Wow, it doesn’t seem like a year since we wrote our last joint blog and I said goodbye to the Library for a while to go off and have my lovely daughter Holly. I'm going to be taking over our creative industries programme and, of course, this blog. The good news is that Kissley isn’t going to be leaving the Library: she will be promoting our exhibition and events programme: Gothic literature, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, anyone? The autumn events programme is shaping up fantastically – look out for a very creepy, spooky LATE. Where better to get scared at night than in a huge library?
Image: Fran (on left) and Kissley posing with our Comics Unmasked cut-out
Goodbye from Kissley Leonor…
It’s been a pleasure sharing with you all the cool stuff happening at the British Library. Here are my highlights. One million Flickr images of our collections made free for anyone to use, remix and repurpose. Here are some of the gems I found:
Image: Gems and Precious Stones of North America, KUNZ, George Frederick, shelfmark: "British Library HMNTS 7105.ee.14.", "British Library HMNTS 7106.i.12." Page 85
Image: My Little Chinese Book, POST, Mary Audubon, shelfmark: "British Library HMNTS 11645.e.57.", page 12
Image: The tapir sent from Bengkulu to Calcutta in 1816.Shelfmark: Add.Or.4973
Image: 1890 Songs of a Savoyard, Gilbert, W. S. (William Schwenck), shelfmark: "British Library HMNTS 11651.k.42.", page 102
Spring Festival. It was great to see so many new people working in film and fashion come to the Library and discover our collections. We welcomed some great speakers including screenwriter Tony Grisoni and fashion historian Amber Jane Butchart. And we danced. Dancing is always a good thing.
Our front entrance hall never looked so cool when British label YMC (You Must Create) showed their Spring/Summer 2015 line for London Collections: Men last Sunday. I sure do love men in pink. Here are my favourites:
A playful finale: bucket hats with built-in goggles.
YMC designer Fraser Moss is exploring our vinyl record collection and vintage magazines to create a new design. Follow me at @BL_Creative for updates.
Our collections are an amazing source of inspiration for fashion designers. Henry Holland was spotted in our Reading Room researching old Tatler issues for his debauched debutante line and E. Tautz designer Patrick Grant gave a talk on how historical resources inspire his designs as part of our Georgians Revealed exhibition.
We also host events on topics such as trend forecasting, intellectual property and how to generate PR for fashion designers who are looking to start, run or grow their business. Plus we have over £5million worth of market research and business information that's free to use. FREE. Sign up for a Reader Pass and get in here!
For the first time the British Library is playing host to major fashion event London Collections: Men with British label YMC (You Must Create).
Our sweeping front entrance hall with its marble staircase makes the perfect fashion show venue. When I met founders Fraser Moss and Jimmy Collins last year, I floated the idea past them and now it's happening!
"As a British brand, YMC feel particularly proud and privileged to show our Spring/Summer 2015 collection at the British Library. This iconic building has a such a unique ambiance and is like entering a cathedral of knowledge and literature representing the history of the United Kingdom and beyond," says Moss.
For nearly 20 years YMC has been developing modern, functional and understated clothing. Menswear is their main business but they also have a small line for women (I love this dress). They are a major player in the three-day LC:M programme which showcases over 60 emerging and established brands - from Fashion East's Craig Green to Paul Smith.
LC:M also aims to emphasise the rich cultural landscape that contributes to the inspiration and success of menswear so it's very fitting that the opening show is taking place at the British Library, where the creative industries are constantly finding inspiration in our collections. YMC's designer Fraser Moss is exploring our vinyl record collection and underground magazines for a new design. We've welcomed E. Tautz designer Patrick Grant to our stage for a talk on Georgian menswear and Henry Holland was spotted in our Reading Room researching old Tatler issues for his 'debauched debutante' A/W2014 line.
Is London the capital for men's clothing? I think so. Follow #LCM and you'll see just why.
YMC invitation inspired by British Library stamp for manuscripts. Related articles
When I first collaborated with the British Library Business & IP Centre for a trend forecasting event in September 2013, I presented the key fashion trends for 2014 in womenswear, menswear, textiles, graphics and accessories. One of the trends was “Cartoon Reality” and showcased the resurgence of comics and superheroes influencing designers and makers. The trend fit within a larger concept called Pop!, a whimsical and edgy design direction filled with bold colour juxtapositions and graphic statements.
Fashion and comic book art share an exciting relationship. Comic book illustrations have fueled the imagination of many fashion labels, from high-end designers such as 3.1 Philip Lim and Tom Ford, to high street brands Topshop and ASOS. I call this the “Pow Wow!” effect. In the 1960s, Pop artists who delved into comic art and illustrative drama such as Roy Lichtenstein came to influence Donna Karan, Moschino, Viktor and Rolf and Yves Saint Laurent.
