Cinema Style Ep. 6

Annnnnd we’re back, with the third instalment of Cinema Style ~Christmas Edition~!

I’m thinking I will actually end this mini-series off here (the best things always come in trilogies, right?) but there will, of course, be other non-festive episodes to come.

What better way to finish off here than with the classic Christmas movie – It’s A Wonderful Life.

Thing is, this is not my favourite movie. It’s not even my favourite Christmas movie, especially since I don’t particularly count it as such. To me, this film is a story about life, about all the human experiences tied into it. It just happens to have an abundance of scenes that take place at Christmastime.

Released in 1946 and directed by Frank Capra, It’s A Wonderful Life stars James Stewart as George Bailey who one day wishes he had never been born. Upon hearing this wish, an angel names Clarence (played by the wonderful Henry Travers) shows George what would happen if he had never been born, and how many lives he has impacted for the better. Ultimately, the film is a celebration of life and being thankful for what we have.

By now, the film has been spoofed so many times that the plot is awful familiar even if you’ve never seen it. (A specific Sabrina The Teenage Witch novel comes to mind.)

Costume design for the film was done by Edward Stevenson, known for his work on a complete different movie about life, Citizen Kane. Stevenson’s eye for well-tailored suits and All-American style is clearly shown in Wonderful Life.

Remember the scene where George shows up to Mary’s house, where the “lasso you the moon scene” occurs? Mary’s white bathrobe and George’s collegiate finery are pretty iconic.

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“You want the moon, Mary?” Image source.

In fact, Mary (played by Donna Reed) is one of the stars of the show with her wardrobe choices. Her outfit at the dance, her Christmas finery and always-impeccable hair leave a lasting on-screen impression.

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The Charleston scene. Bot Mary’s amazing ruffles and white shoe combo. Image Source.

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George and Mary. Now THIS is dressing for dinner. Image Source.

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Check that cap and coat combination! Image Source.

A special shoutout needs to be given to Violet, played by the beautiful Gloria Grahame and who has one of the best outfit moments in the entire film.

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Need I even say more? If I had this ensemble, I would wear it all summer long and strut like there is no tomorrow.

And we shall not forget the hat, either.

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Never forget the hat. Image Source.

Violet is dressed for her role as good-time gal and socialite perfectly. But as with many classic movies, a love of fashion and outlandish outfits is a characteristic of a person who cannot be taken seriously. Obviously, I disagree, but it’s a trope as old as cinema itself.

Other than Violet, and Clarence with his angel-eseque white shift, little of the characters is said through their wardrobe.

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Clarence and George. Image Source.

The clothes are situational, and instead build more towards the dream-like feel of George’s whole trip through his life. It’s less about a specific character expressing themselves as it is about the world built around George, both in his real life and in the what-if alternate reality. The clothes are timely,. Each outfit Mary wears is tied to a moment in her life with George. The robe when he comes to see her. The dress when they dance the Charleston, and so on. The clothes become markers of events in George’s life.

This resonates with me, because when I do look back on certain moments in my life, the memory may be triggered by what I was wearing. I’ll see a photograph of myself in a certain top and recall a day I wore it when I was a teenager, when I went out with friends or had my heart broken for the 100th time.

While clothes aren’t our whole lives, we do live our lives in them and therefore they become inexorably linked to the events that have shaped the people we’ve become. For George Bailey, it’s a wonderful life wearing Edward Stevenson’s suits.

 

Cinema Style Ep. 5

On this episode of Cinema Style, we’re looking at another classic Christmas flick, this time without the Technicolor.

It was one fateful Christmas a few years back when I discovered Christmas in Connecticut with my mom. That began a love affair with the 1945 film that has lasted to this day. It’s a holiday rom-com with great comedic chops and a dashing sailor as the leading man. What’s not to like?

