Costuming in Far from Heaven

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I remember seeing ‘Far from Heaven’ in the theater. I was living  in Portland at the time, and the air was buzzing with hype, partially because Todd Haynes, the director, was from there, and also because it’s an absolutely excellent movie.

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If you’ve never seen it, I highly recommend that you do.  Released in 2002, the film takes place in 1957, and takes expert care to mimic the camera angles, lighting, dialogue, and other filming techniques utilized in melodramatic films and TV shows of that era. For example, during some driving scenes, a fake backdrop is used through the car’s back window, instead of actually filming as the car is moving down a real street.

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There are a lot of plot twists in this film, so I won’t say too much about it.  Julianne Moore plays Cathy Whitaker, an upper middle class Connecticut housewife, and Patricia Clarkson plays her best friend, Elle. Although the story takes place over the course of several months, there are a lot of great scenes that employ the beauty of fall in New England. The foliage is bright and vibrant, and the female characters are all dressed up in swooshy fabrics, luxe textures, and classic 1950’s silhouettes.

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I read somewhere (it was a long time ago and the source escapes me) that Julianne Moore was pregnant at the time of filming, and eventually started to show. The costumer made sure that her already full skirts sat a little higher on her waist than how a woman would have actually worn them, to make sure her bump was hidden.

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far from heaven movie exterior

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There are so many reasons to watch and enjoy this film, but it especially puts me in the mood for fall and classic feminine 1950’s silhouettes.

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Costuming in W.E.

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Did you ever see W.E.? It came out a couple of years ago and would make an interesting companion piece to The King’s Speech if it weren’t so terrible. Yeah. It’s kind of not very good, but the reasons why I think so are for another post.

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The film tells two parallel stories, one of a fictional character living in modern day New York City, and other of the life of Wallis Simpson and King Edward in the 1930s. These flashback scenes, which take up a fair amount of screen time, (almost half by my count) make up for all the eye-rolling, head-scratching, clunky bits that comprise the remainder of the film.

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Because the costumes. Wow. All the 1930s glamour your eyes can eat up.

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The one downfall involving the costuming is that it’s rare that you ever see an entire full-length shot, as this movie has a lot of tight close-ups and quick cuts. A few of my favorite moments are in this post (there are more, believe me) and Arianne Phillips, whose credits include A Single Man, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, and Walk the Line, certainly deserved her Oscar nomination.

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This is from the scene where a corner of her dress is torn, and she huffs ‘It’s Schiaparelli!’. I appreciated that bit of inside-baseball style humor.

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w.e.

wallis simpson

wallis simpson

Really though, if you adore beautifully shot 1930s period pieces and you don’t care much else about what else is going on, it will be two hours of your life well spent.

Gloria Swanson Gown

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Most people know Gloria Swanson as a mega-star of the silent film era who famously went on to play Norma Desmond in Sunset Boulevard a few decades later. (Sunset Boulevard, one of my favorite movies ever, is currently playing right now on Netflix  Instant, if you’re interested). In the 1910’s and 1920s, Gloria was at the top of her game, and if you do a bit of Googling you will find many photos of her (including production and promotional stills) wearing glamourous clothes.

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Gloria Swanson was ahead of her time in many ways – she became a vegetarian the 1920s and when film work slowed, she starred in her own television series in 1948. She lived to be 84 years old and lead a fascinating life. She was an early adopter of the idea that celebrities could diversify their income by having eponymous clothing lines. These Gloria Swanson designs, mostly dresses, were manufactured from 1951-1958. I now have one in the shop!

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It’s a lovely black velvet evening piece dotted with sparkly crystals. Have a look!

Gloria Swanson photos from here here, here and here.

Fashion Film Festival

It’s been a long time coming. Wouldn’t you agree? I recently wrote about how San Francisco is just crawling with creatively-minded people who use their powers and skill to make their community better, more beautiful, more readily loved and enjoyed.

The ladies you see here are the founders of the San Francisco Fashion Film Festival. When I first heard about this amazing event it struck me that nothing like it existed in the Bay Area. How could that be? It was definitely time for a long weekend of films that explore the role that costume, style and design play in cinema.

Something in particular that excites me about the festival is how carefully curated the selection of films are. I mean, we all know Breakfast at Tiffany’s and it’s Givenchy-soaked wonderfulness, and the festival really reaches beyond what one might immediately think of as a “fashion film.” Their list of films scheduled to show bridges the familiar and obvious, bringing lesser-known documentaries, indies, and mainstream narratives into the spotlight. I so firmly believe in this festival (and am really proud of Kim, Adelle and Annie) that Dronning Vintage is an official sponsor.

Tickets for the San Francisco Fashion Film Festival are on sale as of today. You can pick and choose individual films, or get a full pass for the whole weekend. You can also follow them on Facebook and Twitter to stay fashionably up to speed.

Heavenly Creatures

Heavenly Creatures is one of my favorite movies. Released in 1994 but set in 1953 and 1954, the art direction and costuming is superb (not to mention the cinematography, acting, really everything). What follows are a few stand-out looks. An advantage of the film taking place over a period of two years is that you see outfits from every season.