Fashion



CINEMA'S FASHIONABILITY

Fashion—or rather the fashionability of film, particularly Hollywood's—has always been an important element of cinema's appeal. There are many individual examples of garments having had a direct impact on off-screen fashions and sales. For example, one of the designer Adrian's (1903–1959) robes for Joan Crawford in Letty Lynton in 1932, the year Crawford was first named "The Most Imitated Woman of the Year," was widely copied, as was Edith Head's (1897–1981) white party dress for Elizabeth Taylor in A Place in the Sun (1951). Head herself once declared that she had seen more than thirty copies of the dress at a single party. Other elements of a movie star's look were mimicked by an adoring film-going public: Veronica Lake, for example, was reputedly asked to change her peek-a-boo hairstyle because as worn by her many female fans, it was causing accidents in the wartime factories of the 1940s. Later, one could point to the notable effect films such as Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Annie Hall (1977) had on contemporary fashions. Faye Dunaway's thirties wardrobe in Bonnie and Clyde has been credited with re-launching the beret and the cardigan, while Diane Keaton's androgynous ensembles as Annie Hall—created by the American fashion designer Ralph Lauren (b. 1939)—were swiftly copied in both the exclusive pages of Vogue and on the High Street, where the wearing of masculine trousers, shirts, and waistcoats by women became the epitome of chic. Through the influence of film on fashion, one can see the true democratization of the movies and movies' relationship with spectatorship: the fans might not be able to become their favorite stars, but they can mimic and emulate them.

Similarly, in contemporary cinema one can see the same pattern of mimicry when it comes to both clothes and accessories—a crucial difference being that it is now more often the male stars who have become fashion icons, in keeping with a heightened awareness of male fashion that has been evident since the early 1990s. Retro aviator shades made a comeback after Tom Cruise wore them in Top Gun (1987); after the success of Quentin Tarantino's second movie, Pulp Fiction (1994), the black suits and monochrome outfits of French designer Agnès (b. 1941) (along with Uma Thurman's Chanel "Rouge Noir" nail varnish) became synonymous with masculinity and cool. In this millennium, one could point to the innate fashionability of The Matrix (1999): Keanu Reeves's long swishing coat, his mobile phone, and his glasses.

However, fashion's relationship to film extends beyond the domain of film's fashionability. In the 1920s,

Joan Crawford wearing one of Adrian's gowns for Letty Lynton (Clarence Brown, 1932).
1930s, and 1940s, few fashion designers did much work for films, the notable exception being Chanel (1883–1971), who in 1931 went to MGM. Her Hollywood film work was not deemed a success; Chanel was too meticulous and precise (insisting at one point on making several copies of the same dress, one for each individual scene), and she soon elected to return to Paris, later designing costumes for such films as Louis Malle's Les Amants (1958) and Alain Resnais's L'annéedernière à Marienbad ( Last Year in Marienbad , 1961). The most important fashion designers have not always been those who have become involved in film and film costume design. While the influence of Christian Dior's "New Look," launched in 1947, endured within Hollywood far longer than it did outside it (so much so that the much more fashionable Funny Face [1957] looked slightly anachronistic alongside mid-1950s contemporaries, such as Rear Window [1954] and All That Heaven Allows [1955]). Dior himself lent his designs to a relatively small and eclectic series of films, including René Clair's Le silence est d'or ( Man About Town , 1947), Jean-Pierre Melville's Les enfants terribles (1950), and Alfred Hitchcock's Stage Fright (1950).

Although historically significant overlaps have existed between the two, fashion and costume design remain separate arts. Whereas the costume designer, more often than not, serves the dominant purposes of character and narrative, the fashion designer, when used in a film, frequently is brought in to achieve virtually the opposite result (an exception here would be cinema's use of classic designers, such as the Italian Giorgio Armani [b. 1934]). In rare instances, individuals have had dual careers as fashion and costume designers, the most notable example being Jean Louis (1907–1997), who was born in Paris and trained at the Paris couture house of Drecol before going to New York to work for Hattie Carnegie. Louis then made the switch to Hollywood and became head designer at Columbia Pictures from 1944 to 1958, when he moved to Universal. Simultaneously, Louis ran his own couture business, often supplying clothes for his favorite female stars (Doris Day, for instance) for their appearances both on and off the screen. In the same vein, Edith Head (1897–1981) was fond of recounting how Grace Kelly was so enamored of her designs for To Catch a Thief (1955) that she wore one of her costumes on a date with future husband Prince Rainier; later Kelly commissioned MGM designer Helen Rose (1904–1985) to design her wedding dress and Head to design her going-away outfit.



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