Film & Fashion – Victoria & Abdul

This is a great film and I highly recommend it, but I have a few minor grumbles about some of the costuming. The best costumed crowd scene is the State dinner in the opening. Dignitaries dressed in their finest attire recreate an 1887 jubilee dinner. However, as the film progresses, the best costuming moves almost entirely to the two main characters.

The costuming of Victoria, played by Judi Dench, and Abdul, played by Ali Fazal is exceptional. Costume designer, Consolata Boyle (The Queen, Florence Foster Jenkins, The Winslow Boy) likes to use layers of texture for Victoria (white and black tulle, black crape, and various weights of lace and sheens of black silk) and Abdul (light-catching satins, crisp coloured silks, and nubby heathery tweeds). But while Victoria and Abdul take centre stage, the other players become almost invisible, even ignored by the passage of time.

The viewer is never made to feel like the story takes place over 14 years. It seems only a year or two have passed when the film ends in 1901. The costuming of household and family members could have been better to suggest a passage of time. Two ladies-in-waiting to Victoria, the Baroness Churchill, and Harriet Phipps, wear essentially the same dresses and hairstyles throughout the film. Family members, including the fashionable Princess Alexandra, whose clothing could have easily expressed a passage of time, never appear in the film. Alexandra was even instrumental in the real story of Abdul’s letters to and from the queen after the Queen’s death – a missed opportunity.

Here is an interesting article about how Consolata Boyle researched the clothing choices for the film.

Battle of the Sexes and Tennis Fashion

The Women’s Tennis Association founding as recreated in c. 1972 in the film

We saw Battle of the Sexes last night – the film about Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King’s 1973 tennis match – an event I remember well the first time around. The film is very entertaining and remains pretty true to the facts, although some liberties are taken with the timeline (Everything is set in 1972-73 rather than the actual September 1970 – September 1973 time frame.)

The costuming by Mary Zophres is good. I have always contended that recreating recent pasts for films is actually harder than distant periods because your audience will know what’s wrong. I remember 1973 well, and Zophres captured the feeling in all its pastel poly pant suit glory. There are a few pieces here and there I didn’t love on extras but you have to look hard.

The Women’s Tennis Association founding in 1970

One of the characters in the film, played by Alan Cummings, is Ted Tinling. He was an interesting character with a lot of influence in the world of tennis fashion. When Tinling was a teenager he spent winters in the French Riviera playing tennis. He learned to become an umpire for tennis matches, and as his status grew, doors opened for him at Wimbledon. Tinling became a tennis historian, consultant, chief of protocol, and also tennis dress fashion designer for the International Tennis Federation. He was responsible for breaking the rules about all-white tennis dresses.

Tinling passed away in 1990 at the age of 80. It was only after his death that it was learned, rather surprisingly, that the 6’7″ effete Tinling, who was known for his extremely fashionable clothes, had also served as a British Intelligence spy during the World War II.

Film and Fashion: Tulip Fever

It has been a LONG time since I reviewed any period film costuming. I found dissing popular films stirs up a lot of controversy (I was not a fan of The Great Gatsby or Titanic…) however, I think Tulip Fever is important to mention because the costuming is superb.

The film takes place somewhere between 1634 and 1637 (it’s never clear exactly when, but the tulip mania bust of February 1637 is referred to after the bulk of the film’s storyline has taken place.) There is then a followup at the end of the film that takes place in the mid 1640s (again no specific date is referred to – only ‘8 years later’.)

The storyline is odd – a bit of a bedroom farce drama with a happy-ish ending, I didn’t hate it but the plot was somewhat inevitable. I’m not going to say anything else because the reason you should see this film is not because of the story – it’s because of the costuming and set dressing. The furniture, carpets, oriental porcelain, and pewter set off every scene like its a painting. Early 17th century Amsterdam is delightful to watch recreated here in all its glamour, grime and Vermeer lighting.

Michael O’Connor is a fantastically good period costumer. He took care in reproducing the fashions of every character, from tradesmen to lady, with a sense of flair and authenticity – nothing looks grabbed off a ’17th century’ rack at a costume rental shop. Lace edging, starched ruffs, embroidered bodices, suede boots – everything is exquisitely reproduced.

