear that the totem was about to topple over while others are convinced that Cobb is still trapped in a dream state. Well, the film's costume designer Jeffrey Kurland has revealed a key clue in helping to determine the conclusion of the film.
Speaking with Clothes On Film (man, there's a website for everything isn't there?) Kurland says that our attention might have been focused on the wrong thing in those closing moments of "Inception":
COF: 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?
JK: 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…
Wow. We have to admit we were definitely not looking at the children's clothing at all and now we are definitely going to have to buy another ticket for "Inception" and pay some (even closer) attention. But Kurland's statement does seem to confirm that Cobb's job is a success and Saito (Ken Watanabe) holds up his end of the bargain. If this is indeed the case, than Cobb is firmly back in reality at the end of the film and if so...it's kind of a bummer. We think the film plays much better viewed through the lens of a tragedy.