Saturday, November 27, 2010

In Roger K. Burton's Words

by Jovana Popovic

While researching my case study movie Quadrophenia, I was not completely satisfied with the information available on the Internet. At that point, I decided to give it a try and email a person who appeared to have had one of the key roles when it comes to the costume aesthetics in the movie, Mr. Richard K. Burton. Contrary to my expectations, the response arrived less than a day after, full of insights that increased my understanding of the movie. Following his biography are some of the most interesting parts.

Roger Burton started out in the vintage clothes industry supplying thousands of choice garments to shops across Europe and as far as Japan. After forming the Contemporary Wardrobe Collection he became primary consultant/supplier to Dick Clark's "Birth of the Beatles". In 1980, he designed Vivienne Westwood & Malcolm McLaren's landmark "Worlds End" shop on the Kings Rd in London. Burton styled and design promos for all the major artistes of the time,from Culture Club and The Kinks to Blondie and the Human League as well as video projects for ABC, The Rolling Stones, Mick Jagger, and David Bowie. At the time Burton worked very closely with Bowie, styling his public image. By the end of the 80s, he designed over 100 music promos.
Burton also worked with Wrangler, Panasonic,Volkswagen, Kellogg's, McDonald’s and Coca Cola on over 150 commercials and 50 music promos. He also designed Michael Haussman's debut feature "Blind Horizon". Contemporary Wardrobe Collection also became an invaluable source for hundreds of authentically clad popsters for the 2006 movie "Stoned", a biopic about the original 60s Rolling Stone.

"Quadrophenia is one of those rare films that had no costume designer, only a production designer and wardrobe supervisor (a person who looks after the clothes), and as such there was no one person with an overall vision for the costume.
So it was decided that I - among others - as an ex Mod and vintage clothes wholesaler would be taken on as a consultant and main supplier, as I would be able to lend an authenticity to the film.
As so often happens in these circumstances, most of the aesthetic decisions were made by the director and production designer, who to some extent were dictated to by what original clothes the suppliers were able to find. Having said that, some of the suits had to be designed (not by me) and tailor-made for the fight scenes e.g. Sting, as they need to be duplicated.
We all had our say about who should wear what, and put forward ideas, but at the end of the day it was the director who had the last say.I remember suggesting that one of the leads (probably Sting) should wear a full length pink suede coat, but this idea was thrown out quite early on as not being believable! This decision seemed to me, to go against the whole aesthetic of mod, as there were far more extreme looks worn by kids at the time, but heigh ho...Ironically then someone decided that Sting should wear an awful 1970s grey leather coat... for what reason I will never know?"

"Due to the frantic nature of movie making and tight schedules, often key descisions are made by the wardrobe supervisor without consultation, e.g. the director will urgently call for 'any old coat' for an actor when shooting in the middle of the night just to keep them warm, and then because of continuity, the coat may end up being featured throughout the entire movie.
I remember during shooting of the fight scenes, because of lack of budget there not enough authentic clothes for all the hundreds of extras, so the wardrobe crew were instructed to throw a parka or a leather jacket on kids who didn't have anything else original on, believing they would just get lost or blend into the large crowd, not so...many of those kids with 70s haircuts and clothes were heavily featured."
"Maybe as an ex mod I was too close to the subject, after all it was an important part of my life and I thought this was a great opoutunity to get it right, but then of course its only a movie and as such it has to have mass appeal...therefore in my opinion there was a quite lot wrong with the look and feel of the film, but overall I think it captured the spirit of the movement and painted a pretty fair picture of mods as they had become so commercialized during those closing months"

Thank you, Roger!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


The 1980's began with the election of a film star as president. Ronald Reagan understood the American media and how to look on camera. Below left his cowboy lifestyle in California and on right his presidential proper suit look with his wife Nancy who consistently appeared in red.

The 1980's saw the mass popularity of the personal computer, video games, cable television and a number of pop fads in clothing and lifestyle.

The 1980's were an important moment for American fashion as it was the first time that American designers received global recognition. The key figures were Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan and Calvin Klein as seen below, emphasizing American classics, urban chic and young sexuality accordingly.

Donna Karan was an important figure because she was designing mostly for the working woman and was herself a business CEO that embodied the power woman of the 80's.

The power suit is hits a peak in the 80's. Below American Gigolo (1980) emphasizes a tailored suit which helps the protagonist appear professional and appease his clients.

