Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Style Icon: Edie Sedgwick

If you’re a fan of unashamedly cool and ground-breakingly alluring fashion fiends, then Edie Sedgwick’s your girl. Decades before Kate Moss was even a twinkle in her parents’ eyes, Edie was working the kohl-eyed waif look to achingly hip perfection. Clad in Breton stripes and earrings big enough to cause Pat Butcher to recoil, Edie burst onto the sixties New York party scene as Andy Warhol’s darling muse and the embodiment of artistic glamour. Part actress, part model, her look is synonymous with beatnik cool, utilising opaque black tights and simple silhouettes against costume jewels and bleach blonde hair. Coming from a dancing background, Edie often lounged around in nothing more than leotards with slouchy jumpers thrown over as a casual afterthought. She finished the look with flat ballet pumps and killer legs, drowning her tiny frame in mountains of jewelled accessories. Think leopard print and mohair, with boatneck sweaters, pea coats and mod hats all thrown on with a devil-may-care attitude and you’re on the right track.

Edie’s exaggerated eye makeup and heavily pencilled brows are her infamous and signature war paint. Rumour had it that she never removed it and instead the layers of thick black liner and the several sets of false eyelashes were only further added to. Her hair, cropped and bleached white blonde, was an important frame for her style caricature; even spraying it silver to match Andy Warhols’ at the height of their friendship. Celebrity milliner Stephen Jones identified Sedgwick's demeanour as a sort of rebellion against her delicacy, claiming "Her look was a mixture of sweet and sour; an angelic face distorted with bleached hair and disfiguring make-up. You could call her the first punk".

Regardless of her short fifteen minutes of fame as New York’s first “it” girl, Edie’s fashion sense left a legacy of influence still being felt today. Indeed her recent incarnation in the 2006 film Factory Girl - starring Sienna Miller - perfectly captured the exuberance of her style and presence, catapulting her right back to the centre of public interest. Kate Moss’ early 2000’s pixie cut hair style was also undoubtedly inspired by Edie’s own, as was John Galliano's 2005 show for Christian Dior with its striped mini dresses and flat crocodile boots.

Despite her tragically troubled private life which saw her overdose at the tender age of 28, she will live on forever in our hearts as one of the true architects of the beatnik style.

John Galliano's 2005 show for Christian Dior

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

The power of costume in Catch Me If You Can

Speilberg’s Catch Me If You Can explores our unhesitating acceptance of the visuals with which we are presented every day. Be this through subtle body language decisions or clever vocabulary, we often believe what we see without query. In the film, Leonardo di Caprio exploits this unquestioning acceptance, fooling his characters as to his real identity. A huge part of this visual trickery lies in his wardrobe choices.

Based on a real life story, di Caprio plays Frank Abognale Jr., a professional con artist living and loving in the Swinging Sixties. Not much more than a mere schoolboy of eighteen, he successfully impersonates the lives and careers of a pilot, a doctor, a teacher and many more. He fraudulently earns millions of dollars and even secures himself a perfectly prim and pretty fiancée, she herself believing him to be a doctor.

His costumes throughout the film illustrate the power that the simple presentation of a uniform has. Frank is able to easily deceive by exuding a strong visual façade of status. Wearing a uniform that reinforces his chosen persona, Frank grows increasingly self-assured in his ability to deceive. This can be seen no better than when he begins to impersonate a Pan Am pilot. The unmistakeable smart and accomplished air (oh, I went there) that the Pan Am uniform provides sees Frank empowered by the image he has built. He strides through the airport, receiving countless admiring glances and looks of respect, despite never having as much as sat in a plane. He is surrounded by beautiful stewardesses, themselves costumed to the embodiment of the sixties air hostess image: tightly girdled uniforms, with fully made up faces complimenting the shiniest hair and the highest heels. Presenting us with a visual reminder that flying was once synonymous with luxury style; their costumes instil a smokescreen of confidence and, in Frank’s case, somewhere to hide.

Before becoming the ultimate conman, Frank begins the film as a young school boy trapped in his parent’s divorce. His sadness is visually reflected through the lacklustre, dull and colourless attire he wears before he begins his life of deception. As he falls deeper into his false world of impersonation, his ‘off-duty’ clothes become increasingly flamboyant and vivacious as his confidence grows. Fitting with the sixties vibes, out of uniform he kits himself out with a palette of vivid and loud colours. He can be seen in white trousers and bright blue shirts with orange Wayfarer sunglasses casually perched atop his head. He becomes a man that can have all he desires and beings cultivated a collection of luxuriously tailored suits and expensive cars. However, as the film draws to a close, Frank’s wardrobe demonstrates a complete turnaround in his appearance as his lifestyle dramatically changes. Caught and imprisoned for fraud, his health deteriorates as his riches turn to rags, his long, unkempt hair and dirty clothes a visual embodiment of this.

2002, USA
Director: Steven Spielberg
Costume Design: Mary Zophres