An American pulp writer arrives in post-WWII Vienna only to find that the friend who waited for him is killed under mysterious circumstances. The ensuing mystery entangles him in his friend’s involvement in the black market, with the multinational police, and with his Czech girlfriend.
Holly Martins is introduced as a poor soldier going to Vienna because a friend has offered him a job. He wears the same outfit for most of the film. A simple suit, dark overcoat and hat allows him to fit in with the rest of the poor working class. This simple outfit contrasts to the sharp military uniforms and expensive outfits of the others he interacts with. This also serves to emphasize that when Martins is helping with the manhunt for Lime, he is doing it as a friend, not a soldier.
Holly Martins is first introduced to Anna Schmidt when she is working as an actress at a classical theatre. She is wearing a fancy gown, makeup, and a wig, making her a completely different person from what she normally looks like. This establishes from the beginning that she is an actress, and that she has something to hide.
We later get introduced to this version of Anna Schmidt. This version of Anna wears simple, practical clothes, and blends in with the crowds of the city. She can pass herself off as just any hard worker in the crowd, which allows her to get into the bar where Holly was to meet Harry, and warn Harry that Holly was helping officials. This simple outfit also serves as her mourning clothes for Harry’s fake funeral, and his real one.