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Costume Cuts: Thoughts on Fashion and Film

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[Enjoy this second post from Fashionaddict. We back dated this quite a bit, and are really happy to put it up now. Fashionaddict has been musing about other films to write about in regards to fashion. Any suggestions? Put them in the comments below. I vote for Secretary and Blade Runner – SC]

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Award winning costume designer Albert Wolsky dressed Kate Winslet in beautiful 50’s dresses

I watched “Revolutionary Road” recently, and found myself distracted by the clothes, which were beautiful (along with the cinematography actually). I can never decide if this is a good thing. Is it too much of a distraction from the film itself, or does it enhance the whole movie-going experience? In the case of “Revolutionary Road”, I would say it bordered on taking away from the film, because it created a scrubbed, shiny nostalgic feel that I find annoying in period movies, especially those set in the 1950s. (Let’s leave aside the argument of whether this was intended as a contrast to the characters’ messy inner lives.)

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Great 70’s style in Milk. Check out those tight, high-waisted jeans!

When do film costumes work for me? “Milk” to me, is a sublime example of good costume design in a film – it was cool, stylish, but also authentic. The clothes got dirty, rumpled, worn out, they looked like they belonged to people. “The Hours” also looked good to me, with sweat stains in the right places, and clothes looked the part. They ceased to be costumes and became clothes.

To extend this to television, I always thought “Friends” did a great job with the costumes, because everyday contemporary fashion is so hard to get right – what is “normal everyday stuff”; and how to do you balance this with the personalities of the character, and how do you make sure none of this becomes a “fashion moment” because “fashion moments” on a show like “Friends” seems a bit irrelevant. The fuss about Rachel’s hair, for instance, was a bit annoying. “The Gilmore Girls” got a bit unrealistic when the characters started to dress better and better and there were too many Marc by Marc Jacobs coats and dresses for its own good.

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Friends: The look of the 90’s.

On other hand, some films are meant to set a style statement. “Marie Antoinette” is a good example, from the Blahnik heels to the soundtrack, as was “The Darjeeling Limited”, with the Marc Jacobs luggage. “Far From Heaven” had saturated, polished clothes that made a visual impact for the film and its message. Stylised is a good thing in these movies.

It’s such a fine line. I can’t exactly place what made it so that Revolutionary Road didn’t quite hit the right note, but when it comes to these things, when something is discordant, it strikes you like a hammer.

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Visual feast of Sophia Coppola’s Marie Antoinette

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Fashionaddict is a journalist from Singapore who muses about fashion in her spare time on her blog. When not working (rarely) or expounding about fashion, she reads, eats, travels, and works out to let off steam.

This article was first posted on the original Arteri site on 5 June, 2009.

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