Dennis Morgan plays the sailor, Jefferson Jones. Peter Godfrey directed the picture. Our leading lady is none other than the gorgeous Barbara Stanwyck. Stanwyck plays Elizabeth Lane, a single New Yorker who can’t cook, pretending to be a Connecticut housewife for the sake of her wildly popular column, “Diary of a Housewife.” She gets into trouble when her publisher, who knows none of her deception, plans to have a young war hero stay on Elizabeth’s Connecticut farm for Christmas. And as with any 1940s rom-com, hijinks and misunderstandings ensue.

The film itself is delightful. Sydney Greenstreet and S.Z. Sakall are note perfect in their supporting roles, not to mention a cameo from Dick Elliott as the jolliest judge you’ve ever encountered.

But instead of going into plot details, let’s get right to it with the costuming. Or more specifically, Elizabeth Lane’s to-die-for wardrobe.

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Reginald Gardiner as John Sloane and Stanwyck as Elizabeth Lane. Image via Pinterest.

Her “Connecticut farming” attire is honestly me if I had to wear farming attire.

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Stanwyck and Morgan as Elizabeth and Jefferson. Image Source.

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Stanwyck as Elizabeth. Image via Pinterest.

Billowing skirts, fitted jackets that show off an unfairly tiny waist and the infamous mink coat are just a few of the characteristics of Elizabeth’s style. (Of course now you can obtain a faux fur coat that is just as glam.)

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The infamous mink coat. Image Source.

Bear with me here while I give a few pictures of the mink coat scene to note the incredible high-waisted trouser and white blouse combination Elizabeth is sporting, as well as the most beautiful, best-dressed delivery woman ever seen in the history of cinema.

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This look is CRUCIAL and ideal and difficult to get a good image of. Image Source.

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One more for the pants. Image Source.

The costume design for the film came from two talented individuals. Elizabeth’s gowns were created by costume designer Milo Anderson and, once again, EDITH HEAD.

This series of Christmas-inspired blog posts is quickly turning into an ode to Edith, but can I help it if she styled every old Christmas movie I like? Let me sing to you of Edith, folks. If the costuming is worth taking note of, you know she was probably behind it.

Milo Anderson does also deserve to be sung about, for his designs in this film and for his work on other films such as The Adventures of Robin Hood and High Sierra. The gowns he created for Stanwyck in this film are stunning.

Once again, we see a wardrobe that reflects the character’s self. At the beginning of the film, we see Elizabeth as the hotshot New Yorker she is, with her stylish power suits and luxe details.

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Elizabeth and John. Image Source.

 

Throughout the movie, she holds onto her glam persona, clearly ill-suited to the role she is pretending to play. Occasionally a more causal look seeps into the mix, but ultimately that’s what Elizabeth is doing: playing a role.

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Stanwyck as Elizabeth. Note the necessary velvet bow. Image Source.

She is not the amazing mother and chef her column makes her out to be, but she also doesn’t need to be those things in order to be valid or successful, despite what some of the men in the film say. (She does find love at the end of the movie, sure, but who doesn’t like a cute sailor, anyway?) As we get to know Jefferson Jones, we learn that he is a decent cook, the one who’s good with babies, the one more competent in stereotypically “female” roles in the household. What the two characters find together is balance, once they’re able to be honest with each other.

And in my opinion, living as a writer in New York, wearing some great high-waisted pants? That’s the ideal life.

Cinema Style Ep. 4

Hello and welcome to another episode of Cinema Style, but this time, it’s the ~Christmas Edition~.

For the month of December, I’ll be posting a few special festive editions of Cinema Style, exploring all things fur-trimmed and turtlenecked.

I figured we should start with a classic, and what could be more classic than White Christmas? (The film, not the Black Mirror episode.)

Now, the film itself is… questionable at times, from the occasionally stiff performances to the rah-rah-WWII numbers. Like any good Christmas flick, there’s a healthy dose of camp served with a side of cheese. But what really sticks in my mind about White Christmas, and what we’re going to discuss today, is the incredible Christmas costuming.

