It was Hubert de Givenchy's (b. 1927) collaboration with Audrey Hepburn that fundamentally changed the relationship between film and fashion. In Sabrina (1954), as in Funny Face , the distinction between the costume designer and the couturier co-opted into costume design is signaled ironically within the films' Cinderella narratives. In both, Edith Head, the films' costume designer, produced the drab, ordinary clothes that Hepburn wore as the still-immature chauffeur's daughter or bookshop assistant. In both films, Head's role as designer was usurped by Givenchy who designed the show-stopping evening gowns that Hepburn wore after her character had metamorphosed into a sophisticated, glamorous woman. The joke in Funny Face —in which Hepburn's character models clothes on a Paris catwalk—is ultimately that, for all the appeal of high fashion, Hepburn is happiest (and most iconic) when dressing down in black leggings, polo neck, and flats.
Following these films, couturiers it became far more commonplace to use couturiers alongside costume designers on movies, and certain couturiers were given virtual license to use the films on which they worked as showcases for their own fashion designs. There is little sense here of costume's traditional subservience to character and narrative. Hardy Amies (1909–2003) (the British Queen's favorite fashion designer) designed the wardrobe for films such as The Grass Is Greener (1960) and 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). His designs for the latter, though muted compared to much of the 1960s "space age" fashion, were very much of their time and quintessentially Hardy Amies: classic, refined, but never too daring. This incorporation of classic as opposed to outrageous fashion designers into film increasingly predominated, particularly in Hollywood. In European cinema, one can point to the example of Yves Saint Laurent (b. 1936), whose muse was the French actress Catherine Deneuve. Saint Laurent's designs for Deneuve as Severine in Luis Bunuel's Belle de Jour (1967) epitomized his approach: her clothes are straight and muted, notable for their unsexy elegance (ironic considering Severine's day job as a prostitute), much like Saint Laurent's own classic-with-a-twist late-1960s lines. Severine is enigmatic
The Italian designer Giorgio Armani, known for his classic designs, neutral tones, and unstructured suits, has made a significant intervention into film history. Armani is arguably best known for the Hollywood stars he has dressed for the Academy Awards ® (for example, Jodie Foster and Michelle Pfeiffer). However, his costumes for Richard Gere's character Julian in American Gigolo (1980) helped to alter the way in which mainstream cinema perceived and represented masculinity. The most cited scene in the movie shows Julian choosing an outfit to wear for an evening appointment. He lays out on his bed a selection of Armani jackets, then matches them with some shirts and finally adds an array of possible ties. While choosing what to wear, Julian shimmies sensuously to music, dressed only in his boxer shorts. Then he gets dressed and checks his appearance in the mirror. Julian's overt narcissism, coupled with his love of Armani's expensive clothes, ushered in a radical recodification of heterosexual masculinity on screen.
Since American Gigolo , Armani has costumed many films, particularly in Hollywood. Sometimes he has provided only items for the stars' wardrobes: for Eddie Murphy in 48 Hours (1982), Mel Gibson and Rene Russo in Ransom (1996), and Samuel L. Jackson in the remake of Shaft (2000). By 2000, Armani's name itself had gained enough narrative significance for Shaft to be able to warn another character possessively not to touch his Armani. Dressing male characters has set Armani apart, and he has been particularly effective at dressing groups of men. He uses costumes to denote camaraderie, support, and affection between the protagonists of The Untouchables (1987) and characters in the remake of The Italian Job (2003), deftly dressing them in the Armani capsule wardrobe of the time. In both films, the group's leader (Kevin Costner and Donald Sutherland, respectively) wears a paternal, safe, and suavely unstructured wool coat, while the young turks (Andy Garcia and Mark Wahlberg, respectively) wear slightly spiffier leather jackets and casuals. This form of typage through costume is quintessential Armani.
Armani has made himself synonymous with effortless elegance. This equation was not automatic, because his suits were used in the TV series Miami Vice and in Cadillac Man (1990) to suggest shallow tackiness. The crucial component in his innate class has been his Italianness. Most enduring has been his friendship and collaboration with Martin Scorsese. The two worked together on Made in Milan (1990), a twenty-minute short Scorsese directed about Armani that was notable for its extravagant and stylized filming of a catwalk show. Armani later acted as executive producer for Scorsese's reverential history of Italian cinema, Il mio viaggio in Italia (1999), thus cementing his integration into cinema history.
American Gigolo (1980), 48 Hours (1982), The Untouchables (1987), Cadillac Man (1990), Ransom (1996), Il mio viaggio in Italia (1999), Shaft (2000), The Italian Job (2003)
Celant, Germano, and Koda, Harold, eds. Giorgio Armani . New York: Guggenheim Museum, 2000.
and unobtainable; her wearing of an Yves Saint Laurent capsule wardrobe in Belle de jour (1967) confirms the use of fashion as a means of maintaining this distance and representing her exclusivity, her wealth, and her class.
