Thursday, April 20, 2017

THE ORIGIN OF THE FASHION INDUSTRY


Who are these immaculately dressed women, and why are they dressed differently than everyone else? I think you'll find the answer interesting. Do you want to hear more? 

Well, fashion has been with us a long time but it only kicked into high gear and became a whole industry in fairly modern times, beginning maybe in France in the 1860s.  Before then dressmakers and fabric people would be invited to houses of the rich and plied their wares there. 

 Somewhere in the 1860s a dressmaker got the idea that the practice of waiting for the rich to call was fraught with uncertainty and a little advertising might help. 


Since direct advertising was considered low class the clothiers would pay models to wear the new fashions to status events like the races (as in the photo at the very top) and trans-Atlantic travel. The models would be discreet, taking care to speak only when spoken to and to refer questions to their sponsors.


Okay, now here's the interesting part. Over time the clothiers  realized that some models got a lot more attention than others so they began choosing their models carefully.  Employers started to select for charisma.  Not only that but they-tailor made the clothes and hairstyles to fit the model exactly.  I refer not only to accurate linear measurements but to something much more.


To maximize the model's impact the dress she wore was made specifically for her and no other.  Her skin and hair color, the unique way she liked to walk and sit, even her height, psychology, mannerisms and regional biases were taken into account. 



The effect when the model appeared in public was devastating. Viewers were awe-stricken. The girl appeared like a goddess. She was perfection itself. Not even the rich were used to such careful attention by a battery of experts.  Of course clients could expect to get only approximations of what the models wore but the powerful first impression had its effect.



Well, the fashion industry grew and grew and influenced art, theater, publishing, product design, retailing and the whole modernist enterprise. People who regard fashion as frivolous should consider what a boost it's been to the world economy and culture. 


Anyway, the industry no doubt inspired a great deal of idealism. Remember, this was the era of French Impressionism and of the gift of the Statue of Liberty to America. What silent screen star Gloria Swanson said about the early film industry no doubt applied to fashion as well. Early film people believed that cinema could change the world and usher in a new golden age. They believed the new emphasis on aesthetics and culture would end war and so, I believe, did the fashion people.


When World War One broke out one Parisian fashion house bundled up its dresses and smuggled their live models to America. The models were as important as the dresses because theirs was the art of the killer first impression.  Many of them braved the U-boats because they believed they were saving civilization. 

Well, fashion isn't my subject so I'll have to move on. What will stay with me though, is the idea of a new medium based on the impact of a powerful first impression. What an interesting thought!

  

Friday, April 14, 2017

THE MANNEQUIN STORY


ON A BIG NEW YORK DEPARTMENT STORE


INT. DEPARTMENT STORE WINDOW: ON THE MANNEQUINS INSIDE:

MILDRED: "Am I imagining it or is it getting even hotter in here?"


REGINALD: "Haw! Good old Mildred, always exaggerating."


NIGEL: "No, I feel it, too. My fingers are getting sticky."


GERTRUDE: "That's because you're made of wax. You should be plaster, like me.  We don't melt so easy.

Of course, we flake when it gets hot ...like...er, um...now."

NIGEL (VO): "It's almost Summer. Mornings get hot now. I don't think the store knows what's happening here."


GLADIOLA: "I'd give anything to ditch this fur coat."


IRIS: "The hands in the glove display are made of 100% wax. I figure we're okay as long as they hold out."


ON THE DISPLAY: THE GLOVED HANDS POINT RIGIDLY AT AN IMAGINARY POINT O.S.

THEN, WITHOUT WARNING, THE FINGERS GO LIMP.

ALL (VO): (A collective gasp)

DAISY: "Well, that's it then. We're screwed."


DAISY(VO): "Paul, you seem to be taking this calmly."

PAUL: "Why not?  there's no use in crying about what you can't change. Besides, I've always wondered what happens to creatures like us when the end comes."


PAUL (VO): "I guess I'm going to find out."


MILDRED (DEJECTED): "Yeah...find out."


DAISY: "Find out...."

BEHIND THE MANNEQUINS A DOOR SLIDES OPEN:

ART DIRECTOR: "What the heck!!??? What's going on here? Who's responsible for this!?????

ART DIRECTOR (VO) (TO HIS CREW): "Get those mannequins in a car fast!!! Turn the engine on! Crank the air conditioner all the way up!!!"


ON THE MANNEQUINS INSIDE THE VAN:

MILDRED: "Hey, we're in a van. Does anyone know how to drive it?"