Released in 1954, White Christmas stars Bing Crosby (the King of Christmas) and Danny Kaye as performing friends who join up with a sister act (Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen) to perform at a failing country inn in rural Vermont, which is owned by their former commander in WWII. Hijinks and extravagant musical numbers ensue.

The film received a mixed bag of reviews from critics, but was a hit with audiences. It was, by a wide margin, the top-grossing film of the year. The film was especially notable for being the first filmed in VistaVision, a new technology from Paramount that enabled them to shoot a wider surface area than 35mm. Think of what a big deal it was when we first began releasing features films in 3D.

Now, the costuming in the film was done by the incomparable Edith Head, who I have mentioned in this blog before, specifically in the piece on Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

I’m not going to spend this entire post waxing poetic about Edith Head but just know: she’s a genius, she’s iconic and when I grow up I want to be her.

With Head on the team, it’s a guarantee we’ll have some incredible costuming moments, especially with the sisters Betty and Judy.

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Vera Ellen as Judy Haynes (left) and Rosemary Clooney as Betty Haynes. Image Source.

Whether it’s their “everyday” clothes or their stage outfits, Betty and Judy deliver look after look throughout the film.

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Betty (L) and Judy performing “Sisters” . Image Source.

Of course, the musical performances allow for all the best high-drama costuming moments. I’m talking specifically about that black dress Rosemary Clooney wears in the “Love, You Didn’t Do Me Right” performance.

The neckline. The fit. The rhinestone-encrusted gloves. The pink curtain. The drama.

Not to mention it’s super effective, when you’re performing a passionate, sorrowful song about a broken heart, to have men dressed in all black dance slowly around you. I’ve yet to try it myself but I’m sure it’s foolproof.

This particular dress also marks a turn for Betty in the film. Prior to this moment, she is the more modestly dressed compared to her outgoing sister, who is always sporting tight-fitting brightly-coloured clothing. However, as Betty emerges as Bob’s love interest and a diva in her own right, her wardrobe begins to reflect that. This can be considered a signature of Head’s skills – the emotional arc of characters being reflected in their wardrobe. (Though, Judy doesn’t really go through the character development Betty does, but she does come into herself.)

Certainly, Judy’s performances give some memorable wardrobe moments, including the Mistral Number scene, where Judy’s dance skills are showcased as much as her ridiculously beautiful legs.

Bob and Phil (Crosby and Kaye, respectively) are onstage in this sequence too, rocking some classic top hats and coattails.

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Phil, Judy and Bob. Image Source.

In the nature of full disclosure, the colouring of this scene actually makes me slightly uncomfortable, but that’s Technicolor for ya.

But of course, the most iconic scene and costumes come from the final musical number, where all four characters don variations of a Santa Claus-esque look.

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Image via Pinterest.

That red satin and white trim makes for a fairly literal interpretation of Christmas, but is also a classic for a reason. This is my ideal Christmas season aesthetic, and obviously is applicable to everyday life. 10/10 would wear this to the mall.

White Christmas is many things: a big-budget musical, a holiday classic, a campy, cheesy romp and a whirlwind of technicolored finery. For me, it’s full of lush, dreamy costumes that provide endless inspiration for this time of year. Also, it’s pretty great to have on in the background when wrapping presents.

Sources

IMDb

Wikipedia

Screen Prism

Cinema Style Ep. 3

And now for something completely different!

The first two films I discussed on here are very near and dear to my heart. But as much as I love them, the costuming is also pretty tame. It’s my intention to look at all sorts of movie costuming, not just the beautiful dresses (but I do love the beautiful dresses.)

So let’s talk about science fiction. I am, at some point, going to have to make an entire post listing iconic looks from 70s and 80s sci-fi flicks, but that time is not this time.

Science fiction has the ability to go there, whether it be socially like Star Trek, technologically like Metropolis or fashionably like The Fifth Element.