Best Fashion Film Documentaries

Like the fashion films, I am marking the ones I think are must-sees with three stars, okay docs with 2 stars, and avoid at all costs with 1 star. Anything without stars I have not seen:

Advanced Style (2014) **

The lives of 7 older New Yorkers whose eclectic style has blossomed as they age. Interesting but not sure what the point is.

American Masters: Richard Avedon: Darkness and Light (1985)**

Richard Avedon’s work as a fashion photographer is presented in this American Masters television episode

Arkadius: Wild Orchid Dreams (2000)

A boy who grew up in communist Poland with dreams of becoming a fashion designer

Assassinat d’une Modiste (2006)***

Poignant doc about a Parisian Jewish milliner during WWII. Only two of her hat designs are known to exist.

Beautopia (1998)

Follow four up and coming models…

Bill Cunningham New York (2010)***

Profile of the late New York ‘On The Street’ fashion photographer. Endearing portrait of a gentle soul with a passion for fashion.

Blue Gold: American Jeans (2014)

The history and lore of America’s most iconic symbol

Catwalk (1995)

A camera follows Christy Turlington through the spring fashion shows of Milan, Paris, and New York in 1994.

Celebration (2007)

Behind the scenes at Yves St. Laurent’s last fashion show.

Crazy About Tiffany’s (2016)

The complete past to present history of Tiffany & Company.

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel (2011)***

Profile of the life and work of the famous fashion editor. It seems she wasn’t a very nice woman, but she sure had a lot of style!

Dior and I (2014)***

Follow Raf Simons as he takes on the House of Dior. Fascinating process, especially when I thought it was pretty obvious that Raf was not the right choice for the job – his viewpoint is too far removed from Dior’s. Turns out I was right because he left after a couple of seasons..

The Director: An Evolution in Three Acts (2013)

A look at the life and work of Gucci fashion designer Frida Giannini

Eleven Minutes (2008)**

Follow the work of Project Runway’s Jay McCarroll in the year following his reality show win. Interesting but it gets tiresome…

Fashion Phoenix (2010)**

Profile of Canadian designer Todd Lynn’s work in London. To be perfectly honest I had never heard of him until I saw this – he designed a lot of the clothes for off beat musicions, like Marilyn Manson.

The First Monday in May (2016)***

Follow the creation of the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s most attended fashion exhibition in history – ‘China: Through the Looking Glass’. Fascinating expose of what happens behind the scene.

Franca: Chaos and Creation (2016)

Intimate portrait of the legendary editor-in-chief of Italian Vogue

In Their Shoes (2015)

An intimate portrait of the Indian shoe business

In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye (2012)

Looking at some of the most influential fashion images from the pages of Vogue

Iris (2014)**

The style of New Yorker Iris Apfel. I found this interesting but it doesn’t have much to say – just lots of kooky outfits.

Je m’appelle Denis Gagnon (2010)

Follow Canadian fashion designer Denis Gagnon as he puts the final touches on his latest collection

Jeremy Scott: The People’s Designer (2015)**

The story of Jeremy Scott, from small town Missouri kid to creative director for Moschino. Predictable and goes off topic a couple of times, but still interesting.

Just for Kicks (2005)

Sneaker culture

L’amour fou (2010)

The dysfunctional and successful relationship between Yves St. Laurent and Pierre Berge.

Lagerfeld Confidential (2007)*

A portrait of Karl Lagerfeld. OH MY GOD this is BORING.

Les Falbalas de Jean-Paul Gaultier (2004)

Portrait of Jean-Paul Gaultier

Mademoiselle C (2013)

Follow former Vogue Paris editor-in-chief Carine Roitfeld as she moves to New York to launch her own magazine.

A Man’s Story (2010)

A portrait of London designer Ozwald Boateng

Material Success (2012)

Follow fashion designer Bruno Ierullo as he prepares for his first runway show

McQueen and I (2011)

Profile of the late Alexander McQueen, released shortly after his death.

