In the halls of Twitter I read a recommendation for a foreign film entitled “Through a Glass Darkly.” The 1961 Swedish film was written and directed by the late Ingmar Bergman whose films swayed towards a dark, tortured but all too human portrayal of its characters. He himself had a traumatic upbringing which manifested itself in many of his films. My quick, vague synopsis (because an element of intrigue is vital if you want people’s ears to perk) would read as follows: “Karin, a schizophrenic who, after returning home following a brief stay in an asylum, relapses and sees God in the form of a spider.” Sounds morbid but if this is right up your alley (I personally have always been drawn to the “strange and unusual”) then it’s worth checking out. It wasn’t as frightening as it sounds upon watching but the dark drama did evoke the spirit of one of my favorite cinematic styles: the film noir.
The text-book definition of a noir reads: “a movie that is marked by a mood of pessimism, fatalism, menace, and cynical characters.” Coined by the French, this term was originally used to describe American detective films of the 1940’s and 50’s. I have always found the noir to be hauntingly romantic. Since the classic noir consists mostly of black and white films there is such artistry involved that I find alluring. Also, the female characters tend to embody an erotic, femme fatale quality which I try to mimic every day yet sadly to little avail. Indeed this film did hint at a little eroticism in some scenes. Though Bergman didn’t necessarily add any real element of fashion sense to Karin’s character (she’s too busy being crazy) it did bring to mind images of some collections that I felt paid homage to the noir.
Today the fashion world reeks of sex. It’s constantly on display like a bright neon sign so it’s refreshing when designers add a little mystique into the mix by playing up the female form in delicate and subdued ways. Classic noir films captured femininity in a conservative fashion (let’s not forget that during this time sex was still taboo) and 2011 saw many designers take a similar approach towards conservatism. The focus was less on cleavage and legs and more on silhouette and structure.
Lace: the fabric of choice for many designers. What I love about this fabric is how quietly it reveals skin without being raw and fleshy. The use of black lace, which stealthily worked its way into so many collections, gave it that essential brooding, edgy feel that every noir exudes. The ability of lace to play with the female body is akin to the use of light and shadow in the visual style of a noir.
Muted colors such as black, white, and grey dominated the runway. To say that old Hollywood was conjured up this year is an understatement. The choice of color palette elevated only by 1940’s glamour came at you from every angle like a pair of Bette Davis eyes!
Film and fashion are inextricably related. The height of fashion came about at the same time as the rise of the celebrity so it’s only appropriate that they tend to flirt with one another every now and then. The film noir with all its mystery and intrigue will always be timeless and rightfully replicated. I think the fashion world got it right by taking a stroll through the dark side, in style of course!