Ellen Mirojnick was the costume designer for Wall Street (1987) which created the fad in suspenders amongst the savvy downtown traders in New York.

Below Rain Man (1988) used the suit as part of character transformation. At left, Dustin Hoffman's character is first very simple and humble in dress but then as he grows closer to his brother and more confident he wears a suit, seen right.

Working Girl celebrated the new working women. Ann Roth studied the secretaries taking the Staten Island Ferry and noticed they were changing from sneakers to heels so she incorporated this element into the main character.

As the character succeeds at work she becomes more refined in hair and dress, especially as she grows closer to her male boss as seen below.

The emphasis on strong women, above in Coal Miner's Daughter about singer Loretta Lynn from 1980 and below Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan, 1985.

Desperately Seeking Susan includes another female character opposing Madonna who is transformed through clothing in the film. She begins above, very conservative and Wasp like and progresses toward Madonna's street style.

Tootsie (1982) cast Dustin Hoffman as a man who dresses as a woman on the job, reinforcing the social interest in working women.

Out of Africa was another 80's representation of a strong woman, this time in Kenya during colonialism. The Baroness begins in the film from a life of luxury as seen below in her fur.

Slowly she is transformed in the film which emphasizes cottons and a light beige and cream color palette.

Costume designer Milena Canonera asked locals about what clothing would have been worn in the era and allowed their local fabrics to be used.

The safari look popular in Out of Africa connects to the Indiana Jones films which focused on a rogue adventurer look. Costume designer Deborah Noolman created Indiana's hat custom to make it a bit larger than life and have a screen presence.

Some suggest that the above films resulted in an 80's safari trend in fashion and decor. Evidence of a colonial style can be found in YSL on the left in 1975, almost a decade earlier and safari aesthetics are still evident today.

The safari fever is evidenced in Banana Republic which began as a travel and safari clothing company in 1978 and then was bought by Gap in 1983 which continued the safari theme until the fad declined and then re-branded the store's vision.

Another popular clothing theme of the 1980's is fitness. Below Flashdance from 1983 with costumes by Michael Kaplan.

Above Flashdance and below Jane Fonda who began to produce work out videos for the home in the 1980's.

Below Steve Meisel's 80's inspired editorial for Vogue Italia in 2006.

Closing out the 80's is When Harry Met Sally from 1989. The film follows the characters over the decade of the 80's beginning with their quirky collegiate styles and ending with the more relaxed and simple forms of the 90's.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Landis 1980's by Varvara Tsepkova

Film studious were doing great given multimillion dollars 'facelift' studios became dream factories. Studios were promoting public renting of costumes as the way of getting money. As studious moved production out of L.A. costume designers were setting workrooms on locations around the world.

The success of pictures was unpredictable. Studios were bought and sell by big corporations for status reasons.

80's marketing cost for movies would go up to 1/3 of its total budget. A lot of marketing techniques were invented in 1980 to promote films. Focus groups "preview cards" -became established part of the film making process.

1980 "popcorn" movies where making top-grossing films of all time

Home video appeared as a new market for film industry.

Teenagers were established audience of the cinema and movie studios perused their new established audience. Hollywood concentrated on meeting on demands of the marketplace rather than on intellectual part.

Talent agents were offering "packages" with stars and directors.

Movie stars gained lot of power during 80, and they leverage their grosses into ever-increasing salaries. The studios were following the formula of 'below the line' production cost and above the line' salaries of actors directors and writers.

Anthea Sylbert says that costume budget were the smallest budget in production. In the early 1980 the role of costume designers was underestimate, to only being on the set for first weeks, and not working on the movie the whole time.

Costume-fashion connection went both ways, product placement took place for costumes, though sometimes it was totally impropriety for characters of the movie. Italian French and 7 avenue designers were landing cloths for modern films-costume designers names where lost in the barrage of fashion brands.

Film costume of 1980 movies had a great influence on fashion, and screened looks influenced trend in fashion world. By late 1980 employment of costume designers expanded, as their role within the narrative of the film was re discovered as an important one.

Suitable Attired, William Hamilton by Varvara Tsepkova

The author discussion is about formal look in menswear- suit. He talks about the "dot-coms" that almost killed it, as they did not need formal clothing to make business. The author talks about the difference in menswear between 1796 and 1896 and he says that difference was huge and those from 1786 would look like costume party clothes nowadays, but clothes from 1896 would still be fine today. He talks about the role of suit through out the 200 last years, and that suits in mass production had offered to man. Author explores the question why menswear did not change as much as woman wear. First, because men like to dress defensively and second the TV promoted suit.

