Thursday, October 2, 2008

Hollywood Sets the Trend

Hollywood reflecting the fashion of its day or inspiring the fashion of its day is rather like a chicken/egg scenario. It’s sometimes difficult to know what came first.

In some cases, Hollywood ruled the day, as in the famous “It Happened One Night” (1932) example where Clark Gable removed his shirt when undressing for bed and ta-daa! Gasp! He wasn’t wearing an undershirt! Manufacturers and retailers of men’s underwear shuddered as sales dropped for undershirts.

We can also point to Sonja Henie and her fabulous white skates. White boots for girls’ figure skates is so standard now that we may forget that when ice skates made that first amazing transformation from just the kind you clamp onto your shoe to the kind that has its own built-in boot, they were all brown or black no matter if the skate was for a male or a female. Sonja Henie’s white skates, her trademark, changed the industry and fashion for skates.

Women’s pants were made acceptable by the Hollywood stars which adopted them in private life, even if they were not seen in many films.

Reportedly, colored shirts for men in public was the result of John Gilbert’s attending a party without changing the shirt he wore for shooting at the studio that day, which was blue. Photographers and graphic artists out there will know that light blue photographs lighter and softer than white in black and white photography. A white shirt will cause more glare from the lights, but a soft blue absorbs the glare and photographs as white. Apparently if John Gilbert can wear a colored shirt to a party, it must be the thing to do.


Anonymous said...

People look at films and are influenced to change their behavior, and I'll bet gimmicks like these in films reflect some previous or developing trend in real life. And those trends were likely inspired by some development in art...which were inspired by something happening in real life which...

Like you write, chicken/egg.

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

I wonder if filmgoers are as influenced today by current films as they seem to have been in the past?

Anonymous said...

With movie viewing a more temporary experience through cable, DVD, and delivered almost instantly to something as disposable as a cellphone that's a good question. However, if movies didn't continue to influence filmgoers and predict purchasing behavior then I don't think companies would waste the advertising dollars on product placement that seems to intrude on the mise en scène in many a recent flick. Have you noticed any specific trends? I wonder if a film historian has written a book on this? If not, how about it Jacqueline?

Jacqueline T. Lynch said...

A fascinating subject, but as for noticing trends, I am so firmly ensconced in TCM that the latest flick at the cineplex is a strange and unfamiliar world to me. I haven't noticed any trends, but that's not saying much.

Young men seem to be enormous fans of video games, and the action movies geared to that demographic look almost like video games. Young women and girls, I'm not so sure. Does the popularity of "Sex and City" spur offshoot products? Or, does the TV show just recommend the movie and the movie recommend the TV show? Kids' movies, now that's a different story. Nothing but character merchandizing, which evidently must be very lucrative.

But the adults? I can recall a generation ago "Annie Hall" making a huge impact on fashion and retail clothing. Yet when about a decade ago "Titantic" made such a hit with teenage girls, did that spur any interest in Edwardian clothing or jewelry? I think it just made a hit single for Celine Dion.

Being so out of the loop when it comes to current fads, I don't think I'm equal to a book on the topic. Therefore, I make a lateral pass to my teammate, you.

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