Men of the Cloth (2013)

Examining the work and lives of three Italian master tailors

Monsieur Hubert de Givenchy (2011)

Interview and portrait of Givenchy as he reflects on his own work in the 1950s and 1960s and laments the loss of style.

Notebook on Cities and Cities (1989)*

Wim Wenders talks with Japanese designer Yohji Yamamoto about the creative process and ponders the relationship between cities and clothes. Pretentious prattle and really bad sound quality.

Picture Me: A Model’s Diary (2009)

A look at the inner world of modelling

Portfolio (1983)**

Top models in a docu-drama that follows one model to various jobs. I could have done without the voice-over that tries to tell a story along the way.

The September Issue (2009)***

Chronicling the creation of 2007’s September Vogue issue – the largest ever printed at the time. Interesting expose of the process.

Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s (2013)***

The Manhattan department store’s history, overall really interesting with a couple of slow parts.

Schmatta: Rags to Riches to Rags (2009)**

The past and present of New York’s garment district. A bit dry…

Threads of Time (2015)  (no image available)

Portrait of fashion photographer Neal Barr and his 1920s fashion book. Really looking forward to seeing this when it comes out.

Triangle: Remembering the Fire (2011)**

The history and fallout of the March 25, 1911 catastrophic fire that killed 146 young women in a garment factory in New York

The True Cost (2015)

The impact of fashion on people and the planet

Ultrasuede: In Search of Halston (2010)

An exploration of the work and life of Roy Halston.

Unzipped (1995)**

Follow Isaac Mizrahi as he creates his Fall 1994 collection. Enjoyable to watch

Valentino: The Last Emperor (2008)***

A look at the life of legendary fashion designer Valentino. Extremely well done doc that covers his personal as well as professional life.

Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution (2012)***

The 1973 fashion show held at Versailles that made the U.S. a world player in fashion. Fascinating and surprising!

Vidal Sassoon: The Movie (2010)**

History and life of the world’s most famous hair stylist. A bit long, but interesting

White Gold: The True Cost of Cotton (2011)                          (no image available)

The true story and cost of the cotton industry

Women He’s Undressed (2015)**

The life and work of Australian costume designer Orry-Kelly. There are some mistakes in the history…

The World’s Most Fashionable Prison (2012) 

A fashion designer teaches his trade to inmates at a maximum security prison in the Philippines

Yves St. Laurent Life and Times & 5 Avenue Marceau (2002)

Two docs done at the time of YSL’s retirement honouring his life’s work.

The Best Fashion Films

Three years ago I blogged a list of fashion-themed films but I have since found more. This time I also rated them: 3 stars for ‘must-see’, 2 stars for ‘okay’, 1 star for ‘don’t bother’. Those without stars are on my ‘to-see’ list or it has been so long since I have seen it I can’t remember it anymore. I am including theatre and television films as well as television series, but documentaries will be done separately:

101 Dalmatians (animated 1961) (live action (1996)**

Although these films are about dognapping, the catalyst is Cruella’s desire for a coat made from the puppy skins. Both versions are entertaining.

After the Ball (2015)**

Cute retelling of the Cinderella story set in Montreal’s dwindling fashion industry. There are some funny lines and scenes and some great characters but the production suffers from poor directing/editing that bring it down.

Beau Brummell: This Charming Man (2006)*

Mediocre quality television movie about the biggest dandy of all time.

Beauty Shop (2005)**

Gossip and make-up are the setting for this comedy.

The Big Tease (1999)**

Comedy about a BIG hair competition done like a documentary.

Blow Dry (2001)**

A more serious version of the Big Tease about the world of competitive hair dressing.

Blow-Up (1966)***

A mod fashion photographer in London accidentally witnesses a murder. The fashion photography scenes are great.

Boss Girl – (AKA Crimes of Fashion) (2004)

…a comedy about an aspiring fashion designer who inherits her grandfather’s mob syndicate… not sure I will see this — ever.

By Design (1981)

I saw this Canadian movie decades ago but can’t remember a thing about it other than Patty Duke was in it so I am going to have to put this into ‘unwatched’.

