Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Lecture One - Hollywood and Fashion

Today was the first day of Fashion and Film winter school. I don't know a lot about the origins of cinema, Hollywood and the stars of early films so I found today very interesting.

The lecture gave me a broad basic understanding of the origins of the film industry. The first films began emerging in the early 1900s, however these films were usually short films that addressed issues such as fashion. They acted in a similar way to magazines, advising of new trends and how to wear them. Interestingly there were only two magazines available at the time, Vogue and Harpers Bazaar. The first full length film didn't get released until after WWI.

Film provided a vehicle for consumerism, creating desire amongst audiences. Eckert suggested that "Hollywood gave connsumerism its 'distinctive beat' - it influenced the way men and women wanted to look, as well as the cars they chose to drive, and the cigarettes they decided to smoke"
(Steele, V. Berg Companion to Fashion, p421.). Or as Schiaparelli put it "what Hollywood shows today, you will wear tomorrow".

A few things I found particularly interesting in the lecture today:
- Spin offs: how a film can launch a new fashion or alter the course of an existent fashion.

- The Hays Code: This code was formed in the 1930s to maintain standards of decency on screen. It was formed by a Jesuit priest who was given the task of forming the code which created specific guidelines for the representation of sex, homosexuality, miscegenationn etc. I am particularly intrigued by the ongoing impact of this code as it stayed around until the 1960s!

- I may sound very much like a 21st Century girl here, but I have always though silent films were boring. I already suffer from an inability to focus in most movies, so I presumed that this would only get worse if I watched something with no dialogue. Incorrect. In the afternoon we watched a small section of the film It (1927) which I found thoroughly engaging. The taboo of "it" ie. sex appeal was amusingly navigated and the use of body language and exaggerated facial expressions managed to capture the story equally as well as dialogue. Maybe a picture really is worth a thousand words?

Right: http://pincurlmag.com/clara-bow

- Movement and texture were discussed in the lecture as a crucial aspect of costume. I didn't make much of this when it was first mentioned, however our afternoon viewing of Gone with the Wind really emphasized the importance of fabrics and their behaviour. Scarlett O'Hara (played by Vivien Leigh) has the most extravagant clothes that are totally impractical but very beautiful to look at.

The first scene had this gorgeous white dress that bobbed along as she ran. I couldn't take my eyes off her and it really reflected her characters melodrama!


Even in mourning black Scarlett looked beautiful with her skirt twirling around the dance floor.


Proportion also played a key part with the huge hat balancing the skirt and the bow tied under the chin. These shapes make her waist look even smaller , a look that reflects Dior's new look that was popular whist the film was being made.

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