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Book Review: Fashion In Film

By Miles Watts | 13th October 2016

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I confess to having a terrible coffee table habit. Not the kind involving twenty pound notes and celebrity sherbet; rather the irresistible urge to seek out and purchase hefty tomes for said table… and surrounding shelves. These books are normally film related if I have anything to do with it.

There are many ways into the study and appreciation of film, from the in-depth behind the scenes Making of Star Wars books by J.W. Rinzler to the recent 30th anniversary celebrations of 80s movies like Ghostbusters and Back to the Future, with rare photos, scripts and prop photos. One book I have - The Making of Indiana Jones - has a section on Anthony Powell’s gloriously lavish costumes from The Temple of Doom, which always got me thinking about how under-represented the field of film costumes is.

Costumes - whether subtle (the anchors on the Mayor’s jacket in Jaws versus landlubber Chief Brody’s more sandy, beach-bound tones) or not-so-subtle (anything in Moulin Rouge) - play an enormous part in the tone and telling of a cinematic story, and in this new book Fashion In Film, author Christopher Laverty, who has for years been featured in books and programmes via his Clothes on Film site and his contributions to books about Wes Anderson, shares his passion for the thousands of costumes festooned across the last century of film.

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In his introduction, Laverty ruminates on whether fashion in movies does actually exist, since these are costumes rather than catwalk trends. But of course film in many ways is fashion, and whether the movies are timeless or dated, they are most assuredly of a time and place, therefore of a certain clothing designer. So here, the author picks his favourites and groups them together not by year or director but, quite rightly, by designer. The results of this tricky feat are never less than a fascinating cornucopia of films familar and unusual: here, Audrey Hepburn affiliate Hubert de Givenchy is showcased with films as different as Breakfast At Tiffany’s and Moonraker: both stylish but with one perhaps not quite so revered as the other.

90s powerhouse Nino Cerruti’s section details three big glossy movies he worked on: Pretty Woman, Indecent Proposal and In The Line of Fire, with their clean-lined, serious suits, while Ralph Lauren is represented by The Great Gatsby (1974), Annie Hall and Manhattan: two of course by Woody Allen but three more differently styled films by one costumer you couldn’t hope to find.

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My favourite page in this entire book, among many, is page 55, which contrasts a photograph of Cybill Shepherd in Taxi Driver - wearing a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress - with Amy Adams in American Hustle in a similar-ish wrap dress: two films decades apart but reaching towards each other through the years. It is this kind of comparison that makes for such a fun read and identifies the author’s very personal obsession with fashion in film. That’s how people love movies: sporadically, randomly but with a common thread (no pun intended).

Put simply, it doesn’t matter how many coffee table books you have on fashion or on film: this one is essential, and delightful, and beautiful.

Fashion In Film is available by clicking the link below.

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