If you are a sci-fi fan, a film student or another movie costuming geek, you’ll likely have seen and/or heard about The Fifth Element before. Directed by Luc Besson, the film was released in 1997 to mixed reviews but gained a big fanbase. The film stars Bruce Willis as   cab driver Korben Dallas and Milla Jovovich as Leeloo, an embodiment of the fifth element. Leeloo has the task of combining with the other four elements to prevent the Great Evil from destroying the world, etc. At one point they get on a giant intergalactic cruise. It’s a whole thing.

In terms of plot, you get a lot of standard big-budget sci-fi stuff. There’s a gruff male lead shrouded in mystery, a beautiful and strange lady who kicks butt, a scary villain and the world in jeopardy. Something that did catch my attention the first I watched this movie was the costuming in it.

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Gary Oldman as Zorg in The Fifth Element. Via Tumblr.

It’s pretty spectacular. The costume design for the movie was done by none other than French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, known for his own haute couture and prêt-à-porter fashions as well as his stint as the creative director of Hermès from 2003-2010. Gaultier also designed Madonna’s stage costumes for her 2006 Confessions tour and the infamous cone bra worn on her Blonde Ambition tour in 1990. Other clients include Mairlyn Manson.

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Jean Paul Gaultier & Madonna. 90s. Via Pinterest.

Gaultier’s knack for the unexpected and attention-grabbing lends itself perfectly to The Fifth Element, as movie that is, by all accounts, a bit over the top. Gaultier created more than 1000 costumes for the film, from the main characters to extras in crowd shots.

Let me point you to some specific visuals.

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Milla Jovovich and Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element. Source.

Leeloo’s bandage outfit is a pretty good place to start. It’s a step up from her being completely naked, strategically covered up as at the beginning of the movie, she’s naked in the tank she escapes from. Think of it as Gaultier’s “underwear as outerwear” collection on an acid trip. Obviously, literally no one except Milla Jovovich could dream of pulling this off.

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Leeloo. Source.

From the strategic bands to Leeloo’s orange suspenders. The ones that perfectly match her hair. With that white crop top and gold pants, that’s honestly a look that has potential for translation today. A little 90s, a little weird.

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Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod. Source.

Now, we have to talk about Chris Tucker’s truly iconic turn as radio host Ruby Rhod. His performance was amazing and his costumes were ridiculously extravagant and suited the character perfectly. Highlights include his introduction look of all-leopard and the black satin and roses number seen in the singing performance sequences.

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Ruby Rhod. Source.

And we need to talk about the extras. Gaultier’s obsessive attention to detail is to thank for every supporting cast member looking fire at all times.

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The infamous see-through green skirt. Via Tumblr.

Not to mention what Gaultier did with uniforms. We have the cruise attendants in their blue bustiers and matching hats.

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The flight attendants. Via Pinterest.

We can touch on the uncomfortable notion of service industry uniforms getting increasingly sexy and revealing in the future – seen initially with the gorgeous model-like McDonald’s employees who make a brief cameo in the movie’s beginning. I will say, the golden arches headpiece and red wig is a pretty great touch. Extreme branding meets extreme accessorizing.

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23rd century McDonald’s. Via Tumblr.

From start to finish, The Fifth Element is a fun ride, and the costumes make that experience all the better. while the film itself had a huge budget and Dan Weil on production design, the costumes Gaultier created make the movie so much more memorable and have set the overall look for the 23rd century.

SOURCES

IMDb

Elle (Gaultier Retrospective)

Dazed Digital (Gaultier and The Fifth Element)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: To anyone who may follow this blog regularly, I’m going to be away the next few weeks on a road trip so there will not be any new posts! After I return we’ll be back to regular programming!

 

 

Cinema Style Ep. 2

For our second round of Cinema Style, I’m going to take you guys into a very, very sad period piece. Seriously, I was sobbing in the theatre. But even through my tears, I took notice of the costuming.

You probably already have an idea of which movie I’m talking about, but I’ll tell you anyway: Atonement.

