Tuesday, June 21, 2011

F a s h i o n  &  F i l m

As naive as it is, I finally watched my very first film starring Marilyn Monroe last week -I always knew who she was and how much of a star she was, but I never took the time to appreciate why. Being completely gobsmacked by the beauty of the 1954 film There's No Business Like Show Business (directed by Walter Lang), inspiration rushed through my veins and I haven't been able to get any of the images from the film out of my head all week. I also finally watched Cleopatra 1963 (directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz) starring Elizabeth Taylor, and for the first time felt completely nostalgic. Knowing someone has passed is always sad, but after watching the film I really understood the true weight of this loss. This morning's lecture confirmed my nostalgia by discussing that Elizabeth Taylor is considered by many to have been the last Hollywood star, as these days we deal with celebrities rather than stars.

 A Little Overview
  • Film began in France, and flourished in the 1920s. There was no talking until 1927, although music was utilised, it was played in the cinema theatre
  • There were only two magazines around 100 years ago, Vogue (first issue 1892) and Harper's (first issue 1850), so a way of encouraging women to the cinema was to produce films on fashion -particularly the latest Paris Fashions
  • Fashions in film included cars, cigarettes, interiors etc. not just make-up, hair styles + clothes (make-up in the beginning was only worn by prostitutes and actors/actresses)
  • The concept that Hollywood created consumerism came about (Charles Eckert was famous for claiming this). Page 198 of Gabrielle Esperdy's 2007 journal From Instruction to Consumption: Architecture and Design in Hollywood Movies of the 1930s (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1542-734X.2007.00509.x/abstract) explains this concept
American movies....were also a form of mass marketing that attempted to mitigate the social and economic crisis of the Depression by exploiting the standards and mores of the burgeoning consumer culture. Charles Eckert analyzed this phenomenon with respect to women's fashion in his 1978 essay "Carold Lombard in Macy's Window." He observed that almost from the beginning of the cinema movie makers and manufacturers recognized "the full potential of film as a merchandiser of goods" (Esperdy 2007, para 1. and 2.)

  • During WWI the world came to a stand still, except for America who kept producing films
  • Elsa Schiaparelli quoted: what Hollywood designs today, you will be wearing tomorrow (Bruzzi 1998)
  • Specific costume elements ot be aware of consist of: line, texture and lighting (sequins, beads, tinsels)
SCREENINGS Inspiration Notes
We watched extracts from It (1926, Directed by Clarence Badger) which starred Clara Bow. This introduction to Bow had me awestruck  -she is one of those 'character beauties' a woman with unique features that captivate you. It by the way refers to it as sex appeal.

Clara Bow
pincurlmag, 2011

The film showed a scene where she and her friend cut up her dress, while she is still wearing it, and re-create another dress. You see the end result in the preceding scene. I imagine that may have been the beginning of the concept of 'transformable garments' -maybe scenes like this inspired reversible garments too? There is no talking in this film, text communicates the parts that body language cannot, and music heard encourages emotion. I could never have imagined that a film in black and white, without spoken dialogue, could ever have captured my attention so strongly as this film did. I already want to watch the parts that we missed out on in class.

The second film explored was Gone With the Wind (directed by Victor Flemming, 1939). The dresses in this film are just incredible, they reference the tiny waist, and flamboyant hoop skirt-dresses, that moved with such grace as the women walked, danced and even sat.

Internal Structure of a Hoop Skirt

It's naive to notice just the clothing in a film like this, but the movement of all garments were definitely what captivated me the most. The first scene featuring Scarlett O'Hara, played by Vivien Leigh, saw her in an incredible, voluminous, layered white dress (see pic. below)
Image: fanpop

The size of Scarlet's hat was presumably the largest I noticed, the volume and grand silhouettes of fashions in the film were pleasant features. I also noticed that Scarlet was frequently fashioned in green, which could have to do with complimenting her green eye colour.
Image: cinematicpassions, 2009
I'll sign off here for now, as there's quite a bit of reading to get through + an essay question to put into context. Have a good night!

Reference: Bruzzi, S. 1998 Cinema and Haute Couture


  1. what university are you at? uts? This would be such a great holiday elective!

  2. Yeah UTS, it's a really cool subject, quite crazy though how intense it is, I never could imagine researching and writing an essay in two weeks time, with two other assessments and readings ....but thank goodness it's really interesting with fun lectures! Are you at uts?


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