For October, I’ve selected a group of slightly sinister documentaries and videos, each focusing on some of fashion’s darker influences. The first two films recount the lives of fashion deviants who produced spectacular garments which at times were also quite disturbing. While the third group of videos focus on a highly influential style that was rooted in rebellion and destruction. As fashion visionary Rei Kawakubo perfectly stated, “For something to be beautiful it doesn’t have to be pretty.”
The Legend of Leigh Bowery (2002)
Image from Leigh Bowery Looks: Photographs by Ferguson Greer 1988-1994
The provocative exploits of artist-musician-fashion designer-performer Leigh Bowery are retold in this 2002 documentary. Interviews with family members, discussions with museum curators, and a large amount of archival footage are expertly combined, illustrating Bowery’s humble beginnings in Australia and his meteoric rise to underground avant-garde fashion legend.
Falling outside of the traditional fashion milieu, Bowery’s costumes are dark, glamorous, and inspiring. Bowery did not design with commercial success in mind. Instead, Bowery’s extravagant fashion creations were a true artistic expression.
While many of the works portrayed in the film are very powerful, a deeper understanding of Bowery’s work would have been possible if placed in context with popular fashion, art, and music of the time. In addition, investigation into Bowery’s influence and legacy would have completed the film.
The Legend of Leigh Bowery is available on DVD through Netflix.
McQueen and I (2011)
Image from Alexander McQueen: Savage Beauty
Produced for Channel 4 UK, McQueen and I traces Alexander McQueen’s rapid rise from fashion school student to one of the most influential and eccentric voices in the fashion industry.
McQueen and I explores the tumultuous relationship McQueen had with patron and muse Isabella Blow. Recent interviews with family members, archival footage of Blow and McQueen, and early McQueen fashion shows are seamlessly woven together, telling the dark story of two fashion innovators and the untimely death of both by suicide.
McQueen and I provides a valuable and rare look at the story behind the now fabled fashion designer. As well as providing an insightful look into the life and influence of Isabella Blow. Stunning video of McQueen fashion shows, including his work at Givenchy and Gucci, are used throughout the film.
McQueen and I is a poignant documentary and a particularly important view for the twentieth century fashion historian.
View the full McQueen and I video on YouTube.
Punk: Chaos to Couture Exhibition Video Resources
Image: Metropolitan Museum of Art
Did you miss the Punk: Chaos to Couture spectacle this past summer at the Met? Wish you could have visited a second time for a closer investigation? If so, below is a useful collection of audio and video features available online.
Punk Gallery Views
This is a fast paced visual tour of the exhibition narrated by curator Andrew Bolton. The concise video highlights ensembles and installation details that could have been easily overlooked. Excellent close-up images and gallery views are provided throughout the video and are almost better than when viewing the exhibition with hundreds of other visitors and under dark dramatic lighting.
In addition, the audio feature at the bottom of the page is an excellent supplement to the video. After viewing the video, some of the information is repetitive however Bolton’s narration is easier to follow in the audio component.
Punk Interview for Vogue Italia
A 2o minute behind-the-scenes interview with Bolton, spliced together with images from the catalog and garments as they are prepared for installation. Bolton introduces us to the key concepts in Punk while explaining the ideas behind a number of the exhibition design elements. Bolton is much more personable and conversational in this video, helping to convey his excitement about the subject matter.
This September we focus on a trio of documentaries which introduce us to the dynamic personalities that have controlled the look of glossy fashion magazines for several decades. These films also explore the powerful influence that the fashion editor has on the development of popular styles, fashion photography, fashion designers’ careers and the fashion industry itself. As you will see, a no-nonsense business attitude, a discerning eye, and a larger than life persona are the key to success in the editorial business.
Note: Each film title below is linked to a separate webpage with viewing options.
The September Issue
The film that made Anna Wintour a household name.
The September Issue revolves around the production of Vogue’s monumental 2007 Fall-Fashion issue. Frigid interviews and interactions with Wintour are contrast against the romantic under-dog pining of fashion editor Grace Coddington. It is Ms. Coddington who steals the show.
The film follows Wintour as she weighs in on designers’ new collections and meets with department store executives. While fashion editors are followed, struggling to capture the perfect layout for Wintour.
The guilty pleasure of watching The September Issue (think The Devil Wears Prada) is balanced by rare and insightful glimpses into the inner workings of the fashion industry.
In Vogue: The Editor’s Eye
September Issue: Part Two
This time, HBO’s heartwarming documentary veers away from focusing on editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, focusing instead on the innovative team of fashion editors that have shaped the look of Vogue (and possibly fashion in general) for the last fifty years.
Here editor’s like Grace Coddington, Tonne Goodman, and Polly Mellen shine, when discussing the ideas behind some their most memorable photo shoots. Often these images are immediately recognizable, reminders of important moments in recent fashion history.
Through these introductions we are given an insightful history of Vogue accompanied by an amazing array of archival images. Utilizing Vogue covers, the social factors that influenced the rise of the Supermodel and the return of the celebrity personality are discussed.
In Vogue is a short feel-good yet thought-provoking documentary for fashion historians.
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel
Retracing Diana Vreeland’s beginnings from columnist to premier fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, to ushering in the modern era of exhibitions at the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute, the life of (or the legend of) the flamboyant fashion editor is celebrated in this glitzy 2012 documentary. Interviews with fashion photographers, models, and fashion designers are interspersed with filmed and recreated dialogue with Vreeland, revealing the highly influential and at times outlandish nature of Vreeland’s life.
