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Aug 9, 2011

"The September Issue" + fashion movie faves!

Between last week's tulle-athon and this week's stock market crisis, I've been needing to chill, and there's nothing that relaxes me more than popping a video in my DVD-drive and watching a good fashion flick.

I've always had a thing for movies centered on the fashion world.  Of course Funny Face is a favorite, starring an impossibly chic Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, and featuring gorgeous French scenery, fabulous Givenchy gowns, Gershwin songs, plus appearances by legendary Fifties models Suzy Parker and Dovima!

The opening number, "Think Pink," is a knock-out -- wonderful, campy fun!

Less entertaining, but still essential viewing, is the 1944 film adaptation of the musical Lady in the Dark, which I wrote about a long time ago here.  Ginger Rogers isn't really right for the role of a repressed fashion magazine editor undergoing psychoanalysis, but the forties clothes and lush technicolor are superb.

Another fashion movie fave is Maghogany starring Diana Ross, from the early 70's.  It's a mess of a film, but full of fabulous Seventies fashion and campy, over-the-top performances.   It's best known, perhaps, for the song "Do You Know Where You're Going To?" (see video below)

Anyway, just look what I picked up at the library yesterday!

I'd been wanting to see The September Issue, the 2009 documentary about Vogue Editor-in-Chief Anna Wintour, for some time.  I don't know too much about Coco Before Chanel starring Audrey Tatou. but the reviews on Amazon are largely positive ones.  Have you seen it?

I also found the first three seasons of Mad Men -- I've never seen a single episode!  I know that's not about fashion per se, but it certainly has had an effect on the contemporary fashion world (and inspires many a vintage sewing blog).

Last night I watched The September Issue and I found it fascinating.  One hears so much about how awful Anna Wintour is (especially in The Devil Wears Prada -- a rotten film) but I actually found her likable here, though clearly not as warm as Vogue Creative Director Grace Coddington.  Wintour is obviously driven to put out the best magazine possible and is under a great deal of pressure to perform -- which she does, month after month.  There were many moments when I sensed that beneath Wintour's chilly facade there's a complicated, sympathetic human being with a lot of -- excuse the pun -- issues.

The September Issue is glamorous (as you might expect), compelling, and fair.  Fashion is a tough business and you don't rise to the top of it by being a soft touch -- which definitely comes across in the film. 

In closing, friends, what are some of your favorite fashion movies?

Anything that changed your view of fashion -- or even your personal style?

Anyone out there seen Who Are You, Polly Magoo?

Have a great day, everybody!


  1. "Three Coins in the Fountain" with Dorothy Maguire has wonderful costumes and scenery. It's pure fluff and silliness, but the frocks make it worth while.

  2. Was it Karl Largerfeld in The September Issue that was outspoken and rather condescending about the people who buy reduced in price haute couture fashion? I was really offended by his comment.

  3. Coco avant Chanel is really interesting, but Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky is also great. It's a more stylized film - even the wallpaper is beautiful!

  4. I found the September Issue fascinating (what I could hear of it as I saw it at a mother and baby Scream session at the cinema). Anna Wintour is clearly a little miffed by the perception that because she works in fashion, that what she does is frivolous, whereas she's actually an incredibly influential player in a huge industry.

  5. I love Mad Men. I borrowed it from the library after I had read all of Tom and Lorenzo's commentary, which made the shows even more interesting. Their analyses of the semiotic of the costumes in each episode were brilliant. I'm still on my library's waitlist for season 4. Right now I'm watching Upstairs Downstairs for the first time- it was on TV during a period of my life when I wasn't paying any attention to TV. I'm loving it, and I'm loving the costumes.

  6. I have seen all of these movies and documentaries within the past year and enjoyed them all! 'Mahogany' was a bit hard to get through as the acting was pretty poor.

    I watched 'Hello Frisco, Hello' yesterday. There was some great costuming. I got a kick out of the fact that is was supposed to be in the 1890's but both leading actresses clearly were wearing their hair in 1940's styles.

