Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Fashion and Film: Coco Before Chanel

Posted By on 09.23.09 at 05:25 PM

It's been a good couple of months if you like both movies and fashion. We had The September Issue, a contemporary look at this world (minus the havoc that the financial crisis hath wrought since it was filmed), and on October 9 for us out here in flyover country we'll have Coco Before Chanel, a biopic of the legendary designer's early years and nascent career.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but from previews and clips I've been impressed by how much Audrey Tautou has been made to resemble Chanel, who was not conventionally beautiful. However, I have to agree with Anthony Lane, who noted in his review for the New Yorker that the woman who played the spritely Amelie lacks the essential "adamantine hardness" of the famously acerbic designer.

But I quibble. The real test will be the portrayal of the development of Chanel's legendary style, which helped usher in relaxed, comfortable clothing for women in place of stiff Edwardian dresses and froufrou hats.

In the following clip, Chanel wears an outfit she's fashioned by chopping up the suit of her wealthy lover:


The contrast between Chanel's pared-down aesthetic and the fussy styles of the day is highlighted in the next clip, as she gazes at women stuffed into lace dresses and corsets—at the beach, no less:


Finally, we see the designer in her famous white-and-black jacket (so influential it's still endlessly copied today) and pearls, seeing a bevy of mannequins in her revolutionary designs down the staircase at her atelier:

It'll be refreshing to see a glimpse of a time when fashion was genuinely exciting and revolutionary—unlike today. It's something that probably can't happen again, as we have fewer rules to break. Maybe nudity, but even that's been done.

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