Thursday, February 5, 2015

What is Alternative Fashion

  1. Alternative fashion is fashion that, at least at one time, stood apart from mainstream commercial fashionAlternative fashion includes the fashions of specific subcultures such as emo, scene, Goth subculture, Hip hop, industrial and Cyberpunk, however it is not limited to this, think Costume...
  2. Cape by Emile Pingat, ca. 1895. Housed at the Costume Institute at The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Edith Head design for Lucille Ball in 'The Facts of Life', 1960. Costume design

Costume worn by Rachel Weisz as Evanora in Oz, the Great and Powerful (2013)

Television has certainly had its share of memorable fashion moments, from Mary Ann’s red-and-white gingham dress to Bill Cosby’s sweaters. But few of its designers are widely remembered, other than the late Nolan Miller, for “Dynasty,” and Patricia Field, for “Sex and the City.”

Among classic cinema fans, costume designers are often thought of last in a long line of artists involved with a production.  The director, actor, writer, and cinematographer are among those who are highly regarded whereas the costume designer is not.  Yet movies from the Golden Age of Hollywood are heralded for their style, and few recognize how much these films' longevity depends on their iconic costume design. Among the fashion community, most are only concerned with what's currently coming down the runways.  What they fail to realize is that successful designers know their film history well and regularly reference classic cinema in their collections.  This is true among fashion designers, but also photographers, editorial stylists, hair stylists, and makeup artists alike.

One challenge is that 'costume design' tends to be misunderstood.  For one, it does not necessarily mean period pieces a la Shakespeare or Gone with the Wind.  In fact, from the earliest days of cinema, the style in the movies (almost) always inspired the trends and led the direction of mainstream fashion.  Also, few people understand how many costume designers started and/or ended their careers as fashion designers and couturiers.  And many strictly fashion designers also crossed over to design for the movies--names like Hubert de Givenchy, Pierre Balmain, and Yves Saint Laurent.  Coco Chanel herself once designed for film in the early days of her career.  Therefore, knowing the history of film is to know much of the history of fashion.
“Your work is the first thing the audience sees so you have to be able to tell them who that character is. You have to know how the actor and the director see the character before you can dress them. Once you have an idea of who you’re dressing then you can begin to develop a look that he can portray that character.”
- Walter Peterson, costume designer and author of Out of the Closet: The Life of a Costume/Fashion Designer quoted in New England Film-