Today with the cuber space there is a new way of dressing and it is more relaxed, but there are still ceremonies and those are the dressy places. The author suggest that the role of suit today becomes ceremonial costume. And he questions if suit will become a trend or will die as the way of dressing.

Summary of An Interview with Gil Troy by Varvara Tsepkova

Gil Troy introduces his book, Morning in America: How Ronald Reagan Invented the 1980's, describing how the actor turned president revolutionized the American politics and defined the America as we know it today.

At first the author goes through Ronald Regan’s presidency, the 80’s. Gil Troy suggests that while Ronald Reagan is often viewed as a right-winged leader, he was in fact a centrist. He also states that while Reagan often talked to the people of America of their classical values and in simple terms, he was, in fact, leading a great cultural revolution that impacted all the of aspects of the modern life. For example, while he is often viewed as an opponent to many of the minorities’ rights, it was during Ronald Reagan’s presidency that those minorities integrated the American society as equals to occupy the place they occupy today.

Then the author talks in more details on Ronald Reagan’s talent as a politicians. Troy describes the president’s talent to make the masses believe in a broad vision and in fact appropriating and using every possible event to back it up. He also mentions the ability of the president to speak to hearts of the people, not only in his speeches, but also in the campaign posters.

Finally underlines the immortality of Reagan’s legacy by pointing out the lessons that today’s politicians have learned from him and, most importantly, the lessons they still have to learn. Going from politics to everyday life, the author reminds us that most of the ideas and concepts that define our life today didn’t even exist before the 80’s. Some were introduced by Ronald Reagan, some were helped by him, and some were merely not prevented by him. However, many important aspects of the America we know today came with Ronald Reagan, whether we like it or not.

"Quadrophenia" by Jovana Popovic

In the 50s and 60s, Europe was still living the consequences of the World War II. England and France were one of the countries where the young generations felt most rebellious towards the values and behaviors of the older generations. The end results were various new styles in behaving and thinking, touching on every sphere of everyday life.
The Mod phenomenon, which emerged in England, is certainly among the most famous ones of the period. It was a result of a teenage rebellion against the Technicolor fairytales, which were fed through radio, TV and cinema, as well as repressed and class-obsessed status quo of the older generations. The Mod culture was overwhelmed with different fetishes. Every mod was supposed to have a Vespa scooter which was a fashion accessory. They customized them by painting and over accessorizing them with luggage racks, crash bars and dozens of mirrors. It was also practical as public transport did not run late into the night, so the scooter helped the Mod get around the city. Basic elements of Mod clothing were Fred Perry and Ben Sherman shirts, Sta-Prest trousers and Levi’s jeans, the fish-tail parka jacket which was worn to keep their suits sharp and themselves warm, slim-fitting black or grey suits with a lighter colored shirt underneath and a tight, half-Windsored dark tie .Girls wore homemade shift dresses and ankle socks or colored tights and straight skirts with short, boxy jackets.The make-up was light and the eyes black and heavy, false eyelashes were pasted on and lower-lid lashes painted. A coating of white lipstick was also welcomed but only for the bravest ones.
Mods’ opponents were Rockers. Their common wear were cheap black leather jackets and trousers, which allowed them to spend a lot of money on fuel for their big motorbikes.

The intriguing story of the lives of these teenagers served as an inspiration for the movie Quadrophenia. The movie was filmed in 1979, being a debut of a young film director Franc Roddam. It portrayed the clashes and fights that were constantly happening between the two groups.
The main character, Jimmy is a mod who truly believes in this way of life.He has a boring job, but everything makes sense once he hits house parties and hears the sound of The Who. However, eventually he painfully discovers the unfairness of life, when he is let down by his friends and turned back on by his family.Turning to the mod ideology for comfort he is completely disappointed once he realizes it has abandoned him as well.
The story was roughly based on 1973 The Who album and rock opera Quadrophenia. Incorporating four different melodies, made by four different members, the band created a schizophrenic character, Jimmy, split into four personalities: a tough guy, a romantic, a bloody lunatic, a beggar/a hypocrite.
This movie did not have a single costume designer. Joyce Stoneman (Brazil, The Boys in Blue, The Princess Bride) was named a wardrobe mistress. However, majority of clothes were supplied by two ex-mods, Roger Burton and Jack English.
Jack English is a professional photographer, who founded Contemporary Wardrobe along with Roger Burton, which lead to a commission for Quadrophenia. Roger Burton started out in the vintage clothes industry supplying thousands of choice garments to shops across Europe and as far as Japan. To this day he has worked on numerous projects including 150 commercials, 50 music promos and various movies.
The color palette consists of muted, solid colors, and a few patterns that can be seen on the dresses worn by girls. Dominant color is certainly army green, the color of the parka, which can be seen on most of the Mod characters. Majority of suits are black and grey, with a couple of brown ones, such as Jimmy’s tailor-made. As said before, Levi’s jeans were very popular, therefore the navy blue as well, but also washed blue jeans for the activities at home. The colors of shirts worn are mostly light -grays, white, beige. Among these muted colors, a couple of characters appear in brigther ones as well, such as red, which is worn by Jimmy’s best friend as well as burgundy, which is used to differentiate Jimmy in many of the scenes.

