Film and Fashion – Glorious 39

This is supposed to be a birthday dinner on a warm summer’s evening but one woman wears a wintery velvet gown and the other wears a matronly colour and fitted dress. The women should be in chiffon, organdy, or jersey print floral dresses. One guest even arrives in a topcoat, muffler and gloves, like its a chilly fall day.

The political thriller “Glorious 39” takes place in the summer of 1939, covering the period just before and after England declares war on Germany, and although well acted, the film suffers from an underdeveloped plot-line and poor editing. However, I am here to talk about the fashions.

Julie Christie looks great as Aunt Elizabeth, if Aunt Elizabeth were living in the suburbs in the mid 1930s. The look is not the right look for an aristocratic aunt in 1939

The costumes were done by Annie Symons, who has done splendid work before when she is given the time and budget (see Worried About the Boy.) Unfortunately, this film looks like it was rushed and it shows in the costuming, make-up, hair, and etiquette. There aren’t any egregious errors in the costuming, but the fashions do not match an aristocratic family’s taste or budget in the summer of 1939. The men’s fashions aren’t as perfectly tailored as they should be and the women’s fashions include an array of middle-class separates that date everywhere from 1932 to 1940 – typical of a film that has to rely upon a costume house rental rack. The costumes also don’t match the season. The majority of the film was supposed to take place in August and September 1939 but most of the time, everyone is dressed for a chilly autumn day – belying the fact that it was mostly filmed in October-November 2008.

Unkempt hair and an odd mix of middle class separates inappropriate for the characters in the film.

More baffling was the poor make-up and hair which often included badly set wigs with unkempt curls – the opposite of what all photographic evidence shows of how women wore their hair in the late 1930s; this was the era of the tight pincurl set and the permanent wave – hair never looked like it could blow in the wind. Deportment is also a problem, especially with the men. For example, young men of this class did not, and still don’t, stand around with their hands in their pockets, especially not at a formal dinner party – that would have been beaten out of them at school by the headmaster. The costuming gets a passing 6 out of 10 for me for not being overtly inaccurate, but it lacks believability. Much worse are the wigs, make-up and deportment which fail to accurately recreate the period on most accounts.

4 thoughts on “Film and Fashion – Glorious 39

    • Sewing the pockets shut is a great idea! I was at an English-style boy’s school for a year and a half, and we got in a lot of trouble if we talked with our hands in our pockets.

  1. Does any production do hair properly these days? The current fashion is for long curls that break into a gazillion separate strands, exactly the opposite of the two period options: a smooth, brushed-out set that forms a soft, wavy mass, or those tightly formed smooth curls glued to the head. Ladies in post-2000 productions all have hair too loose for the pincurl look and woefully unbrushed for the former. To me they all look a bit as if they’ve been riding in a convertible and desperately need to pop into the ladies’ for a moment!

    • I sometimes wonder if anyone even knows how to do hair anymore! I am glad that I am not alone in recognizing this fact!

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