FASHION//The Fashion of Film- Amber Butchart

51urMbT-oIL Contrary to appearances, I am fascinated by fashion- why do people wear the clothes they do? How are the clothes made? What makes someone a style icon? It’s because of this that I’ve been enjoying A Stitch In Time on BBC4 (watch it on iPlayer if you haven’t seen it yet.) In it, fashion historian Amber Butchart takes a painting and uses it to explore the history of clothes and the subject in the painting. Alongside this, a team of highly skilled tailors recreate the garment in the painting, exploring the fabrics and techniques that would have been used at the time of the painting. It is fascinating.

I was delighted, then, to find this book at the library- as a lapsed media teacher, film is another of my interests and it’s well known that I worship at the altar of Hollywood’s Golden Age. I was reading guidebooks on Hollywood style in the Leeds branch of Borders long before I discovered fashion magazines.

In the book, Butchart traces the influence on fashion from early cinema, including classics like Metropolis, through to the enduring pastel dreamscapes of Wes Anderson. The book focuses on seven key genres: Crime (oh, to be Lauren Bacall!), Musicals, Historical (which includes one of my all-time favourites, Sofia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette), Horror, Romantic Drama, Sci-fi and Fantasy, and Art House and Independent.

There were some perennial favourites included: Cleopatra, Breathless and Hitchcock’s Marnie all make an appearance, but so too do Seven Samurai, Grey Gardens and Josephine Baker in Zouzou, whose influence is still strong almost a century later. The book is wide in its scope and all of style is here, sometimes in surprising and interesting guises.

I love that film stills are juxtaposed next to catwalk images, allowing us to compare the beauty of Julie Christie in Dr Zhivago with a modern interpretation by Channel,  or the influence of Japanese horror film The Ring on Rodarte. Each photo set is accompanied by an intelligent essay tracing the connections between film and fashion and it’s easy to look in your own wardrobe and see how ideas captured on the Silver Screen shape the way we dress ourselves without even realising it.

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