Friday, October 23, 2009

Gloves Need to Come Back in Style

While recently trying to figure out how to dress like Audrey Hepburn in Charade, I made a discovery. Nothing I could think up out of my own closet was anywhere near as elegant, and I could think of nothing to buy that would be either. Then, I made another discovery. There were two things that Audrey Hepburn had that I did not, and they were one glove on each hand. Well, to be literal, I do have one pair of vintage leather gloves in beige, but I would never wear them out because people would look at me like some kind of a freak. And that happens often enough as it is, thank you. Far be it from me to purposely attract that kind of attention.

But anyway, I tried on a few things with the gloves, and it made all the difference in the world. That is both a good thing and a bad thing, good because it means that not looking elegant can just be blamed on current fashion, but it's a bad thing because until gloves come back in style (if!), nobody can be impeccably well-dressed. Sadly, it doesn't seem likely, so to relieve my feelings I am blogging about it. (Be glad I'm not blogging about other feelings that could do with relieving.)
A few pictures:

The idea that certain aspects of vintage fashion would make us all look better dressed is not limited only to gloves. The list could go on and on. I can think of a few:
  • Skirts. Not that they are no longer worn, but they are worn far less often than they used to be. I don't really understand why...they are more flattering than pants, comfortable, and some guys have said they prefer them.
  • Hats. They add about as much to an outfit as gloves do, but they also add a lot to your face, if you choose the right ones. I cannot say much about hats; the fact that they are never worn except for winter, sports, or the beach makes me ill.
  • Suits for casual wear. Nowadays there is hardly any such thing as a casual suit, or a suit that looks casual even when it is. Last February, I bought a tweed suit for a completely ridiculously cheap price, but I have discovered that wearing it anywhere could only not look out of place unless I carry a sign saying "One-Girl Freak Show." So, I have not worn it once. I am quite sore about that.
  • Casual dresses. So easy to wear, so flattering, but almost nonexistant, or so it seems. Why can't people satisfy their desire for casualness by wearing dresses made out of casual fabric, instead of sacrificing all nice clothes??
  • Natural looking makeup. You don't see this very often among many "vintage revivalist" people--they exaggerate their makeup quite a lot--but genuine classic makeup looks are usually a dramatization of natural coloring. It looked like the way people really look, just more so. At least, that is true of the forties and fifties.
  • Stockings. Seamed or not, what a difference they make! Honestly, how many of us have pretty skin on our legs? I tend to have a few light bruises that pop out out of nowhere, and that's all it takes to look a bit ugly. Also, tights are far more popular than vintage style thigh-highs, which are impractical, but so much more comfortable. And God knows knee highs are too short for anything useful.
  • Medium-toned skin. I don't get some people's dedication to being pale to the point of being faintly blue, but it makes more sense than orange tans. And tanning was fashionable even as far back as the twenties, there was just more balance.
I am sure there are a lot of things you can add to this list. Please do! Or, better yet, write a post about it. Consider yourself tagged.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

A..Bad?...Picture of...Grace Kelly??

It sounds impossible, doesn't it? Her candids do not look bad:

Pictures of her on a bad hair day do not look bad:

Even when her arms look quite hairy she does not look bad:

Of all the pictures I have ever seen of Grace Kelly, none of them look bad...except one:

And the sad thing is, if I saw a picture of myself that looked like that, I would be happy. (Although I would rather wonder who snapped a photo of me...undoing my shirt?? Judging by the rest of the photos in this shoot, this red thing is a jacket or a heavy sweater, but it sure doesn't look like it here.) I am not doing this post out of disrespect for HSH, but because she was so beautiful any photo of her looking like an average person is bad compared to all the pictures of her looking like a goddess. Many such photos are ahead. Prepare yourself, because I need a pic spam fix baaaad.

Friday, October 16, 2009

James Dean

Male style icons are, in my opinion, more unique personalities than fantastically dressed people. Their clothes, ideas, and acting combine to form a non-fashion related style. James Dean is an awesome example of this. Few people are as hung up with dressing like him as they are with acting like him--but a closer look reveals that his clothes matched the attitude that made him so popular. What attitude exactly? A rebellious, modern, and vaguely dangerous one. Perhaps James Dean encouraged 1950s teenagers to be borderline delinquents, but he only had this effect because that is what they already were, and by being the same way, he validated their position and painted it as a legitimate way to be. He was a total glorified bad boy, but he always seemed to mean well. A sympathetic rebel, and that is how all rebels feel about themselves. No wonder he made such a hit with teenagers and still resonates today.

My real purpose is not to analyze the causes and effects of the James Dean phenomenon but to talk about his clothes and his image. Certainly you couldn't have expected a scholarly, unfrivolous post from this me. In the future, you should know better. Anyway, the easiest way to get my point across would be to do a pic spam, but that isn't at all sufficient or in-depth, so I shall try to write a paragraph for each picture and point out some things you might not have noticed, if I notice them myself (not likely). If you like this, please tell me, because if I get the feeling no one cares for this format, I won't do it very often.
"It takes 500 small details to add up to one favorable impression."
--Cary Grant

Here we see a lot of the elements that were part of Jimmy's persona. This picture was taken in some sort of art room or gallery and he is posing similarly to the statue on the table behind him, representative of his artistic side. It is also a very modern photo--it practically could have been taken yesterday--and the colors of Jimmy's clothes are an essential part of this. The combination of cool dark blue and white is very sleek, colors which also happen to be brought out by the color of the statue, the table, and the hazy background. If you have seen modern movies that take place in the past, something that keeps them from looking completely authentic is the tint of the film, which is often blue or gray in today's movies, but was yellowish seventy years ago. The blue tint here lends a very modern touch.

