fashion in movies/tv shows

You Can Judge a Book By Its Cover: Hanna Marin’s Rosewood Jacket in Pretty Little Liars

It was agreed, that my endeavours should be directed to persons and characters supernatural, or at least romantic, yet so as to transfer from our inward nature a human interest and a semblance of truth sufficient to procure for these shadows of imagination that willing suspension of disbelief for the moment, which constitutes poetic faith.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Biographia Literaria (1817)

Most of supernatural literature and cinema is based on “that willing suspension of disbelief” Coleridge referred to while explaining the differences between the goal of his poetry, in contrast with Wordsworth’s. As a viewer/reader, you are willing to believe in something which doesn’t exist in real life and enjoy it. The same trick is true for fictional situations which are apparently more common: think of Carrie Bradshaw, a columnist who is not wealthy, doesn’t even own the flat she lives in but can afford an incredible collection of designer shoes, clothes and accessories. This is very true when it comes to Marlene King’s Pretty Little Liars, the ABC tv show based on books by Sara Shepard. The mystery which the whole show is based on (what happened to the Queen Bee Alison DiLaurentis?) is not original [1] but it perfectly works. Huge doses of suspension of disbelief are needed to watch PLL, which I think is one of the reasons why it is so captivating and funny; the over-the-top adventures of the four protagonists and their outfits mustn’t be questioned, otherwise all the fictional building would crumble.

Take Hanna Marin’s recent “metamorphosis” (it’s more a personality crisis): the once-chubby and dorky Hanna Banana/Hefty Hanna, turned into a glamourous shoplifter at the beginning of the show, is now supposed to show her rebel side. The return of Ali into her life has crushed her certainties and now she doesn’t know who she is. The symbol of this is the over-decorated denim jacket she often wears.

normal_0434This change in style has been hailed by fans as “grungy” and “rock”, which is totally ridiculous. It’s true Hanna is currently sporting a different, scruffier style, but it’s far from expressing a plausible teenage angst. After all, Hanna’s rebellion includes drinking some alcohol, getting black highlights à la Christina Aguilera circa 2002/2003 and eating fried food, namely nothing socially unacceptable.


“Ray Won’t Let Me Wear My Glasses!”: Crystal’s Style in Susan Seidelman’sDesperately Seeking Susan

Everyone has got at least one or a couple of films which have changed his/her life. You know, one of those films which leave a permanent mark on your memory and almost contribute in making the person you are today. In my case, the list is pretty endless, but Susan Seidelman’s Desperately Seeking Susan (1985) is firmly sitting in the top 10 since the first time I saw it (around 1988, I think). All the elements of this romantic comedy have been carefully dissected by bloggers and film critics, especially the locations (symbols of an alternative/punk-y New York) and the style of the two protagonists, Rosanna Arquette as Roberta and Madonna as Susan. The Madonna-mania was about to reach its peak and the film incredibly boosted the singer’s popularity: if you tell me you’ve never dreamt of being Susan [1], I won’t believe you. Her short jacket with the golden pyramid embroidery on the back, her studded booties and stolen Egyptian earrings are still in my wish-list, along with all the garments worn by my favourite character, Crystal (Anna Levine Thomson). She’s Susan’s friend, a good-hearted girl who works at the Magic Club as the assistant of an illusionist.vlcsnap-2014-07-09-01h05m00s19

vlcsnap-2014-07-08-23h59m08s171She makes her first appearance during a show. She’s clumsy and receives disappointed looks by the illusionist she works with. The cause of her clumsiness is her short-sightedness: Crystal can’t see a thing without her glasses, but the club boss, Ray (John Turturro), doesn’t want her to wear glasses on stage. In this scene, she’s wearing a dusty mauve tulle and lace costume – strapless, tiered skirt, the waist chinched by a matching belt. She’s also wearing a platinum blonde wig, a satin ribbon as choker, pink stockings and mary-janes.

“And I Had to Wear Last Season’s Miu Mius:” Unexpected Designer Pieces in Orange is the new black (2nd season)

Today a Twitter friend of mine linked me an interesting article by Megan Angelo about the rise of anti-fashion tv shows like Orange is the New Black, in opposition to the super-fashion shows like Gossip Girl and Sex and the City, which stirred every fashionista’s wet dreams some years ago. The setting and the plot of the show created by Jenji Kohan don’t leave much space to variety and fantasy, yet the costume designer Jennifer Rogien has recently explained how she succeeded in customizing every inmate uniform so as to let their personalities shine through. Noticing subtle details in the orange or khaki uniforms is certainly fascinating, but my fashion-lover heart doesn’t beat for those. Gorgeous fashion can’t turn a mediocre tv show or film into something good, but if the show is extremely good (as in the case of Orange is the New Black), some designer fashion hints can definitely spice things up. These were totally missing in the first season, but in the second one we were given three fantastic and totally unexpected moments [1].

oitnb_morello_prada.jpgThe first two designer pieces appear in the 4th episode, A Whole Other Hole. One of the most intriguing sub-plots of the show are the flashbacks with which we learn the reason why a character is in jail. In this episode the flashback is about Lorna Morello (Yael Stone), the romantic inmate who always wears a bright red lipstick. She ran a mail scam ordering items online and receiving them, but calling the companies claiming they never arrived. She’s a compulsive shopper who can’t resist the charm of designer clothes and accessories.

“She Was Burnt In a Fire:” Agatha’s Leather Gloves in David Cronenberg’s Maps To The Stars

I’ve seldom experienced the unique and eerie feeling of being “called” by a movie. It happens when you’re not particularly interested in a film, but there’s something in it, something suddenly appealing and compelling which forces you to go to the cinema and get lost in it. It’s recently happened to me with the latest work by David Cronenberg, Maps to the Stars, based on the novel Dead Stars by Bruce Wagner [1].