If you’ve never seen it, the movie is directed by Joe Wright and based off of the book by Ian McEwan. It stars Keira Knightley and James McAvoy as Cecelia and Robbie, two young lovers torn apart in 1935 by a lie Cecelia’s younger sister Briony tells. Because of this lie, Robbie is taken to prison and only released four years later under the condition he joins the army. Tragedy and pretty crying ensues.

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Gif via Tumblr

I felt a lot of emotions when I saw this guy in the cinema with my mom back when it came out in 2007 (10 years ago!!!) I was, in my core, sad. I was pissed at Briony, well actually, pissed at everyone in that movie because if you all just took a second to THINK THEN THEY COULD HAVE BEEN TOGETHER DO YOU THINK IT MAKES IT OKAY THAT YOU WROTE THEM INTO A HAPPY ENDING????

Anyway.

Through this roller coaster of emotions I, like many others, did take notice of the movie’s superb costuming. Or, to be specific, the dress. 

You can’t talk about Atonement without talking about Cecelia’s green dress. It’s an icon in and of itself, hugely memorable on its colour alone. Emerald Green.

 When you think of classic dress moments in movies, you think of a little black dress, maybe a red dress, maybe pink à la Marilyn in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. These are the Hollywood starlet/femme fatale looks. Green is a weird one. It’s barely used in cinema on account of it supposedly making audience members uncomfortable. Remember Tippi Hedren in The Birds?

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Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Source.

Keira Knightley is so stupidly beautiful and willowy that she could pull off anything, but this dress was a special case.

Costume designer Jacqueline Durran, nominated for an Oscar from her work on the film, created the dress from scratch based on Wright’s vision for Cecelia at the fateful dinner party. Durran and Wright had previously worked together in 2005 on Pride & Prejudice, which, incidentally, also starred Knightley.

The dress was tailored to fit Knightley perfectly and moved with her as she walked. The descriptions of the dress in the book were taken to heart when the dress was designed, and certain features of it, backless with a train, are in line with 1930s gowns. The dress fits into the setting perfectly yet completely stands out.

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Photo via Tumblr

When you look at the other costuming in the film, it is starkly different to this dress. Briony, also being only 13 in the early scenes, wears the shift-dress shape of the 1930s in light colours.

Cecelia too wears lighter colours and materials in the early scenes, then when we enter wartime, she don’s the nurse’s uniform. Her silhouettes become more practical, her colours more muted.

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Cecelia in 1935. Photo Source.

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Cecelia during wartime via Pinterest

The dress itself stands as more of a fantasy, made more bold through Briony’s recollection, perhaps. Like they’re supposed to in any movie, the costumes tell the story. You could break up the styles into before the dress and after the dress. Plot-wise, that refers to before the dinner and after the dinner.

A quick search online can reveal many people looking for replicas of the dress. Since it was a custom creation, the original now moves around museum to museum. Back in 2012, it was at the V&A in London.

If anyone does find an excellent replica, let me know. I’m definitely not Keira Knightley, and I definitely don’t have an affair with the handsome young gardner on at the moment. But, you never know. Maybe I’ll wear it grocery shopping and recreate the library scene in the frozen food aisle.

Sources

IMDb

Clothes on Film

The Costumer’s Guide

Fashion & Power

 

 

Cinema Style Ep. 1

I’ve wanted to do something with cinema on here for a while. If you don’t already know, I studied film in university – in fact, it was my minor. I love the movies, and every aspect of filmmaking is interesting to me. But this is a fashion blog, not a movie blog, so I didn’t want to get too heavy into film theory, technology or business. What’s the best way to marry these two interests of mine?

Costuming, naturally.

I had the idea to start creating occasional posts about the fashion in movies, from my personal favourites to the most iconic costumes of all time. If this sounds appealing to anyone following the blog, let me know. I’m really excited to do these!

I will still be doing outfit posts, but if I decide to continue with these Cinema Style articles, they will be coming every few weeks.