REGINALD: "No, but if humans can do it, how hard could it be?"

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

CANS WITHOUT LABELS IS FINISHED!!!!!!!!!!

Ahem! I'd like to announce...for those who haven't heard...that John K's film, "CANS WITHOUT LABELS" is finished!!!!!!!!!!! The film's finished, that is, but the titles still need work.

Anyway, I've seen it and it's unbelievably delicious. It's easily one of the best things he's ever done.

On seeing it my first thought was that I desperately wanted toys of the characters. My second thought was that I pity the poor filmmaker who has to follow it when it appears on TV.


 Poor John. I guess he'll be swamped with fans now.


I wonder if he'll be required to autograph breasts. It's a grueling job but, well...you don't want to disappoint anyone.



By the way.....to all the Kickstarter contributors whose vision and idealism made Cans possible...this video (above) is for you. For maximum effect start it at the 17 second mark.


Congrats John!!! You da man!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

BTW: That picture (above) is of D. W. Griffith doffing his hat in salute to French director Abel Gance.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

ART SCHOOL PLASTER CASTS

Every art school used to have a huge collection of white plaster casts. Some still do. White allowed the student to see shadows more clearly and shadows are a lot of what pulls a composition together and suggests drama.

I'm writing this to suggest that we expand that collection a little bit to include a few colored mannequin heads. Mannequins don't have the same educational value as classical busts but the best ones are nice and cartoony and are often a good way to drive home a few basic lessons about what to emphasize on a face.  What are those lessons? Read on.


Most of the old flapper-era female mannequins favored clear, sharp, Catherine Hepburn-type chins.



Real women on the other hand, often had weak chins, and would probably have preferred to emphasize their eyes. That wasn't so easy to do. According to an article I read the older kinds of eye makeup had problems with dry spatter and required constant touch ups. More about eyes later. 


Back to sharp chins. They show to best advantage when the head is tilted back. That reinforces the haughty, aristocratic image that fashion likes to convey.


 Somewhere along the line a long, vertical mannequin faces were introduced. I think of it as a modified Asiatic look but you can find African masks that look a bit like that.


 The sharp chin never went out of style, though. It got new life when it was combined with the forward-thrusting muzzle. Here the whole bottom half of the face is pushed out. It's a very cartoony look.

For a while bulbous foreheads were in. How that started I can't even guess.


The big game changer was the invention of non-spatter eye make-up.  That changed everything. It allowed for new emphasis on the eyes and that led the mannequin makers to tilt the head down.


Thin faces give greater eye emphasis so the wall-eyed, wide-angle, thin look took over.


Mens mannequins were less influenced by beauty products. About the only major face product change in my lifetime was the use of shampoo to replace bar soap in the washing of mens' hair. Shampoo made straight hair possible and wavy hair models disappeared. Chin emphasis persisted, though.


We men also liked the ultra-manly J. C. Leyendecker look. Later came the Arnold Schwarzenegger look.


The Arnold look receded and the nice guy next door look (above) took over. That was followed by the Urban Hipster look, which is what we have now.

I'll end with the observation that the hippies were never represented in the mannequin world. They had disdain for fashion and the fashion world retaliated by snubbing them. Fascinating, eh?


Wednesday, April 05, 2017

PEDESTRIAN FOOTBRIDGES

Here's a photo (above) that made me want to stand up and cheer when I found it. It's of New York City, at Broadway and Fulton Street and Park Place, taken in 1866.

A book called "New York Then and Now" said the pedestrian footbridge was a popular place for courting couples who wore their best finery to watch the goings on down in the street.


Here's the same place today. It's a handsome corner even now, but even better in my opinion was the view with the footbridge from 1866. Amazingly, a purely utilitarian device to get people across the street actually added to people's enjoyment of the scenery. Well...it added to mine, anyway.


In my opinion footbridges add to the aesthetic value of any urban scene. Almost any man-made thing worth seeing is worth seeing from more than one angle.


There's so many kinds of footbridges.


Some (above) may not cross a road. Some are more like footpaths that cling to the sides of buildings, above street level.



Some bridges aren't bridges at all.


My favorite type of footbridge is the covered wooden kind, but maybe that's a fire hazard. Isn't there some way to make that sort of thing work in the city?

Unfortunately not all footbridges are equal. The white one above doesn't work because it's in a badly designed area, and doesn't seem to serve any important purpose.


This park bridge over swampy mud, on the other hand, earns its keep.


Maybe that aimless, white bridge could be made a little more interesting with addition of exercise bars.