    I think you will LOVE Mad Men....and may even get a huge crush on Don Draper aka. Jon Hamm. I know I do!!!

  7. It's true, I do need to watch more old films. I went to an exhibition of Marilyn Munroe's clothes recently and was surprised how taken I was with all the glamour. It might sound a bit odd but I think Bladerunner might be my selection. It's got that dark dystopian retrofuture thing going on, but the costumes also have a glamourous 40s noir-ishness.

  8. I'll have to check out your movie recommendations! Coco Avant Chanel made me want to make a striped jersey.

    My 2 favorite fashion movies are Mad Max Beyond the Thunderdome and Ironman 2. I need to see Mad Max again, I think. Every time I see anyone dressed in Steampunk, I always think of Mad Max.

    I'm still on for MPB Day on Saturday. I'm really looking forward to it.

  9. In "Avant Chanel" it was very interesting to see how her earlier life experiences informed her aesthetic. "Valentino The Last Emporer" and "Marc Jacobs & Louis Vuitton" by Loic Prigent are great films. There is a wonderful french documentary "Signe Chanel" that is fascinating, subtitled and all over Youtube.

  10. "Casino." I love Robert De Niro's suits.

  11. An Education with Carey Mulligan
    The Women with Norma, Joan & Rosalind
    Dark Victory with Bette Davis
    Imitation of Life with Lana Turner
    Lady Sings the Blues
    Any 70's film with Pam Grier and Tamara Dobson. I don't watch them for the acting.

  12. I just watch Coco Before Chanel a few days ago and absolutely loved it, then today I watched Coco Chanel and Igor Stravinsky, which, in a stroke of luck, happens to pick up right where Coco Before Chanel left off. I'd suggest watching them right after another.

    Audrey Tatou is a fantastic actress, one of my favorites, and I think she really does well with the daunting task of portraying a fashion icon.

  13. I also agree that Valentino the Last Emporer is worth watching. It is a documentary similar to the September Issue that shows behind the scenes of a successful contemporary fashion business. It also points out how this market has changed drastically.

  14. Coco Avant Chanel is very French. I think I wasn't quite in the mood for it when I saw it. It was fine, but not great for me (except the wonderful last scene where she is sending her models out onto the runway).

    Valentino, The Last Emperor is great! The editing is truly perfect.

    I really need to get around to watching Mad Men...

  15. I saw The September Issue and I agree with you that it was both fascinating and very sympathetic to Anna Wintour. Truthfully, I think that most high-level people have some detachment with reality and once they get really good at their jobs, they lose some of the ability to interact socially. I've heard of bad behavior from male CEOs that is far worse than anything in The Devil Wore Prada -- I read the book, by the way, it is much better than the movie.

    As far as the movies that inspire me sartorially:
    Scott Pilgrim vs the World
    Firefly (TV show) and Serenity (movie)
    The Crow
    Secretary (with James Spader)
    The Imaginarium of Dr. Parnassus
    and more recently, Sucker Punch

  16. Wow-lots of my favorites here already....but I would add Dangerous Liasons. It is a fantastic portrayal of 18th century fashion, and it seems that time period never goes out of style for fashion inspiration. I haven't seen Marie yet; heard it was a bad movie, with gorgeous fashion. I haven't seen Mad Men yet either!

  17. I rewatch the TV series The House of Eliott every couple of years - it's set in a couture dressmaking establishment, in the 1920s. What's not to like?!

  18. OH, this is a very pleasant walk down memory lane for me. I was allowed to go to the movies with a friend every Saturday afternoon. I was 8 and it was in the late 50s. Three Coins In A Fountain was one that I do remember seeing. And, although I can't remember all the names of the movies, I do remember the fashions, the exquisite details that were a part of that era. (I also fell in love with the Jaguar) At 8, Edith Head was my idol. I would anxiously watch for her to win at the Oscars; which she usually did.