The Cobbler (2014)**

This didn’t do well at the box office but I thought it was funny. The story of a cobbler and his boring life until he discovers a secret about an old sewing machine in the basement that gives him a new lease on life.

Coco avant Chanel (2009)**

Glib overview of the highlights of Chanel’s early career. Full of historical errors but lovely to look at. This is the best of all the Chanel biopics.

Coco Chanel (2008)*

A  heavily edited Chanel biopic with an uninspired performance by Shirley MacLaine… give it a miss.

Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky (2009)*

Tepid tale of Chanel and a possible love affair she had with Igor Stravinsky. The best scene is a recreation of Paris’ reaction to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring ballet debut, the rest of the film is mind-numbingly boring.

Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009)

… Haven’t seen it yet even though I own the video!…

Le couturier de ces dames (the ladies’ dressmaker) (1956)

…A French version of Roberta (1935), about a man who inherits a salon and makes a go of it, while falling in love…

Cowboys & Angels (2003)**

Young roommates in London one of which is a fashion student dealing with the world of clubs and drugs. Actually a very good movie.

Cover Girl (1944)

…A girl wins a contest and becomes a celebrated cover girl model…

Cover Girl Models (1975)

…Three American models inadvertently become involved in international espionage…

Designing Woman (1957)*

Despite the premise of Lauren Bacall playing a fashion designer, there is virtually no fashion storyline or scenes in this film.

The Devil Wears Prada (2006)***

A young assistant succeeds at a high-powered fashion magazine but loses her identity along the way. Great clothes and fashion theme.

Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead (1991)*

I almost put this into ‘okay’ but it is such an Implausible story. A mom goes out of town for the summer and leaves her children under the charge of an ancient babysitter who promptly dies. The oldest girl lies her way into a gig at a clothing manufacturer and a BIG fashion show saves the day…

The Dressmaker (2015)**

Approach this tragic comedy with caution because I didn’t love it. From a fashion perspective, the main character was supposed to have apprenticed with Vionnet and Balenciaga, but her clothes are more typical of Balmain and Fath, and in the close-up scenes it’s clear she hasn’t the faintest idea how to sew.

Eyes of Laura Mars (1978)**

Fashion, murder, and psychic visions. Great Helmut Newton style fashion shoots.

Falbalas  (1945)***

Great film that takes place primarily in a Paris fashion house immediately after the occupation in 1944/45. The story isn’t that mesmerizing but the scenes in the fashion house are fascinating.

Fashion (2008)

…Bollywood fashion musical…

Fashions of 1934 (1934)**

Bette Davis in a comedy about pilfering Parisian fashion designs for knocking off American copies.

Fashion Victim (2008)

…”He’s Pretty, He’s Wanted, He’s Deadly”…

Fashion Victims (2007)

… German comedy about a young fashion designer, rivals, coming out, and family issues…

Fausto (aka A La Mode) (1993)**

French tale of a young apprentice who becomes a sensational new designer and finds love along the way

Funny Face (1957)***

An unwilling bookish girl becomes a big fashion model in Paris and falls in love with her photographer. Fashions by Givenchy.

Gia (1998)**

Better than average television movie based on the model Gia’s rise and fall.

Girlboss (2017)*

The vintage fashion business exploded in the early 21st century due to people like Sophia Amaruso, the real woman behind this fictionalized Netflix series. Unfortunately, this badly written/acted story tries to make a badass heroin out of the very unlikeable Sophia, who in reality was kicked off eBay for bid shilling, and other offences.

Glyanets (2007)

…Russian film about a girl from a coal-mining town that goes to Moscow with dreams of becoming a super model…

Head Over Heels (2001)*

5 models sharing a flat and diamond smugglers… pretty lame movie I originally saw in a drive-in double bill!

Hobson’s Choice (1954)***

Set in the 1880s, a shoemaker with a weakness for drink gets straightened out by his head strong daughter. This is a delightful black and white English comedy. The shoemaking subplot is interesting for its period information.

How to Marry a Millionaire (1953)***

Three women share an upper east side New York apartment while working as models and looking for rich husbands. The fashion storyline is not prominent but there is a great fashion show scene.

