Friday, February 4, 2011

Film Fashion Friday: Fashion Show February

So, I am a bit behind on blogging. However, I am really excited for this month's Film Fashion Friday posts. This week's post is going to be delayed a day due to finding myself SO busy with homework for grad school. Tomorrow I will have the film choice for this week up, but today I am going to give a sort of a primer to the series for this month's films.

This video is just for fun!

In preparation for my thesis, I have been reading up on as many academic film fashion articles as I can get my hands on. One such article inspired me to do this series for February. Charlotte Herzog has written several different articles on fashion in film and her article, "'Powder Puff' Promotion: The Fashion Show-in-the-Film" is a wealth of knowledge on what many would view as a trivial aspect of film. Film fashion is something that is slowing gaining respect within the academic community, so when I do come across an article that is well written and shows the importance of fashion, especially within the film community, I take note of it. I hope that someday, fashion in film will be considered a "real" area of study just as genre or star study is.

Anyways, on to the series. This month I will be featuring films that contain fashion shows within them and their purpose for the show. Many of the films I would love to feature are not available on DVD and I might do a wrap-up post with these films, as they do appear on TCM and I also have a copy of a few of the films.

Okay, so here is a bit of background information on the fashion show in the film that might be useful to you, even if you do not plan to follow this series.

There are many designers that claim to have originated the first fashion show; among them are Chanel, Poiret, and Worth. These claims are dated to the teens, but there is historical data that place fashion shows are early as the turn of the century; where designers would send models to horse shows and other public functions in an effort to set trends and to boost sales. This correlates with the first of the filmed fashion shows, which had a similar purpose. By 1910, the tie-in was born and studies used filmed fashion shows as a way to promote motion pictures and women's fashions. It should be noted here that even though the center of the fashion world was still Paris, the film industry was beginning to become the center of American fashion trends by showing women the latest fashions from around the world and shaping their tastes. Most filmed fashion shows made during this time were shown as newsreels, thus helping to spread the word about what was popular in different parts of the world. Women in America could see what women in Paris were wearing.

An example of one of the earliest tie-ins was Florence Rose Fashions, produced in 1917. Before the newsreel was released, a newspaper article would tell about the design, material, cut, and detailing of each fashion item. Then, when women went to the theater, they could view these fashions on screen and decide if the item was right for them. If so, they could then refer back to the newspaper to find information on where to purchase such items. While the video below is not for Florence Rose Fashions, it is the same concept being used by a different company.

Eventually, this newsreel form transformed into feature length films, which is why we see so many 1930's film with a fashion show in them. Hollywood was able to find a "formula for transforming the fashion show from a boring newsreel short to a full length revue that both men and women could sit through without squirming" (this comes from a TIME magazine reviewing the film Vogues of 1938). I think it's important to note here that this was the beginning of disguised fashion promotion as entertainment. This is where we begin to see fan magazines and local newspapers producing articles on stars and studio designers all in an effort to promote not only the film, but the fashion found within the film. This idea of fusion of fashion as entertainment, spectacle if you will, can be one of the reasons why many times studios choose to shoot the fashions show sequences in color, as in The Women. What will be the main theme for these posts and film selections, is how the fashion show within the film are presented in a way that "they break down the model's costume into its saleable features, directing women viewers to look at these outfits much in the same way they would scrutinize them in a department store fashion show" and how these fashion shows are essential, not necessarily accidental, to the storyline of the film (some integrated better than others), proving that these films purposes are mainly for the promotion of fashion. Isn't it wonderful that Hollywood did this. They essentially created history on screen for us vintage fashion enthusiasts. The video below shows an example of an early color film that depicts a fashion show.

The 1930's also saw the beginning of a sub-division of the ready-to-wear industry that made garments identical to the fashions found within films that promoted these styles. (Think Letty Lynton here). One brand that was born out of this practice was Cinema Fashions, which sold clothing and accessories that were identical replicas of screen fashions. Many department stores has little Screen Fashion Boutiques, where women could find replicas of the items worn by Joan Crawford and Betty Davis.

I also want to mention that these films were purposely promoted as fashion guides to women. Pressbooks for these films contained articles suitable for reprinting in the women's section in newspapers that contained information about beauty and fashion tips in tandem with an association between the current motion picture and the beauty aids being presented in the article. The pressbooks also encouraged theatre owners to organize their own fashion shows in cooperation with local department stores. After WWII, pressbooks would contain lists of department stores that would be carrying the official line of hats, clothing, and shoes, i.e. Cinema Fashions label. These films from the 30s, 40s, and 50s directed women on the current styles and where to find them, almost exploiting women spectators.

Okay, I know I have thrown a lot of information at you all at once and there is so much more I would love to say about this! I am sure that each week, my posts will be long and I am going to try to incorporate as much history as I can. I am going to try and break each post into sections or themes according to the different types of fashions shows found in each film or films. These posts might be structured a bit differently than how I normally do FFF, but I hope you will all enjoy them!



Lauren Hairston said...

The two color films are amazing! It's great to see 1930s fashions in color and, though I love love love 20s fashion illustrations, it's nice to see the clothes on people. Thanks for posting! Good luck with all that graduate school work; I know it can be overwhelming at times.

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