Here I see a distinct Brando resemblance around the mouth, but that is beside the point. Instead, notice the minimalist combination of brown and white, the leather rather than metal watch band, the lack of a tie, and the hair. The extremely messy polar opposite of your typical boy next door's hair. There is nothing precise or polished about this image. However, it has a similar quality as Grace Kelly's snow-covered volcano persona. Jimmy may be wearing a suit, but beneath it he is his sensual, untamed self.

The same contradiction is present here. Jimmy is wearing a suit in the same sleek brown and white, but the jacket's off and he's sitting on a hot car (hot in no small part because he's on it) with his hair messed up as usual. In so many pictures, the background color seems selected to set off the modern, clean colors of his clothing--in this picture, that is done by the cream car and the brown thing sticking up in the back. Also see the lace up boots, which add a rugged touch to the outfit.

This picture is hard to see, but it does show a few things. As elegant a shot as it may be, the modern coloring is all that saves Jimmy from looking like a near tramp. That and the fact that the clothes he is wearing are actually very nice...just wrinkled and very casually put together.

See the clean line of the black t-shirt, the contrast caused by the sunlight streaming through the odd curtains, the moody look, the unshaven face (you see that SO often now), and the messy eyebrows. He looks properly untouched up--but considering how different most men in the fifties were styled up for photos, this was probably a more offbeat shot. Have you ever seen Cary Grant this way? I haven't even seen Marlon Brando like this. I can't think of anybody famous before James Dean who posed so naturally--and by natural I mean without the dressings and stiffness of a typical movie star.

To finish it off, here are four photos of James Dean that I believe show four sides of his image that were important to his success:

The Tough Rebel

The No-Explanation-Necessary

The Vulnerable Little Boy Lost

And The Gorgeous Face

(the very, very gorgeous face)

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Classic Cinema Survey

These are my answers to the questions on Amanda Cooper's (From Noodle in a Haystack) survey. This is a lovely survey and I am honored to be filling it out!

1. What is your all-time favorite Clark Gable movie?

He's not someone whose movies I ever seek out, so I may have to settle with Gone with the Wind here, although it is certainly not one of my favorite movies in general.

2. Do you like Joan Crawford best as a comedienne or a drama-queen?

Drama Queen, definitely.

3. In your opinion, should Ginger Rogers have made more musicals post-Fred Astaire?

Yes, because if she had, she might not be so often referred to as "Fred and Ginger."

4. I promise not to cause you bodily (or any other serious) harm if you don't agree with me on this one. So please be honest: do you like Elizabeth Taylor? Hm?

No, not really, though I have tried. I just don't find her very sympathetic on screen, or in real life. It is encouraging to us bump-beaked girls, however, that she should be considered such a phenomenal beauty and have a small bump on her nose.

5. Who is your favorite offscreen Hollywood couple?

Probably Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

6. How about onscreen Hollywood couple?

Audrey Hepburn and Cary Grant. I love all their funny lines in Charade, particularly:

Grant: Oh, you should see your face.
Hepburn: What's the matter with it?
Grant: It's lovely.

7. Favorite Jean Arthur movie?

Well, I've only seen one, Too Many Husbands, and I didn't like it.

8. What was the first Gregory Peck movie you saw?

Roman Holiday

9. What film made you fall in love with Alfred Hitchcock? (And for those of you that say, "I don't like Hitchcock" -- what is wrong with you?!)


10. What is your favorite book-to-movie adaption?

East of Eden, however, I have not read the book, so I cannot fully judge.

11. Do you prefer Shirley Temple as a little girl or as a teenager?

Little girl, absolutely.

12. Favorite character actor?

Perhaps Agnes Moorehead; Shirley Maclaine if she counts.

13. Favorite Barbara Stanwyck role?

Double Indemnity

14. Who is your favorite of Cary Grant's leading ladies?

Audrey Hepburn

15. Bette Davis or Joan Crawford?

Joan Crawford, but I don't like either of them. I am seriously choosing Joan because I love some of her shoes from the 1930s. And because of this picture:

16. What actors and/or actresses do you think are underrated?

Most of 'em except the obvious iconic ones. Among the classic film community, I would say Natalie Wood

17. What actors and/or actresses do you think are overrated?

Marilyn Monroe, especially by her genuine fans. No one can say she didn't have her charms, but she has practically been canonized--only by some people, but still. I infinitely prefer her in her Norma Jeane years.

18. Do you watch movies made pre-1980 exclusively, or do you spice up your viewing-fare with newer films?

I watcher modern films too, but not too often.

19. Is there an actor/actress who you have seen in a film and immediately loved? If so, who?

Ava Gardner after seeing Mogambo, but it didn't last long.

20. Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire?


21. Favorite Ginger Rogers drama?

Considering that I have only seen half of Stage Door and none of her other nonmusical movies, I cannot say.

22. If you wrote a screenplay, who would be in your dream cast and what roles would they play? (Mixing actors and actresses from different generations is allowed: any person from any point in their career.)

I would have a sort of Little Women-esque drama transposed to the nineteen forties and made a lot more glamorous with Audrey Hepburn and Natalie Wood as sisters, Grace Kelly as their mother, Cary Grant as their father, Montgomery Clift and Paul Newman as their future husbands, and Rita Hayworth as their perpetual friend in need.

23. Favorite actress?

Natalie Wood, then Audrey Hepburn.

25. Favorite actor?

Montgomery Clift, sometimes James Dean is a near second.

26. And now, the last question. What is your favorite movie from each of these genres:

Drama: East of Eden or From Here to Eternity

Romance: Splendor in the Grass or An Affair to Remember

Musical: My Fair Lady

Comedy: Bringing up Baby

Western: I never watch westerns because I generally hate them. Perhaps the only one I've ever seen that I enjoyed is High Noon.

Hitchcock (he has a genre all to himself): Spellbound