I Can Get It for You Wholesale (1951)

…A ruthless fashion designer steps on everyone on her way to the top…

Identity Crisis (1989)

…a rapper finds himself possessed by the soul of a dead fashion designer – I  don’t expect I will ever see this one…

If the Shoe Fits (1990)*

Yet Another take on the Cinderella story… I barely remember seeing it, but I remember thinking it was pretty lame.

It Started in Paradise (1952)

…’All About Eve ‘ set in the world of fashion…

De jurk (the dress) (1996)

…Dutch film about the history of a dress (sort of like the red violin…) Great concept, looking forward to seeing it some day…

Kicks (2016)

…A 15-year-old gets his sneakers stolen and goes looking for them…

Kinky Boots (2005)***

A failing shoe company hires a drag queen to create a new product line to save their business.

Kurragomma 1963)

..Swedish film about a convict who assumes the identity of a professor to reveal a criminal syndicate who smuggles diamonds hidden in Parisian clothing…

Lovely to Look At (1952)**

Predictable tale borrowed from Roberta (1935) with a fabulous finale fashion show by Adrian.

Macho (2016)*

Borderline offensive Spanish comedy about a straight fashion designer who pretends to be flamboyantly gay, or is he pretending…

Made in Paris (1966)**

Ann Margaret stars in this film about a fashion buyer’s first trip to Paris, but the movie has little to do with fashion, although there are some interesting scenes.

Mahogany (1975)**

A Chicago designer tries to become internationally famous. Some great clothes, but the fashion storyline is just a vehicle for a love story.

The Man in the White Suit (1951)***

Great black and white British comedy about how the textile industry doesn’t want a new fabric developed by a chemist who discovers an indestructible, non-stainable fibre that may revolutionize the world.

Mango Souffle (2002)

…Indian film about a gay fashion designer and his friends. I did see this but can’t remember it at all, so I have to put it into the unseen category…

Mannequin (1987)*

Guy falls in love with a girl, but it turns out she’s a mannequin. Total crap film but so bad it has a certain period charm. Believe it or not, there is also a Mannequin 2 movie which I am not including because it’s about a wax mannequin in a museum not a fashion dummy.

Maytime in Mayfair (1949)**

Same storyline as Roberta and Lovely to Look at. Entertaining bit of fluff about a man who inherits a fashion salon and makes a go of it, and falls in love along the way.

Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris (1992)***

Charming tale of a char woman who saves up for years to buy a Dior couture dress.

Neptune’s Daughter (1949)**

A swimwear designer protects her sister from a cad. This is one of those classic Esther Williams films with synchronized swimming. Entertaining but not really a ‘fashion’ story.

A New Kind of Love (1963)**

A fashion designer is mistaken for a Parisian call girl. Some good scenes including a St. Catharine’s Day parade for Parisian spinster midinettes, but overall — meh.

The Pajama Game (1957)*

Fun musical with Doris Day, but don’t expect the pajama factory setting to have much importance in the storyline – it could have been set in any factory where female workers get together during breaks and sing…

Personal Shopper (2016)

…A personal shopper in Paris is in search of her twin bother…

Phantom Lady (1944)

…A woman must be found to prove a man’s innocence and the only clue is that she wore a very specific looking hat…

The Pink Jungle (1968)*

Silly comedy about a fashion shoot gone wrong that relies on sight gags of men wearing lipstick for the biggest laughs. James Garner apparently hated making this film from start to finish… I can see why

Prét-a-Porter: Ready to Wear (1994)***

Comedy about what goes on behind the scenes amongst the  journalists, editors, designers, and models at the 1994 Paris ready to wear shows.

Pretty in Pink (1986)*

Not a fashion movie, but the title alludes to a certain pink dress that has an important role in the film.

Rage (2009)*

An odd film about various characters at a New York fashion show plagued by misfortune. The entire film is done as a series of interviews by a blogger. Clever method of filming but I can’t say I enjoyed watching it much.

