You Should Be Reading: Fashion and Film

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When we watch a movie, one of the major ways we come to understand its characters is through their dress. Costumes, when done well, can silently convey a great deal about the characters wearing them; when done poorly, however, they can distract audiences from the plot and leave the viewer feeling bored. The  articles below explore the role of fashion in film, from its use in post-war Berlin movies to its ability to document psychological transformation. The third article examines how audiences view the intersection of the fashion and film worlds and touches on questions about celebrity, sexuality, and gender. We hope you enjoy!

1. Choi, H., Ko, E., & Megehee, C. M. (2014). Fashion’s role in visualizing physical and psychological transformations in movies. Journal of Business Research, 67(1), 2911-2918. 

Using visual narrative art, this study looks into the images of cinema costumes and investigates how the fashion and styles in the movie reflect both the main characters’ psychological changes and their identity-forming processes. This study analyzes the transformative effect of fashion (movie costume), the development of individual characters, and social and other situational influences on the heroine in the moviePretty Woman (1990). Pretty Woman’s underlying theme is derivative from three classic fairy tales:CinderellaPygmalion, and Beauty and the Beast. Such fairy tales in movie dramas are archetypal enactments representative of deep emotional and physical transformations audiences wish to experience. Watching protagonists’ wardrobe changes and emotional transformations enables viewers to identify/self-recognize the storylines and catharses in the movies and often to achieve virtually the same experiences and emotional highs—outcomes which are the modern equivalent to Aristotle’s “proper pleasure.” — Full Article Abstract

2. Ganeva, M. (2014). Fashion amidst the ruins: Revisiting the early rubble films And the Heavens Above (1947) and The Murderers are Among Us (1946)German Studies Review, 37(1), 61-85.

This paper revisits two early rubble films from 1946 and 1947 against the background of the contemporary fashion and women’s press in Berlin in order to reconstruct a historic female experience of the immediate postwar period that goes beyond the clichéd images of the German woman asTrümmerfrauAmiflitt-chen, or a victim of rape. By taking a closer look at the presentations of clothes and various sartorial practices in these two films, this article delineates a wider range of subjective positions associated with female characters and a broader array of attractive identities offered to a predominantly female spectatorship. — Full Article Abstract

3. Kavka. (2014). Hating Madonna and loving Tom Ford: Gender, affect and the ‘extra-curricular’ celebrityCelebrity Studies, 5(1-2), 59-74.

In a recent article on the widespread media practice of ‘hating Madonna’, Naomi Wolf takes issue with the many vitriolic film reviews of Madonna’s film W.E., arguing that Madonna is punished by the press ‘whenever she steps out of her pretty-girl-pop-music bandwidth’. To make her point that there is an unspoken gender bias in the treatment of Madonna as artist, Wolf briefly compares W.E. with A Single Man, the film directed by designer Tom Ford, which received rapturous reviews. The comparative reception of these two films offers rich terrain for thinking not only about gender in relation to codifications of celebrity, but also the role of sexuality and nationality, the valuation of culture industries, and the overlapping of contemporary with historical celebrity. This paper addresses these layers of celebrity studies through the trope of the ‘extra-curricular celebrity’ who functions as a celebrity auteur. While Madonna and Tom Ford are celebrities from two different culture industries, music and fashion, their respective films are also affectively charged by historical celebrity: the ongoing negative celebrity of Wallis Simpson in W.E. and the literary celebrity of Christopher Isherwood, who wrote the novel A Single Man. In both cases, one can trace a complex set of semi-autobiographical links from film protagonist to historical celebrity to extra-curricular director that supports the starkly affective valuations of these works. — Full Article Abstract 



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