Two very particular characters, that do not appear too much but both play significant roles, and are clearly differentiated by their aestetics are Kevin, played by Ray Winstone, and The Ace Face, played by Sting.
Kevin is an old friend of Jimmy’s and a Rocker. When Kevin is introduced for the first time, he is naked, and Jimmy is glad to see him. However, right after that, he discovers Kevin is a Rocker, after he has seen him wearing leather jacket and trousers and leaves refusing to talk to him.
The Ace Face is considered an ‘’ultimate mod’’. He is well differentiated by the clothes he is wearing, such as leather coat instead of green parka. The uniform he is wearing at the end of the movie shows that the Mod ideology is superficial, as one of the most loyal followers has abandoned it. Once again, clothing plays a major role when it comes to characterization.
Finally, the focus shifts to Jimmy, a true Mod culture representative in this move. Drunken by the ideology, he is not able to see beyond the surface. For Jimmy, everything has to do with the Mod culture, and everything is done for its cause. To illustrate this point, the director even uses a scene where Jimmy lets his wet Levi’s dry on himself, so that they can get the best possible shape and fit perfectly.
When Jimmy is firstly introduced, he is wearing a black blazer with gray stripes, grey shirt, and burgundy tie and trousers. His look is perfect and clean, which represents hia psychological state at that moment – very calm with nothing to worry about.

Furthermore, when preparing for the trip to Brighton, Jimmy is seen cruising around the town on his scooter. Jimmy is wearing a Mod parka, which immediately gives a hint who he is, as well as a Fred Perry shirt, and dark blue Levi’s jeans. His wear is casual, but is still within the Mod spirit.
The next big look is shown when Mods leave for Brighton. Jimmy wears a suit that he had tailor-made especially for this occasion. It is dark brown, and perfectly fits his figure. His tie is also brown, and the whole look is completed with the Mod parka. The Brighton trip is of a special importance, Jimmy feels special, and therefore the clothes are special as well.
The final look drastically differs from the previous ones. Jimmy is heading to Brighton, and has a burgundy jacket, white shirt and black tie and trousers. The eyeliner almost frames the madness coming out of his eyes. Everything is overwhelmed by the burgundy, which before was used only for minor details which were not that obvious. The contrast between him and the two typical English gentlemen with cylinders is stunning. It is almost a representation of the Mod culture within rest of the society.

The movie and Mod culture have influenced fashion at large in many aspects. One of them is the trend of the parka, also called the ‘ultimate parka’. Also, many of the world brands continue to be inspired by the cuts of the Mod clothes, such as Chloe, Balenciaga and Dsquared.
It is true that fascination by certain phenomena from the past does not cease. Thanks to Quadrophenia, some of the authentic aesthetics are forever recorded and stored for those who will want to know what the Mod culture really was like.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

1970's by Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Dressed – A century of Hollywood Costume Design by Tanya Ziegler

The 1970’s were a crisis period for Hollywood. Because of an economic devastation and an identity issue, many old directors were retiring and left the management to young graduates who had barely any experience. This traumatic transition destroyed the important hierarchy establish throughout the years.

A new approach to filmmaking was explored. Young filmmakers were breaking down the traditional approach to rebuild them and explore the anti-hero’s perspective with a darker view including drugs, violence and sexual license. Movies about their own ethnic cultures and cinema vérité were also a new trend.

In this unstable environment, the costume designers’ status was threatened and very little was written about it. A new approach to costume design was explored, using the actors and actresses’ personal wardrobes in order to provide a much more realistic aspect to the characters. This modern way of working gave a new dynamic to the costume designer’s job. “The costumes needed to disappear” blend in, to be unnoticed therefore the costume designers needed even more virtuosity to provide the characters with a strong, coherent and reached wardrobe.

