Monday, September 8, 2014

Men in Skirts

With the Gallic onslaught of Outlander, an involved series of books by the brilliant author Diana Gabaldon, newly produced by Starz, the world is becoming more aware of costume and its history.  History that leads us all to delve further, not just into the making of gifs ( Jamie Fraser as the new  global heartthrob ), but dipping into Wikipedia, and praise be!  even your local library, to find out more.  Lead into this  world of research via shows like Madmen, Boardwalk Empire and other small screen productions like Downton Abbey, costume becomes so much a part of the story that detail is assimilated subconsciously.  Or so those of us enmeshed in costume history would hope.  The surge of popularity on sites like Etsy, where handcrafts are being supported and sought after in an accessible marketplace, and the production of historically- oriented story lines help raise the bar for researchers.  Oh, sure, not all the details are historically correct, that's a bit of a stretch even for a magician,  but the mood and the feel is projected through dynamic set design and and brilliantly executed costume.  Inspiration becomes the underlying force here, for fashion and beyond . Fans and admirers may want exact replicas of a Titanic costume, or a Clan MacKenzie kilt, but for fashion, these shows are springboards for a dynamic interplay . And vice versa. In the 1940’s ( and before) cinema-goers longed for Lauren Bacall’s suit, or Roz Russell’s hat. Shop for your favorite heroine/celebrity/character has always been a mainstay of trend. Now we see a resurgence in  avarice for all things put up on a screen, and the web helps to popularize obscure fashion details that lend whimsy and fun to a contemporary look.

Madmen created a vibe in the counterculture vintage clothing world by bringing back the hot , sexy side of 1950’s-60’s fashion, both for men and women.  Brooks Brothers ran a collection of suits for the MadMan, and who knows but that Don Draper isn’t part of the reason that the stingy brim fedora has taken such a strong toehold on fashionable heads once again? These styles exert a  quiet influence onto the world of fashion in general, as we see a play between runway and street fashion. Designers like Thom Browne and Tom Ford bring a sleek line back into menswear, and tuxedos and dinner jackets may even be showing up more frequently in the wardrobes of not just the rich and famous.  Menswear will always reflect a certain constancy, where female fashion tends to lean into the trend wind of the moment.  MadMen dames find that curves are big in selfieland and the color green has crept back into our reality.  Green hasn’t been so popular since the 1960’s.

Boardwalk Empire gave birth to more Brooklyn hipsters than other shows, since it’s filmed here in the NYC vicinity, and lends the repro flapper/gangster look to both men and women.  Hats and headpieces are de rigueur, whether they be a feather pad glued onto a headband, or a hand beaded headpiece from a couture house. The thin line rules in the 1920’s, with narrow trouser legs, slim short frocks and sleek automobiles. Just come to the intensely popular Jazz Age Lawn Party and see the 5000 plus revelers in present day party mode to see the influence that shows like Boardwalk Empire have created. 

With Outlander,  costume designer Terry Drespach has summoned her creative powers to build an entire world not so accessible to flea market and easy finds.  Set in 18th Century Scotland, this show celebrates the tonality of the Highlanders’ garb, their wardrobe, their armory, and their milieu in a very believable and successful way. Launched at ComiCon, the Starz series has already snowballed into podcasts, blogs and posts not just in awe of  the wonders of Jamie and his kin, but the backstory.  The producer and costume designer issue weekly reports on “the making of” each episode.  Chanel had already produced its own Highland collection that precedes this show, but watch it to appreciate how fashion and history are symbiotic. The dialogue is fascinating, and for trackers of style and trend, interaction becomes tantamount to a chess game, where the world is a stage indeed.
History, not fantasy, becomes the driving force behind  shows such as these.  Unmentioned are the legion of fans who participate in cosplay , Burning Man, the Renaissance Fairs.  Halloween used to be the only dress up time for most of us .  Now it’s an also-ran.  Celebratory  fairs, parties, festivals make Woodstock just the first gathering of like- minded counterculture .  With television cable, and film actively fomenting and participating in costume drama,  history becomes part of the research.  And it will ultimately trickle down into popular fashion.  Perhaps not just with more kilts being seen on gentlemen at fancy dress and formal occasions, but in the application of tartan, knitwear, felting and weaving. Handcrafts will abound, and perhaps we will not lose all of ourselves in a pot of glue, finding a fast fix for a quick costume.  Perhaps the research will be inspired and build a new fan base for “the making of” in design on a more academic level.  What came before, will come after.  Fashion provides a lectern upon which we can espouse any theory, and help maintain a culture, a trend, a style, and appreciation for all those involved in the creative process, be it in an haute couture atelier, or in your own studio workroom.


Scarlett said...

love don draper!♥
great read Ellen


Scarlett said...
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