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The Rise of the Fashion Film

When I started this blog in 2008 I would’ve never written about film. I’m the first to admit that I know nothing about the film industry, aside from what I’ve learnt flicking through Little White Lies magazine. It just eludes me. However, as we move into 2014 it’s impossible for me to ignore the prevalence, and importance, of the ‘fashion film’.

The theme of this year’s Costume Society study day was “Shooting Style: Fashion on Screen”. Both Nathaniel Beard and Pamela Church Gibson emphasised the importance of this medium. Nathanial presented footage of early fashion films, whereas Pamela gave an overview of its evolution and current examples. (My friend Lori tweeted throughout the conference, and put together this brilliant Storify thread of the day).

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Fear and Clothing

When I tell people that I study the History and Culture of Fashion I experience everything from eye-rolling to audible snorts of derision. I’m not pretending that I’m studying medicine, aerospace engineering or quantum physics. I’m choosing to study a cultural phenomenon, and writing about it as a scholar. Of course I do understand, and anticipate, this reaction to the “F” word. It’s just clothes, right? How can clothes mean anything? The term “fashion” has so many definitions and the industry encompasses so many disciplines – journalism, buying, visual merchandising, PR, retail, designing, modelling – that for those who don’t understand the business of fashion it’s difficult to shake the image of Lady Gaga out of people’s heads.

I think people scorn fashion because it seems frivolous and unimportant. At the beginning of the documentary The September Issue, Anna Wintour tells the interviewer, “I think what I often see it that people are frightened about fashion; because it scares them or makes them feel insecure they just put it down. On the whole, people that say demeaning things about our world I think that’s usually because they feel, in some ways, excluded or, you know, not a part of ‘the cool group’, so as a result they just mock it…There is something about fashion that can make people really nervous.” Later Wintour explains that her siblings, one of whom is political editor of The Guardian, Patrick Wintour, think that what she does is, “very silly”.

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