Saturday, 22 March 2014

Movie and TV Reviews for Sixties Fashion

Ever since I bothered to learn how to record TV shows on our hard-disk-drive-thing-dvd-player, I've mostly been checking the TV guide for noon and midnight - the classic movie hours. Lots of lots of recorded titles still await my perusal, but I made sure to watch the 1960s ones first, in the hope of some hat inspiration. Since I watched them, I thought I'd share my thoughts with you.

Marriage on the Rocks (1965)

This is just the kind of classic movie I love. Implausable but entertaining plot, unlikely but witty dialogue, and charming characters. Accidental divorces and marriages, demanding children and crazy parents form the core of the plot. I enjoyed it immensely, and I'd recommend it happily to anyone else who likes their classic romantic comedies.

"I don't want a glass of water, I want a divorce."

Isn't this an amazing hat? It's a style you see a lot in the 1950s actually, and that brings us to something that is heavily highlighted in this movie - the generation gap. Val (Deborah Kerr) wears gorgeous fashions and looks stunning in them, but they do reflect the clothes of the previous decade strongly. Meanwhile daughter Tracy (Nancy Sinatra) wears younger styles, and hair ribbons, bands and bows instead of hats.

The generation gap shows in more than fashion. Val and Ernie (Dean Martin) dance at a club, and look quite uncomfortable but do their best to keep up with youngsters around them while Dan (Frank Sinatra) gets his clapping-along corrected by another club patron.

"Does this look like an apron?"

"You turned off the fight!"
"You won't miss it. There's going to be a doozy right here."

This polkadot turban is divine! It's on my mental to-do list. I was hoping to make it (or something similar) as part of the 1960s month, but other things took priority, and I knew I could visit turbans in a range of earlier eras.

Have a look at the original trailer on the TCM website and keep an eye out for this one.

Made in Paris (1966)

I had high hopes for a movie about a young fashion buyer on a trip to Paris for the couture shows. And as far as fashion goes, it doesn't disappoint. Beyond that, I can't say a lot in its favour. It had its moments, but at other times I was just rolling my eyes. I found the main character pretty unsympathetic, and there was one out-of-the-blue song, and a couple of almost-as-out-of-place dance numbers, I think inserted because the actress could sing and dance, rather than for any benefit to the movie.

So let's just talk about the fashion. This movie unquestionably focuses on the higher end of the fashion spectrum, and everyone in the movie dresses extremely well.

My favourite outfit by far is the pale grey wool ensemble worn by Maggie Scott (Ann-Margret) when she arrives at the company apartment in Paris. A tall grey helmet-hat with strap, and a grey coat with fur collar. Underneath is a grey sheath dress with fur trim at the hem.

The fictional fashion designer Marc Fontaine (Louis Jourdan) is central to the plot, but we only see a few outfits from one fashion showing. There was a lot to enjoy in these scenes though. Marc's comments to Maggie as the show is in progress are revealing and entertaining.  

"Don't buy it, it's only for the fashion magazines. It'll photograph beautifully, but it won't sell."

"The average buyer will be foolish enough to order it in colour. They give the women credit for very little taste."

Not just the models but the audience wear some lovely hats in the fashion show scene too. While you don't get a close look at most of them, you do often get a 360 degree view, and it's a fun source for little sparks of inspiration.

If this movie turns up on your TV screen one day, it's worth a watch, but I won't tell you to go chase it down. You can watch the trailer at the TCM website, and they also have a promo video with actor Richard Crenna that includes some of the fashion show, costume designer Helen Rose talking about the clothes and showing some of her sketches, and footage of Ann-Margret's wardrobe tests.

Love Child (2014)

Airing on Australian TV at the moment is the drama series Love Child. Set in Kings Cross in Sydney in 1969, it follows the struggles facing the unmarried pregnant teenagers staying at 'Stanton House' until they have and give up their babies and try to return to their former lives. Naturally it's not that simple.

I watched this show without high hopes, because anything seriously hyped by one of the commercial channels usually disappoints, but I've been enjoying it a lot.

Not from a hat standpoint, I must admit. The only (non-uniform) hat I've noticed is on Patty's old-fashioned mother when she comes to visit, be racist, and leave again.

The fashions, makeup and hairstyles are fun though. They are young, bright, and casual, really representing the other end of the spectrum from the above movies. Most of the characters are teenagers from middle-class backgrounds, there's a lot of bold colours and patterns and mini dresses.

I don't know what the future of the show will be, but I think it's worth a watch if you're in Australia. You can still catch some of the episodes online too, not sure if you have to be in Australia to do so (probably).

One of the things that has fascinated and frustrated me in my vintage hat research has been the variance between different sources. Finding images and having to work out where it fits into my schema of the fashions of the time. This fashion magazine image - would anyone normal really have worn it? This everyday photo - is this person actually on-trend and up-to-date or are they wearing something old-fashioned? This couture piece - was this even ever meant to be worn by a regular woman? And if so, who would have worn it? Celebrity? Middle class? Mature? Young? Sophisticated European lady? Country NSW famer's wife?

These movies and shows were great at showing fashions, but in very different ways. Love child shows mostly younger, cheaper, more casual clothes from a city far from the centres of fashion (but it's also a modern interpretation, so even then, I'm trusting their costume designer). Marriage on the Rocks show mature and young fashions, but still a high-end Hollywood version. And Made in Paris is all high-fashion, no mucking around with the everyday woman, whatever her age.

I'm going to be making a change to my original plans for the Hats of the Past blog series. These things always develop differently to the way you expect. I'm removing the arbitrary restriction of one month for an era. The 1960s will either finish next week or go on for one or two posts more (depending on what I make), and the 1950s is definitely going to take longer than one month. This will not only give me time to cover all the styles and stories I want to, but also make me feel I can fit in time to do a few other posts and projects when I want. The 1950s is not far off though, the research is going swimmingly, and I even have some family stories to share.


  1. In my youth, I would definitely have worn and loved the grey outfit, especially the helmet hat! Now i would still love the dress and coat, but would give the hemet a miss. Perhaps a wool/fur mix Siberian style hat instead.
    I like the catwalk coat, too.

    1. I can imagine you wearing that! And I agree, I wouldn't mind a dress and coat like it myself.

  2. That is an excellent point regarding the difficulty at times with pinning down especially precise dates for various styles - it rings true across the vintage spectrum (very, very much so often with jewelry, too). I think that one particularly good resource in that respect is mail order company/department store catalogs that would have been widely distributed amongst the general population, as the (often) budget-friendly items in them would haven been worn by many people that year and in the years immediately following it (so at the least, fashions in them can be tied to a relatively short window).

    ♥ Jessica

    1. That's a good point! I haven't looked at many catalogues, but I have one, and it is a great guide. I should look for some more. (Although I usually prefer the much less everyday styles!)


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