For fashion historians, the true value of The Eye Has to Travel lies in the numerous archival fashion photographs and layouts which are used to illustrate the development of Vreeland’s career. In addition, an insightful early history of The Costume Institute is provided towards the end of the film, when Vreeland takes over as a Special Consultant in 1973. Vreeland’s historical accuracy and conservation methods while at the MET are questionable, however they do bring to our attention important topics to consider when exhibiting costume objects.
One to watch: Mademoiselle C
Just out, in limited release, late this month. Mademoiselle C follows Carine Roitfeld, former editor of French Vogue, as she attempts to start a new magazine CR Fashion Book. Check back next month for an update.
Grace Coddington and Anna Wintour 2010 – Bryan Bedder/Getty Images North America
Diana Vreeland - Interview Magazine Cover- December 1980
Over the years, Worn Through has featured numerous fashion related videos and documentaries.
The slew of new documentaries out this summer season reminded us of what a powerful tool video can be when teaching fashion and conducting costume research.
In a similar manner to Worn Through’s You Should Be Reading, we have decided to launch You Should Be Watching. You Should Be Watching will introduce and evaluate new documentaries and videos while also revisiting some past classics that deserve a second investigation. At times, the column will focus on a single film (like the post below). At other times, the column will review a group of related videos or movies.
We hope the content of the new posts will add to your arsenal of fashion resources.
Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution
Versailles ’73 covers a significant topic in American fashion history, which in the past has received little attention.
Image: Charles Tracy from Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced
Le Grand Divertissement à Versailles, better known as the Battle of Versailles, was organized to raise funds for the restoration of the Palace of Versailles. The event pitted five well-known French design houses (Yves Saint Laurent, Pierre Cardin, Emanuel Ungaro, Christian Dior, and Hubert de Givenchy) against five relatively new American fashion designers (Oscar de la Renta, Stephen Burrows, Halston, Bill Blass, and Anne Klein).
The outcome of the 1973 fashion show established American designers and American sportswear as a powerful force on the global stage, challenging the staid dominance of French haute-couture. The success of the American designers, largely credited to the electrifying presentations by their African American models, ushered in a new era of fashionable beauty.
Image: KAPLAN/SIPA – Oscar de la Renta’s show at the Palace of Versailles
Writer-director Deborah Riley Draper’s upbeat retelling of the events leading up to the fashion show and the event itself, utilize excerpts of interviews with models, designers, and socialites involved with the show in 1973.
At times, the firsthand accounts can veer towards gossip but they do succeed in providing lively and valuable insight. Commentary by individuals like the Costume Institute’s Harloda Koda and designer Stephen Burrows, add depth to the viewers’ understanding of the social importance of the fashionable event.
The engaging documentary is visually stimulating while elucidating the phenomenal influence that a small group of American sportswear designers and African American models had on the global fashion industry.
Further exploration into the ways in which the industry was altered after the Battle of Versailles would have rounded out the film.
Viewing options available on Itunes, Xbox, YouTube, and Amazon. Click here for more information.
SCAD Style 2013 Panel Discussion
Featuring Pat Cleveland, Deborah Riley Draper, Stephen Burrows, and Cameron Silver
Link to SCAD’s YouTube Video Post here.
Tavis Smiley’s interview with writer-director Deborah Riley Draper.
Link to Tavis Smiley video post here.
Stephen Burrows: When Fashion Danced catalog and exhibition.
In addition, we look forward to Robin Givhan’s 2014 book, One Night at Versailles: The Fashion Showdown that Changed Everything.
Screen grab from Another Magazine film featuring Simon Costin
While I was on my hiatus from Worn Through, much of my waking hours were spent working alongside Art Director and Set Designer Simon Costin. I have occasionally written posts related to experiences gained behind the scenes of fashion as Simon’s assistant, but not specifically about him or his work. Thankfully, Another Magazine has featured him in a quirky and informative film, the third in their series on Modern Cultural Curators.
The film by, Stefan Heinrichs, intersperses Simon’s own take on what he does and makes in the world along with peeks into his home and studio. I spend quite a bit of time working within those walls, and share table space with his collection of macabre artifacts while working, so it was pretty thrilling to see a bit of my behind the scenes landscape in a film that captures some of its essence, but steals none of its magic!
From the TEDEducation Youtube channel, this video by Jessica Oreck reveals the unexpected origin of the term ‘tuxedo’:
In this Youtube video clip produced by Democracy Now, Charlie Kernaghan from the Institute for Global Labor and Human Rights discusses organizing labor unions as a way to prevent deadly garment factory disasters like the building collapse and fire on April 24 at Rana Plaza in Savar, near Dhaka, Bangladesh.
In this video, a textile conservator from the V&A Museum shares her work on an 8th century Egyptian tunic. Enjoy!
Enjoy this 1950′s newsreel about Easter bonnet fashions!
This 1955 clip from the British Pathe Fashion Archive demonstrates how to create jewelled stockings- enjoy!
This Youtube video by MaterialiseGroup shows the flexible 3D-printing process of “Laser Sintering” used by designer Iris Van Herpen, in collaboration with the architect Julia Koerner and Materialise, to create a dress for her 2013 Haute Couture Collection ‘Voltage’. Enjoy!