Ripple Effect (2007)

…Fashion designer on the verge of success undergoes personal crises…

Roberta (1935)**

The original version of many remakes about a man inheriting a fashion salon and making a go of it, while falling in love. All of them are predictable and end with a big fashion show…

Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion (1997)**

A high school reunion doesn’t go as planned but results with Romy and Michele starting a fashion business

Ruthless People (1986)**

A comedy with Bette Midler about a kidnapping precipitated by a pissed off designer whose idea for the lycra miniskirt was stolen.

Saint Laurent (2014)***

The film is badly edited, not always good at introducing characters, and uses a gratuitous nude scene to unnecessarily expose the considerable asset of the lead actor. Despite this, the film is good because of the acting, art direction, cinematography, location shots, costuming, and soundtrack.

Scruples (1980)*

Painfully dated mini-series filmed in 1979 about the owner of a high-fashion store in Rodeo drive. Although the main characters are often dressed well (this is really the only reason to watch this), the story has nothing to do with the fashion industry.

Slaves of New York (1989)***

Off-beat fashions, art, and life in the Village – great Stephen Sprouse fashion show.

Tales of Manhattan (1942)**

The tale of a tailcoat as it gets passed from owner to owner, affecting each wearer in a different way.

Threads (aka Garmento) (2002)

…Expose of the other side of the fashion industry…

The Triangle Factory Fire Scandal (1979)**

A dramatised version about Triangle Shirt Mfg. Co., fire in New York in 1911 that resulted in the deaths of 146 young women who had been locked into the workroom. The event lead to changes in work safety and a rise in union labour organizing.

Underwear (aka Atelier) (2015)***

Charming Japanese TV mini-series about a young, ambitious assistant working in a couture lingerie business in Tokyo. Similar storyline to The Devil Wears Prada, except that the boss isn’t  a monster… At times, the writing is overly detailed with characters explaining the obvious, but at other times has very salient insights into how the fashion industry works.

Vogues of 1938 (1937)***

A runaway bride becomes a fashion model – the fashion show finale is spectacular.

We’ll Take Manhattan (2012)

…A look at the love affair between model Jean Shrimpton and photographer David Bailey in the 1960s…

Where the Heart Is (1990)**

Wealthy parents force their spoiled, artistic daughters to fend for themselves but then the tables turn when their parents lose their fortune. Crispin Glover plays a young fashion designer who creates a fashion finale.

Who Are You, Polly Magoo? (1966)***

A must-see parody of the Paris fashion industry

The Women (1939)***

Don’t bother with the horrible 2008 remake, the 1939 original is the only version worth seeing for its bitchy banter and fabulous all-colour fashion show.

Women Must Dress (1935)

…a woman discovers she has a talent for fashion designing after her husband runs off with another woman…

Yves Saint Laurent (2014)**

Interesting film with great original clothes from the YSL archives. The story is a bit trite and ponderous about YSL and Berge’s life together, primarily set between 1958 and 1976, and there are some inaccuracies with the history, but it’s worth watching for the clothes.

Zoolander (2001)***

Funny film about the absurdities of the modelling world. Zoolander 2 (2016)** isn’t as funny as Zoolander 1, but there are still some very sharp bits aimed at the fashion industry.

2016 Academy Award Costume Nominees

Once again it’s time for me to publicly embarrass myself by picking the wrong winner!  I actually get it right half the time, which is better odds than the groundhog — and even when I am wrong I usually know why and feel my choice was better!

This year’s nominees begin with La La Land. Costuming is by Mary Zophres who has been nominated many times for different costuming awards, but never won an Oscar (True Grit, Catch Me If You Can, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull…) I haven’t seen it yet, but it is getting great reviews for its old-fashioned charm. The film is very conscious of its use of materials and colours to express mood and movement. I don’t think it’s got a chance of winning, but sometimes films that are popular win awards they shouldn’t, like 2011’s The Artist (I still think Jane Eyre should have picked up the best costuming award that year).

