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Imonation | The relationship between fashion and film
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22 Aug The relationship between fashion and film

The influence of fashion in film is not an area that is widely talked about, yet has become a network in which a brand can establish itself. Take Audrey Hepburn’s love for Hubert de Givenchy’s clothing that lead to him designing the majority of her clothes both on-screen and off screen, or the rise of costume designer Edith Head who finished her career with eight Academy awards for ‘Best Costume Design’ – winning more Oscars than any other woman thus far. The relationship between fashion and film is key to understanding the film and our perception of the characters as it gives them an identity. Thus making fashion a powerful creative tool.


Courtesy of ‘The Seven Year Itch’

Remember the 1955 film ‘The Seven Year Itch’, directed by Billy Wilder? No? But you do remember the iconic cinematic moment with Marilyn Munroe standing over a subway grating with air blowing up her light coloured ivory halter neck dress designed by William Travilla. The costume designer began working with Munroe in 1952 and proceeded to work with her on another eight films. The dress was later auctioned in 2011, along with a collection of other clothes he had designed for her. It was estimated to sell at around $1 million, but ended up accumulating more than $5.6 million. These moments in films are what makes them stick in your memory. Look at ‘The Wizard of Oz’ or ‘Rebel Without a Cause’, you remember the scarlet red sparkly shoes that Judy Garland wore and James Dean’s leather jacket.

Courtesy of Getty Images

It’s hard to even refer to the relationship between film and fashion without mentioning Hubert de Givenchy and Audrey Hepburn. The duo met to collaborate for the wardrobe of ‘Sabrina’ in 1954 with renowned costume designer Edith Head. The wardrobe of her character was a mixture of double breasted suits in dark colours, pencil skirts and chiffon turbans – this pairing sparked a friendship that endured throughout both their careers. In the 1957 film ‘Funny Face’ about a fashion photographer who scouts a woman who works at a bookstore with the belief that she is ‘the look’, was the first time that Givenchy made custom clothes for Hepburn.

Photo courtesy of Christie’s

However, arguably the most iconic moment in her career was the opening scene of ‘Breakfast at Tiffany’s’ where Hepburn wore the black Givenchy dress made from Italian satin with Roger Scemama pearls. The dress is cited as one of the most iconic pieces of clothing in the twentieth century. It was auctioned at Christies in London in 2006 with the belief that it would sell between £50,000 to £70,000. It was purchased by an anonymous buyer via telephone for £467,200.

The affectionate relationship led to Hepburn refusing to act in ‘Summer and Smoke’ unless Givenchy designer her clothes. She once said that, “His are the only clothes in which I am myself. He is far more than a couturier, he is a creator of personality”.

Photo via Focus Features

Fashion and film took on a new friendship. The switch of designers directing movies, and famous directors producing films on fashion. Tom Ford has plunged into the industry with ‘A Single Man’ which was Oscar nominated and ‘Nocturnal Animals’ which won the Grand Jury Prize at the Venice Film Festival. Critics argued that it was a long Tom Ford brand promotion with all the lead characters dressed out in his clothing. The aesthetics are stylish, and he embeds his brand into visual history cinematically.

Courtesy of ‘La Dolce Vita’

Furthermore, fashions impact has reigned throughout cinematic history. Director Fellini stated that ‘La Dolce Vita’ was inspired by Balenciaga’s sack dress with its dramatic silhouettes, seen in the image of Anita Ekberg by the Trevi fountain in a black gown. Catherine Deneuve’s wardrobe in Belle Du Jour was designed by Yves Saint Laurent who was hired for the film, which resulted in a lifelong friendship where she insisted henceforth on wearing his designs in her future films.

‘Cleopatra’ starring Elizabeth Taylor had such a striking wardrobe, and an expensive one with a record breaking $194,800 budget (earning her the title of having the highest budget ever for a single actor for one film). Her clothing inspired Alexander McQueen’s AW07 collection. Jean Paul Gaultier took centre stage in ‘The Fifth Element’ when he designed 954 costumes for the film, in particular the bondage inspired outfit worn by Milla Jovovich. He was present on set every single day of filming to ensure all the outfits were exactly as he anticipated them to look.


Courtesy of Warner Brothers Pictures

The recent adaptation of ‘The Great Gatsby’ by Baz Luhrmann saw Miuccia Prada collaborate with Catherine Martin and Brooks Brothers to clothe the characters. Unlike Tom Ford, the clothing was used as a tool to enable the modern-day viewer to be capsulated in the era, but more specifically the opulence of the parties and the extravagant society that was being presented.

The above examples are just a few of the countless moments of how film and fashion regularly come together to provide a few insights into a time, place and character. It gives those who are not avid Fashion Week anticipators a chance to understand the power of clothing, and designers a chance to showcase their talent or even some of their latest collection. Films tell a story, and the clothes are the words.

– I


Featured photo courtesy of ‘Breakfast at Tiffanys’

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