Without further ado, I bring you the first episode! And what better way to open up the series than with one of my favourite movies.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Released in 1961, Breakfast at Tiffany’s was directed by Blake Edwards and based on the book by Truman Capote. The movies starts Audrey Hepburn as the flighty, larger-than-life Holly Golightly, a socialite looking to date the richest men she can find. George Peppard plays Paul Varjack, a writer who moves into Holly’s building. Shenanigans ensue, truths are revealed, declarations are made.

Let me be clear: this, like many others, is not a movie without faults. Mickey Rooney’s performance as Mr. Yunioshi is, in a word, problematic.

But, when I was younger, this was my ultimate favourite movie. I had a huge crush on George Peppard and was deeply dismayed to discover this movie had been made 50 years ago and Peppard had died in 1994. Why did I have such a crush on him? He was handsome, he was a writer, and he wore the most beautiful suits.

As you can see, I’ve always had my priorities straight.

The costuming in this film is a time capsule of 1960s style with fabulous party wear for Holly. We’re talking dramatic hats, prints and a good pair on sunnies.

Of course, we’re also talking that black dress from the opening scene. With a dress that classically beautiful, it comes as little surprise that the principal costume designer for Hepburn was Mr. Hubert de Givenchy himself.

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Photo via Pinterest

You’ve probably heard of Givenchy the brand before.

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Hepburn being dressed by Givenchy in 1959. Photo Source.

The man Givenchy founded the fashion house in 1952, and since then it has been a stable in the French couture scene. Among his achievements, Givenchy is credited with creating the balloon coat and the baby doll dress. Hepburn was one of his regular clients and a friend.

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Photo via Pinterest

Even if you’ve never seen the film, you could probably call up that famous opening image of Hepburn munching on a danish outside of Tiffany’s in that black dress with the pearls and sunglasses. When I first saw that scene, I wanted to be her, standing on that corner in New York, wearing that dress. I could never be her, though, and one of the (many) reasons for that is Givenchy designed the dress especially for Hepburn. She was able to keep it after filming  and the dress eventually sold at Christie’s for $900,000 in 2006.

Another notable Givenchy piece is the bright orange peacoat seen on Holly when she and Paul are galavanting around New York City. The double-breasted coat was widely copied following the release of the film. Orange can be a tricky colour, but of course Hepburn pulls it off so well. (And it looks good in Technicolor.)

Aside from the gorgeous Givenchy pieces, recognition needs to be given to costume supervisor Edith Head, and if you haven’t heard of her yet, you’re about to.

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Edith Head and her Oscars. Photo Source.

Over her decades-long career, Head won a record eight Academy Awards in costume design for her work on The Heiress, Samson and Delilah, All About Eve, A Place in the Sun, Roman Holiday, Sabrina (where Givenchy also provided designs), The Facts of Life and The Sting. 

The Academy Awards didn’t even have an award for costume designing until 1948, which was when Head really started to garner attention for her work. She had an incredible career and worked with some of the most notable actresses in Hollywood.

Head was responsible for Holly’s other iconic looks in Breakfast at Tiffany’s. 

The men’s shirt Holly wore to bed was designed by Head, and paired with that turquoise sleep mask and bright ear plugs, it is to this day the best sleepwear look I’ve ever seen.

Head was also responsible for the sweater, jeans and towel ensemble sported by Holly in the “Moon River” scene.

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Gif via Tumblr

Paul’s (and the audience’s) glimpse to the true Holly is masterfully indicated with this toned-down look. It is, after all, very easy to look glamorous when one is always wearing classic Givenchy.

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Holly in more Givenchy. Photo Source.

Through Givenchy and Head, we see the duality of Holly’s character come to life: the glamorous partier and the layered, emotional young woman from the country. These identities both exist in Holly, as they do in many women, though often not to the same extremes. There is the face you show to the world, and the one you keep more private.

This is one of the reasons I like fashion so much. It is a way to demonstrate our inner characteristics to the outside world – a way of introducing ourselves without having to say a word. Any good costume designer should be able to do just that for their characters, and Head and Givenchy pull it off masterfully.

Sources

IMDb

Vogue

Hubert de Givenchy Bio

Edith Head Bio