Next on the list is Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. Costuming is by frequent costume nominee and three time Oscar winner, Colleen Atwood (Alice in Wonderland, Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, Sleepy Hollow, Sweeney Todd…) I have seen this film and it’s wonderful. Set in c. 1924 New York, however, the costuming is really a part of the set. If there was an award for style, I would give it to Atwood this year for its magnificent ability to create a palette of eye-pleasing mood-enhancing texture, but nothing in particular stands out.

I loved Florence Foster Jenkins – it was hilarious and sad. Costuming was by Consolata Boyle who has been nominated and won many costuming awards but no Oscar (The Queen, Into the Storm, Cheri, Angela’s Ashes…) Meryl Streep is fantastic and alongside her acting, the hair and make-up play the greatest role in creating pathos for the character. The costuming is good but I found it a little over the top at times. When compared to original pictures of the real Florence, the costuming was unsubtle and, as the English say, ‘Mumsy’. I think it was partly done that way on purpose to compensate for the 50 pounds of weight Streep was lacking to play the fleshy New York eccentric.

Jackie is flawless. Costuming is by Madeline Fontaine who is not well known in American films (and that won’t help her win any votes from the Academy.) She is best known for costuming Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s films (Amelie, MicMacs, The Long Engagement) as well as one of the Yves Saint Laurent biopics a couple of years ago. Normally, this would be my choice to win because the costuming is faithful to recreating the period. However, I know this isn’t how the Academy thinks these days, so its nice she was at least recognized with a nomination. While the costuming was fantastic, the hair was not. The ‘do’ for the White House tour was a mess and looked nothing like the one sported by the real First Lady in 1962.

Finally, there is Allied. Costuming is by Joanna Johnston – probably the best candidate for the ‘Always a bridesmaid never a bride’ costume designer’s award. Johnston has done stellar work in numerous films (Valkyrie, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, Back to the Future parts II and III, Forrest Gump, Saving Private Ryan…), especially Lincoln, which should have taken home the 2012 Oscar instead of Anna Karenina. I haven’t seen Allied because I knew the story and it didn’t appeal, plus I am not a Brad Pitt fan, but the costuming looks flawless for wartime Europe.

Frankly, I think anybody could take home the Oscar this year. I would vote for Jackie, but Johnston is overdue and could win for Allied, Florence Foster Jenkins was very theatrical and entertaining, and Fantastic Beasts was wonderfully styled… However, I really don’t think La La Land should have been nominated when so many deserving films were missed including: Hidden Figures, The Dressmaker, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, Doctor Strange, and Mary Zophres other film this year Hail, Caeser!

Added February 26: And Colleen Atwood won for Fantastic Beasts — I guess volume costuming of extras in murky brown and blue tone coats and suits clinched the vote…

As Seen In – Period film Costume appropriation…

I just came across this image of Judy Garland in this peculiar looking costume from the 1948 film The Pirate. Although strange, there was something about the tartan tam that seemed familiar. Sure enough the design was borrowed from this c. 1830 French illustration by Charles Philipon of a Parisian ‘modiste’ (stylist) trimming a bonnet (an original copy of this illustration is in the archives of the Fashion History Museum.) Although the bodice is not sitting quite right on Judy Garland’s shoulders and the print is too bold (and fights with the tartan tam for attention), it is otherwise quite a faithful reproduction of the original image.

Looking up the film on IMDB I discovered the costumes were done by the American born fashion illustrator Tom Keogh (1922 – 1980). His illustrations of Paris couture frequently appeared on the covers of French Vogue magazine in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Around that same time Keogh was also designing the annual Christmas windows for Galeries Lafayette in Paris. He designed costumes for the ballet in Paris, but The Pirate is the only film for which he is solely credited with designing the costumes…

I found a clip that shows her singing in the outfit (it looks a lot better than in the black and white image):

Film Costume Historian – Debbie Reynolds (1932 – 2016)

I know most people will be remembering Debbie Reynolds as a singer, dancer, actress, and famous dysfunctional mom to Carrie Fisher, but I prefer to remember her for her work as a collector and film costume historian.