    My mother took me downtown to see Imitation of Life with Lana Turner. An excellent story and a real tear jerker, but it was too grown up for me to see alone. I remember being taken aback with all the men shamelessly crying as they came out of the theater. The fashions were gloriously sublime. I remember each and every one of them. If you haven't seen it, you should try it. Just make sure you have a full tissue box handy! Oh, and a sketching pad.

  19. Yes, yes -- your assessment of the September Issue is perfect. Another wonderful documentary treatment of fashion is Signe Chanel which you can watch on youtube. A great look inside the House of Chanel under Lagerfeld. There is much focus on the women who make the clothes and their struggle to realize his vision. Fascinating. I believe there are 8 episodes -- a bit of a pain on youtube, but worth it. Mad Men is fun, but meh, I'm not as smitten as many.

  20. How about "Roman Holiday" with Audrey Hepburn. Another movie that comes to mind is "The Matrix". The plot made no sense but the costumes were good.

  21. Peter! How can you forget "Designing Woman" with Lauren Bacall and Gregory Peck?

  22. I literally saw Funny Face for the first time over the weekend, which I'm a little ashamed to say, as I class myself as a BIG musicals fan. My lord, what amazing sets, clothes & dance numbers. I particularly loved the montage when they're shooting all the photos around Paris for the magazine. Anything with Fred Astaire is a win in my book!

  23. @couturearts - do you think Peter and Don (from Urbandon) could team up to do a Mad Max themed sew-along? Perhaps a floral chiffon wiggle dress with a leather-and-brass holster for a sawn-off faux-shotgun, and matching bodice and legbrace for the cattledog? I love Mad Max - much of it was filmed in the streets around my house, before they disappeared under suburbia.

    My pick for fashion movie would be Edward Scissorhands. I love the dress Ryder wears in the closing "Ice Dance" scene, and Depp's costume is fantastic. I hate losing my thread nippers - wouldn't it be great if they were that...handy?

  24. My favorite fashion movies....all the Doris Day movies in which Edith Head did her costumes. I remember one full swing coat with a huge (gasp) fur collar and cuffs, wowie! I agree with vintagegal, Dangerous Liasons had wonderful costumes. And I love to watch period TV on BBC, British costumers are to die for. I, too, loved Coco before Chanel, and have to look for Chanel and Stravinsky on Netflix.

  25. I have Coco before Chanel - I'm sure you will love it, Peter. I'm also among the legions of Audrey Hepburn fans. Although Roman Holiday is one of my all time favourite movies, my favourite costume of hers is from Sabrina - the white Givenchy gown, embroidered with black flowers, that she wears to the party after returning from Paris.

  26. Coco avant Chanel, Coco Chanel & Igor Stravinsky are both wonderful. Lagerfeld Confidential is wonderful- he is sooooooo funny and Fabulous with the biggest capital F you can imagine. Signé Chanel by Loïc Prigent is also an amazing doco of the heartache of the seamstresses at Chanel

  27. Valentino: The last Emperor was fabulous, I've watched it over and over! The one movie that I've been waiting for on a DVD is "Ultrasuede: In search of Halston"! He was the most glamorous designer ever and his clothes can be worn today or any other time! To this day I can vividly remember standing outside Studio 54 one morning with a couple of friends at about 6am, there was 2 limousines parked in front so we waited to see who might come out. To our surprise out came Halston with Liza Minelli! I flipped and as a matter of fact, Halston glanced over at us because I was so excited! The man looked as crisp as a new dollar bill and had the bearing of a prince! He kissed Liza and they got in their separate limos! They were only a yard or two away, what a wonderful memory!

    I saw a clip at You Tube of Pat Cleveland bringing down the house as she swirled down the runway in his one shoulder gown with attached scarf! TOTALLY FABULOUS!!!!, my God how I miss the days when a fashion show was a show!! If anyone gets word that it's been released on DVD please let me know!


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