It’s a wild and sad story of people lost in a sun-scorched Hollywood where self-promotion, money and celebrity hide dark (disturbing family secrets and addictions) and eerie aspects (ghosts from the past haunting the present and pushing the protagonists to the limit). The character who has caught my attention is Agatha Weiss (Mia Wasikowska): she appears out of nowhere into the lives of the limousine driver/actor/aspiring screenwriter Jerome Fontana (Robert Pattinson) and of the troubled actress Havana Segrand (Julianne Moore). She shares the same obsession with celebrity which drives all the other characters, but her appearance reveals a different story. Agatha is a freak, like those of the 1932 Todd Browning film: one side of her face is covered in scars (the remains of a fire she started in her family house) and the same can be said for her décolletage, arms, hands, chest and legs, which she always keeps hidden. The make-up-less face and her childish bob haircut add jarring notes.

maps-to-the-stars-img04Her style is minimalistic: she wears loose t-shirts in neutral shades (black, heather grey) and a black top underneath, black leggings as tights and flat strappy sandals. She wears an aubergine skirt and a black bandage dress only once – the latter in a very important scene. The most striking elements of her outfits are obviously the black leather gloves [2] she never takes off.


“Don’t Give Shoes to Somebody You Love, or They’ll Use Them to Run Away:” The Fascination of Saddle Shoes

I’ve only had two shoe obsessions in my life – Converse Chuck Taylor All Star hi-tops and mary-jane flats – but I’ve recently added a new one: saddle shoes. Reminiscent of the decades in which they were trendy (the 1940s but especially the 1950s), they still keep their naïve charm intact, especially when they are part of an outfit which hints at the past. It’s not a case that characters from movies and tv shows have often worn them, thus fueling that nostalgic current which people like me are so passionate about.

audreyhorne_saddleshoes (2)The first character wearing saddle shoes that comes to my mind is the femme fatale Audrey Horne (Sherilyn Fenn), the naughty yet nice schoolgirl from David Lynch’s tv masterpiece Twin Peaks. She wears them with prim and proper outfits (crew neck sweaters in pastel colours and pleated plaid or pencil skirts), thus highlighting the “good girl” impression she wants to give.

“May I?”: Ava’s Wrist-Length Gloves in Jim Jarmush’s Only Lovers Left Alive

There was a time (early/mid 2000s, I think) in which I was obsessed with a fashion accessory: gloves. My spirit guides were Carrie Bradshaw and May Welland: though totally different, the protagonist of Sex and the City and one of the main female characters of Martin Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence had something in common – beautiful gloves and a peculiar grace in wearing them. At the time, I bought some lovely vintage pieces on eBay (which I’m still very proud of), but I haven’t worn them as much as I would. Using leather or embellished gloves in everyday life is unpractical, but the old flame has been rekindled after watching the latest film by Jim Jarmush, Only Lovers Left Alive.

The film speaks of a couple of vampires, Eve and Adam (Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston), beautiful and damned jet-setters who live in Tangier and Detroit, respectively. Their quiet dandy secluded lives are distrupted by Ava (Mia Wasikowska), Eve’s younger sister who lives in Los Angeles. Bina Daigeler, the film’s costume designer, did a gorgeous job with this character. Ava is a rebel who wants to enjoy life and the advantages of being a vampire in the 21st century; her style totally mirrors this attitude. I will show you all her outfits, but first let’s focus on her lovely wrist-length gloves.

vlcsnap-2014-03-27-01h12m25s168Gloves have a specific function in the film: according to the director, they are his contribution to the “mythology of vampire films, which is a cumulative thing,” (the reference is to fangs, holy water, no reflections on mirrors, threshold-crossing and sparkling skin in the sun). “We added in these leather gloves that they wear when they’re outside of their habitat,” he explained. “Why? Cause we had something that was ours that we invented. And we thought it looked really cool.” Asking the host to remove one’s gloves (hence the title of this post) doesn’t seem to have a specific function, though; probably it’s only a courtesy. Obviously Eve and Adam wear gloves, too, but Ava’s are the most interesting ones. We see them in detail in the scene set in a Detroit bar where the White Hills are performing.

“Balenciaga!”: Five Style Picks from American Horror Story: Coven Finale

After 13 episodes, Miss Robichaux’s Academy for Exceptional Young Ladies finally has a new Supreme and has found its peace heading to new, rosy future. The finale of American Horror Story: Coven ends on a happy note, even if it’s been filled with an endless number of gruesome events (multiple deaths, tortures, mutilations). Unfortunately, most of the storylines haven’t been given the right emphasis; too many stories have lead to a confused, sometimes sloppy, plot, but one must give the show credit for being – style-wise – incredibly appealing. Lou Eyrich, the show’s costume designer, has done an excellent job in revisiting the main elements of the witch aesthetics and adapting them to the personalities of the characters.

There are many noteworthy outfits in this season, but I’d like to focus on the last episode only, which has really brought the fashion game to a higher level. So these are my five style picks from The Seven Wonders.

vlcsnap-2014-01-30-22h57m01s74The first 3 minutes are a lovely homage to Stevie Nicks, whose music and style have been one of the main inspiration for the series creator Ryan Murphy. She’s the spirit guide of Misty Day (Lily Rabe), the fascinating witch from the swamps, and she makes her appearance twice [1]. At the beginning of this episode, the black-clad singer walks through the golden-lit rooms of the academy and wishes the girls (Misty, Queenie, Madison and Zoe) good luck: they are about to undergo the tests of the Seven Wonders [2] and find out who the new Supreme is. The girls show their respect and admiration by wearing a fringed shawl, Stevie’s trademark accessory. Definitely one of the best moments.