When MGM decided to sell off some of their backlots and warehouses in 1970, Debbie Reynolds emptied her bank account of $600,000 to purchase the most important costumes from MGM’s prop and costume stock. She went on to collect more pieces from living stars who had kept mementos from their films. Eventually the collection would contain such treasures as a bowler hat worn by Charlie Chaplin, a dress worn by Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara, the ‘subway’ dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in the Seven Year Itch, and Judy Garland’s blue gingham dress and ruby slippers from the Wizard of Oz.

She tried to start a museum of Hollywood history, but even Debbie Reynolds, who couldn’t build the museum herself as she had been bankrupted by her second husband’s gambling addiction, couldn’t get enough Hollywood funding together for the project. She eventually did set up a small museum in a Las Vegas hotel in the early 1990s but it went bankrupt in 1997. She then hoped her collection would find a home at the soon to open Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, but once again, there was not enough interest in funding the purchase of her 3,500 costumes and props.

In the end, Reynolds sold her collection at three auctions between 2011 and 2014. She made all the money back from her 1970 investment when the pair of ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz sold for $690,000. The entire collection brought over 25 million dollars.

Janet Patterson, 1941 – 2016

pianoI just learned that Janet Patterson, a costumer known for her work in period films, passed away a couple of weeks ago. She was the favourite costumer of Australian filmaker Jane Campion. Patterson’s period work included: Portrait of a Lady (1996), Oscar and Lucinda (1997), Bright Star (2009), Far from the Madding Crowd (2015), and my favourite work of hers, The Piano (1993). Unfortunately, the subtle costuming of The Piano didn’t have a chance the year it was up for an academy award against the spectacularly costumed Age of Innocence, which took home the Oscar.

Oddly, the family tried to withhold her age (like it matters now….) and date of death, although apparently Nicole Kidman spilled the beans on that one…

A must see film – Falbalas 1945

Rooster feather trimmed sleeves and turban hat, from Falbalas, spring 1945

Rooster feather trimmed sleeves and turban hat, from Falbalas, spring 1945

This film should be required viewing for students of 1940s fashion! The title Falbalas, which means frippery (ostentatious decoration), is translated into ‘Paris Frills’ on IMDB. The film was released in France in June 1945, shortly after European hostilities had ceased but before WWII had ended in the Pacific. The film must have gone into production shortly after Paris was liberated in June 1944 and completed with the final outdoor scenes filmed on a warm late winter or early spring day in 1945.

The clothes and hats are, in a word, fabulous. There are bustled Victorian ball gowns that would have contravened wartime fabric restrictions in all other countries in 1945, novelty trims, like rooster feather covered sleeves, and endless silly hats resembling mad medieval headdresses and Dr. Suess-like top hats. The entire film looks like the Theatre de la Mode has come to life.

The wedding dress in the finale, spring 1945

The wedding dress in the finale, spring 1945

The clothes for this film were designed by Marcel Rochas and the hats by Gabrielle. Neither designer are well-remembered today, although Rochas had a brief resurgence of fame under the fashion direction of Olivier Theyskens in the early 2000s. However, during the occupation and in the postwar, pre-Dior 1940s, Rochas and Gabrielle were leading fashion houses  heavily featured in French fashion magazines, along with other less-well remembered labels like Lelong, Ricci, Saint-Cyr, and Valois.

A fitting of a model, with the head vendeuse in black

A fitting of a model, with the head vendeuse in black

What makes this film so special is that the entire storyline takes place almost entirely in the fictitious fashion house of Phillipe Clarence (loosely modelled after Marcel Rochas). Clarence is a bounder – he has a series of girlfriend/muses until he falls in love with his best friend’s fiancee. This drama unfolds at fashion shows and fittings, in scenes where he has temper tantrums while draping creations onto models, or while ‘baptizing’ dress designs (giving numbered designs names for the fashion show like ‘Aphrodite’ and ‘Antigone’.)

This film is a document of how a fashion house worked in 1945. As a story, its okay, the film opens with six women standing around a man who is lying dead on the ground with a wax mannequin in his arms, and then rewinds to a few weeks earlier to show the journey of how this came about. The strength of this film is not in the plot, it is in the documentary of Paris fashion in 1945. You can watch the film here on rarefilmm.