DRESSING THE PART
By Harlan Yaffe,
Fashion Editor for Todo Ahora
May 8, 2002

From the hushed flickers of the silent movies to the high-tech Hollywood of today, the silver screen has projected our dreams and desires for us not only to witness, but to take part in.  From images steeped in glamour to gritty works of social conscience, films have served as guideposts on the map of our collective memory of not only what was, but what will be.  The art of making pictures that move us, and not simply moving pictures, necessitates the success of the director's creative triumvirate: the cinematographer, the production designer, and the costume designer. Together, they struggle to architect a celluloid reality that sits lightly on the shoulders of the narrative yet conveys the meaning of the story. 

The production designer literally sets the stage for the movie. The cinematographer decides how exactly images will be captured. While their work is integral in establishing the overall mood of a picture, it is the efforts of the costume designer who directly impacts the characters visually. Costume designers have always had enormous influence on the world of style. The screen imagery they have created over the years became the instant icons of pop culture that together form a bank of classic, indelible images that blur the distinction between actor and role. When a movie star captures the public's imagination, a worldwide mode machine gears up, recreating the styles seen on the screen to the delight of the retailers and the demand of the fans.  The link between a celebrity and a particular costume can generate millions of dollars for the fashion business and serve as the ultimate advertisement for enterprising clothing manufacturers who make looking like a star a possible and palatable consolation for those with less than stellar lives.

Does Hollywood influence fashion or does fashion influence Hollywood? The answer is both.  The two have flip-flopped over the years more times than Elizabeth Taylor-Hilton-Wilding-Todd-Fisher-
Burton-Burton-Warner-Fortensky has changed husbands.  The first head to head battle for stylish supremacy occurred during the thirties when Paramount Studios' reigning screen queens began to clamor for costumes from Paris's most haute couturier, Elsa Schiaparelli. 

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