Vreeland, goddess of fashion, celebrated with an exhibition called “Romantic and Glamourous Hollywood Design” the earlier eras of art of costume design at the Metropolitan Museum Costume Institute. She wanted to remember what the Hollywood Glamour was and which was for her now dead. But what Vreeland had missed the point, which was that film actors were redirecting themselves to authentic characterization. Glamour was still there and will always be alive in Hollywood.

This new generation of young filmmakers pulled the movie industry to its best. New directors were now producing blockbusters and modern classics, thanks to which the movie business found its equilibrium and took more risks in order to provide the audience with a broad range of movies.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


"Glamour is dead," said Diana Vreeland of the 1970's. A gritty realism characterizes this historic moment, evident in the increased use of everyday clothing on film and increased appearance of everyday, anti-hero characters. Vreeland created an homage to the old glamour by organizing the Hollywood Costume exhibition for the Met in 1976.

Launched in 1974, the first People featured Mia Farrow from the Great Gatsby on the cover. Until this moment, film industry magazines like Variety were contrasted by fashion magazines like Vogue, with a few minor tabloids. People magazine attracted new mass interest in the celebrity style scene.

More than Life or Look before it, People began to target celebrity fashion as in the feature below from July 1977. "A designer is only as good as his clientele," explained Halston.

Below celebrities at the Oscars in the 1970's. Except for the men who are consistently in tux, the celebrities wear a much more relaxed California casual look than is common at the Oscars today.

The context of the 1970's saw the realization of gender and racial equality and the emergence of new technology like the first personal computers. In reaction to feminism, some women chose to retain the conservative look of the 60's while there was a new emergence of tighter, sexier fits. The contrast can be seen below in 2 ads both from the year 1974.

In the fashion industry there were major changes to European design houses like Gucci below left which began to offer clothing. America finally came on the design scene with Halston and for the first time licensing extended previously exclusive fashion labels to accessible products like sunglasses and perfume.

American audiences had become aware of 60's European films and began to seek alternative films such as Robert Altman's 3 Women, 1977. At the same time, studios wanted more audiences so they shocked and scared them with thriller and horror blockbusters such as Jaws, 1975. Both indie and mass films spotlighted the anti-hero with more stories of everyday people, working class and the unadorned.

Above the American film 3 Women, 1977, was set in rural California and inspired by Igmar Bergman. Below Woody Allen's Annie Hall, 1977 set in Manhattan references Bergman in the poster.

Above Allen's army green coat and button up shirt look like a director on set, next to a bohemian styled Diane Keaton.

Keaton's look with vest and tie was the film's signature.

Allen made sure to incorporate identity characteristics into the film, openly contrasting his Jewish heritage to what he calls the "Norman Rockwell" American WASP. Conservative style factors are seen on both characters.

Klute, 1971 was a new look for Jane Fonda who was trying to distance herself from her recent years in France. The short cut combined with braless looks and long skirts as she made a conscious break with the over done mini skirt.

Fonda said that Italian actress Anita Pallenberg was her style muse.

Throughout Klute, Fonda is contrasted by the men in suits who surround her. She is also consistently seen in flamboyant looks that make her appear as a conspicuous call girl.

Klute inspired an editorial in Vogue Nippon in July 2007 by Terry Richardson.

One Flew Over the Cookoo's Nest of 1975 gave a first glimpse into the world of institutions. Most of the patients were dressed in the basic white uniforms seen above with blues and pastels underneath. The color palette matches the color of pharmaceuticals. Below the same color palette is repeated in "Supermodels Enter Re-Hab," by Steven Meisel, Vogue Italia, July 2007.

Shampoo from 1975 was a look back at Beverly Hills in 1968 but was in many ways the costumes were influenced by 1970's trends. This is most noticeable in Warren Beatty's look.

Taxi Driver, 1976 was a specific character transformation film in which costume develops with the characters and their relationship.

The 70's saw a resurgence of dance and music films such as Rocky Horror Picture Show, 1975, Saturday Night Fever, 1977, and Grease 1978. Fever's white 3 piece suit with open large collar shirt became iconic.

Closing out the 1970's came more sedate films with a return to fashion conservatism. Kramer Vs. Kramer from 1979 focused on a Manhattan couple with status quo style.