Within Hollywood, the most prolific couturier costume designer is Giorgio Armani, whose costumes work to define character and narrative. Other designers whose work is used in films in a similar way have been Nino Cerruti (b. 1930), with whom Armani trained, Ralph Lauren (b. 1939), Donna Karan (b. 1948), and Calvin Klein (b. 1942), all quintessentially classic designers. Lauren's most important film as costume designer is The Great Gatsby (1974), soon followed by Annie Hall . These two films together defined the retrogressive and romantic trends in US fashions that would begin to predominate off as well as on the screen in the 1970s. The significance of fashion designers' contributions to film should perhaps be judged by their ability to manufacture a pervasive image and to evoke a lifestyle. Lauren achieved this with his films of the 1970s (the class aspirations encapsulated by The Great Gatsby, the feminist aspirations represented by Keaton's androgynous look in Annie Hall ), although recently he is probably better known for having dressed Gwyneth Paltrow in pink for her Academy Award ® Best Actress acceptance speech. Cerruti's costumes for Richard Gere in Pretty Woman (1990) or Karan's for Gwyneth Paltrow in Alfonso Cuaròn's modern-day Great Expectations (1998), like those of Lauren and Cerruti, remain stylish but unobtrusive, conjuring a look that connotes a certain class, breeding, and refinement. Cinema's most popular couturier costume designers, it seems, are those who follow the underpinning conventions of costume design and produce safe, middle of the road designs rather than more spectacular, outrageous costumes.
Fashion is more often considered a craft than an art, and self-consciously artistic, spectacular fashions have been reserved for self-consciously spectacular, art-house movies. Jean-Paul Gaultier (b. 1952) has been the most prolific of these designers, doing costumes for various nonmainstream films, including The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover (1989), Kika (1993), and La cité des enfants perdus ( The City of Lost Children , 1995), as well as producing all the costumes for Luc Besson's more mainstream sci-fi extravaganza, The Fifth Element (1997). In all of these, Gaultier's designs are exaggerated versions of his signature fashion styles, in the way they make underwear into outerwear, juxtapose asymmetrical cutting with classic tailoring. In Kika , the smooth surface of classicism—exemplified by Victoria Abril's black, bias-cut dress—is ruptured by radical flourishes, such as the prosthetic breasts bursting out of the dress. Gaultier, unlike many other fashion designers turned costume designers, immerses himself in his films, designing costumes for all the characters, not just the protagonists, and reputedly checking all costumes before they go on set. Just as his designs are fantastical rather than wearable (his designs for The Fifth Element include Gary Oldman's asymmetrical suits and Milla Jovovich's minimal bondage gear), so Gaultier's personality is important. Unlike Armani or Lauren, who have taken their involvement in film extremely seriously, Gaultier has not been averse to sending himself—and by implication, the fashion world—up. Gaultier's personality has demystified high fashion; he has appeared as himself in Robert Altman's parody of the Paris fashion scene Prêt-a-porter (1994), mixing white and red wine together to make rosé, and from 1993 to 1997 he fronted the TV show Eurotrash , a broadcast that, as its title suggests, sought out and edited together examples of trashy, gross, and comic European television.
The accessibility of fashion in film has become a hugely significant factor in its appeal reminiscent of the prewar era of Letty Lynton , when women bought patterns of their favorite movie dresses to sew them for themselves. Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs (1992), which inspired the design of London department store windows and led to an increase in the wearing of dark suits and shades among younger men, is just such an example of film's democratization of fashion. The costume designer Betsy Heimann bought the suits seen in Reservoir Dogs cheaply. When the film became successful, so did the clean-silhouetted French gangster look, which Tarantino readily admitted to having borrowed from a look created by French director Jean-Pierre Melville (1917–1973) for his movie gangsters. Reservoir Dogs offered style on the cheap because it offered a look rather than an exclusive range of garments.
Audiences respond positively to being able to buy and emulate what they see on the screen—for example, Nicole Kidman's half-fitted, half-loose teddy in Eyes Wide Shut (1999). Once women found out what the garment was, it was sold out everywhere. What has emerged is a fluid, flexible interaction between fashion and film—sometimes fashion borrows from film, often the exchange is reversed.
SEE ALSO Costume
Bruzzi, Stella. Undressing Cinema: Clothing and Identity in the Movies . London and New York: Routledge, 1997.
Head, Edith, and Jane Kesner Ardmore. The Dress Doctor . Boston and Toronto: Little, Brown and Co., 1959.
Keenan, Brigid. The Women We Wanted to Look Like . London: Macmillan, 1977.
Maeder, Edward, ed. Hollywood and History: Costume Design in Film . Los Angeles: Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and London: Thames and Hudson, 1987.
Pritchard, Susan Perez. Film Costume: An Annotated Bibliography . Metuchen, NJ, and London: Scarecrow Press, 1981.
Saint Laurent, Yves. Yves Saint Laurent: Images of Design 1958–1988 . London: Ebury Press, and New York: Knopf, 1988.
Wollen, Peter. "Strike a Pose." Sight and Sound 5, no. 3 (March 1995): 10–15.