Monday 19 March 2018

Silver screen style trends we love

Lisa Armstrong, Luke Leitch and Alice Olins

Alas poor Carrie, we knew her well, and we knew her clothes even better. Liked quite a few of them too. But that was way back in the Noughties. Simpler times. An era when eclectic wasn't some lazy adjective chucked at anyone who looked as though she got dressed in the dark.

But now we're on to Sex and The City 2, God knows how it will pan out.

Part one was a shameless milking of a cash cow that was running dangerously low on lactose. Unless they've recruited a whole new writing team, the sequel could end up making Jaws 4 look like Beckett.

There are some things to applaud about the Sex and the City franchise -- $262m (€196m) for the first film and counting -- even if its chief redeeming feature is that the four protagonists aren't a CGI-generated, machine-gun-toting sub-species of teenage mutants, but four women approaching middle age.

But this plus is nullified by the almighty weight of expectation -- or rather the bludgeoning tactics of the Hollywood hype machine that insists on behaving as if every member of the female gender is now in the grip of a frenzy of anticipation at the prospect of watching SJP & Co gyrate across the screen in their designer outfits.

It's not even as if they're nice designer outfits. With the exception of the inimitably chic Parker, who could -- and has -- made boob tubes look glamorous, the other three co-stars appear like a bunch of drag queens on a day trip to Bundoran. SATC stylist Patricia Field, we hereby accuse you of grave style crimes -- and here we nominate 10 films infinitely more worthy of fashion veneration.

1. West Side Story, 1961

Natalie Wood plays an impoverished Puerto Rican on the wrong side of town, but still gets to wear ravishing New Look silhouettes with beautifully matching shoes.

This disregard for the tenets of gritty kitchen-sink drama bothered us for years, but then we remembered that her character Maria worked in a bridal shop -- was she helping herself to fabric and dye when the boss wasn't looking? And is that why she felt so pretty?

2. Belle de Jour, 1967

The director Luis Buñuel steadfastly maintained that this was a psycho-sexual study of bourgeois neurosis. Nice try, Buñuel.

Obviously what's really on show here is Catherine Denueve's stupefyingly chic wardrobe -- designed for her by YSL himself.

Seriously -- the clothes helped to nail the Deneuve character's pampered, demure confusion. Incidentally, those buckled Roger Vivier shoes are still a favourite 40 years on, although not all customers buy into the Madonna-whore subtext.

3. The Big Sleep, 1946

Notwithstanding that she is one of the most beautiful females ever to grace the planet, Lauren Bacall's Big Sleep looks -- the pinned-back hair, the chicly tilted hats, the power-shouldered jackets -- were arguably the finest she wore on screen.

And observe again the dress in which she serenades the punters in Eddie Mars's gambling den: incomparable.

4. Atonement, 2007

How come films set in the 1930s almost always look better than films made in the 1930s? Moving as Christopher Hampton's adaptation of Ian McEwan's novel is, Keira Knightley's clothes steal the show.

The costume designer Jacqueline Durran grasped the period and ran with it -- languid, elegant, understated yet gorgeous. We're close to tears just thinking about that green satin evening dress that almost distracted us from a crucial plot point. PS: No one should look as good as Knightly did in that bathing cap.

5. Bonnie and Clyde, 1967

Bonnie Parker's main accessory, aside from her gun and Clyde Barrow, was a series of killer hats. Her beret and silk scarf combination is as legendary as it is simple, and the beribboned fedoras she wore on several heists gave her a sense of propriety in improper circumstances.

Bonnie's clothes flipped between neat two-piece skirt suits that were deceivingly modest and button-through slips. Whatever the crime, her blonde bob stayed unruffled.

6. Annie Hall, 1977

Admittedly, that androgynous waistcoat and tie shtick, based on Diane Keaton's own wardrobe of vintage menswear, looks a little clunky now. But no Annie Hall, no Ralph Lauren. That's just for starters.

Annie's impact reverberates even today -- see Chloe, Celine. Keaton opted for a similar rig-up to collect her Oscar that year. Yup, shock-horror, actress wears own clothes on red carpet.

They don't make them like that any more.

7. Factory Girl, 2006

To play the part of Edie Sedgwick with any conviction Sienna Miller had to employ the skills of her enormous eyes and long, nubile legs. The clothes in between were a revolving mixture of black leotards, striped dresses and enormous animal skins.

The young Edie was as arrogant and disillusioned as she was stylish. Although she spent a good part of the film in nothing more than a pair of tights, wherever she went piles of necklaces and several knuckleduster rings followed.

8. Coco avant Chanel, 2009

Audrey Tautou is perhaps the only actress worthy of the Coco avant Chanel role, for which she is rightly fêted. But Priceless (2006) is a much more entertaining film. Tautou plays a gold-digger who makes a terrible error and sleeps with an impoverished hotel worker.

He falls for her, and she punishes him for it by screwing him and his credit card for gifts from Azzaro, Chanel, the lot. Nasty, but devastatingly stylish.

9. Gone with the Wind, 1939

Vivien Leigh's Southern-belle accent was slightly wonky, but the graceful way she wore her antebellum wardrobe was impeccable.

The scene in which Mammy harnesses Scarlett's waist down to 18in inspired generations of sadistic fashion designers but we can't help loving those Walter Plunkett- designed ballgowns.

Nor could the women of 1939 -- the film launched many GWTW-inspired collections in stores across the world and continues to cast a crinolined shadow on the catwalks.

10. The Talented Mr Ripley, 1999

Marge Sherwood, played by Gwyneth Paltrow, has that '50s summer thing down pat.

The way she tied her crisp white blouses at the navel to reveal more than a peek of a gingham or polka-dot bikini top beneath, was nonchalant and knowing.

Her printed A-line skirts bounced along the cobbled street looking wholesome and pretty and they always matched the colour of Italian skies.

When she needed to, Sherwood became the vamp -- beautifully, courtesy of Hollywood costume maestro Ann Roth.

Irish Independent

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