Whilst researching the trend, I came across such a large amount of visual content, stylized editorials, and quirky garments created in the last few decades that it’s clear the relationship between comic book graphics and fashion has reached a tipping point. Comics and superheroes have become a perennial source of print and pattern inspiration in fashion, revisited season after season and acting as a complement to core items such as whimsical polka dots, logos and graffiti art.
It’s only natural comic art would influence fashion designers as they are always on the hunt for captivating imagery. With bright colour palettes often used against black and white lettering, this makes for impactful visuals, which designers use on garments as their canvas. The layout of comic book pages with their exaggerated fonts and messages also inspire stylists and fashion editorials in publications such as Vogue.
The designers who are currently building our fashion landscape also grew up with comics and superheroes. They instinctively reference their teenage years, children’s books and favorite superhero movies, all embedded in their visual consciousness. This is clearly seen in collections by designers like Jeremy Scott who often uses comic book imagery such as monsters seen in his Autumn/Winter 2014 collection.
The sexually seductive nature of female superheroes also inspires designers of the likes of Tom Ford to create alluring silhouettes with references to comic book splashes of colour and text bubbles as seen in his Fall/Winter 2013 collection.
On a deeper level, the relationship between comics and fashion goes beyond the idea of using the style as a purely graphic source of inspiration. Comics can be subversive vehicles for sexual and political statements, which is precisely the focus of Comics Unmasked. As it stands, subversion is fashion’s second name.
Throughout history, the designs that stand the test of time are the ones that challenged our perceptions of gender and body image as well as channeled designers’ sense of humour and whimsy. Fashion if anything else, is about making a statement, in between shocking the audience and creating awe. Designers use clothing as a powerful tool of expression to surprise, seduce and turn the shocking into the beautiful.
Name the punk era and Vivienne Westwood in the 1970s, Balenciaga and his cocoon shaped jackets in the 1950s, or Yves Saint Laurent’s popularization of trousers for women, and you will find in each one of these examples a deeply subversive spirit aimed to provoke change.
More recently, we see alternative music groups collaborate with high fashion brands to create thought-provoking street wear. The best example being South Africa’s Die Antwoord and co- founder/rapper/illustrator Watkin Tudor Jones (also known as Ninja) whose subversive futuristic rap is paired with Basquiat-inspired characters and street punk styling. The group and its impactful graphic streetwear fronted Alexander Wang’s T campaign in 2012.
Cartoon comic artists and fashion designers have created a great dialogue and creative exchange. We classically saw cartoon heroes on jersey t-shirts and the growing influence of street style on high fashion in the last 50 years has made it possible for cartoon graphics to gradually make their way onto silks and organzas. The subject matter moves effortlessly from paper and celluloid to fabric as its canvas.
As street style and bold graphics continue to influence the high fashion, this trend is set to grow from strength to strength - so stay tuned. For a full view of the cartoon research and sources used for this article visit my Pinterest Cartoon Reality Board.
Geraldine Wharry and Trend Atelier are hosting Fashion Forecasting: Trend hunting and gathering on 24 June 2014 in our Business & IP Centre. Get the tools you need to identify the fashion trends for 2015/2016 - find out the more here.
Enjoy these videos highlighting our Spring Festival celebration of fashion, film and design.
For those who weren't able to join us for the popular Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age talk - you can watch the entire talk in three parts below!
Spring Festival highlights: Inspiring stories, vinyl & film
Using The British Newspaper Archive to tell stories on Twitter; exploring our vinyl record collection plus award-winning screenwriter Tony Grisoni and Bafta-nominated director Jamie Stone on film.
Spring Festival highlights: Fashion, film and glitz
Fashion historian Amber Jane Butchart and editor of Clothes on Film Christopher Laverty on vintage fashion, film and Boardwalk Empire. Plus The Vintage Mafia take over the Library for a night of Jazz Age glamour with Alex Mendham & His Orchestra.
Part 1 - Puttin on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age - Fashion historian Amber Jane Butchart
Fashion extraordinaire Amber Jane Butchart transports us to the glitz and glamour of Jazz Age Hollywood and the costumes that took London by storm. She draws on the Library's collection of vintage magazines.
Part 2 - Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age - Clothes on Film creator Christopher Laverty
The ever dapper Christopher Laverty examines the flamboyantly dressed 'Dandy Gangster' as portrayed in the HBO series Boardwalk Empire.
Part 3 - Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age - Q&A
Spring Festival 2014 is officially finished and we had a fabulous time! Here are some photos from the most popular event Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age which began with a talk by the ever so stylish Amber Jane Butchart and Christopher Laverty and ended with roaring cocktail party.
Amber referring to the Library's vintage magazine collection. I don't know anyone who looks as good as her in a turban.
Chris is obsessed with the costumes in HBO series Boardwalk Empire. Here he's detailing the show's exquisite suit tailoring - see how the pattern on Nucky Thompson/Steve Buscemi's jacket is perfectly lined up? Nice. I think Chris himself looks like a character from the show!
'Always well-dressed, not always well-behaved' - our fabulous cocktail party hosts - The Vintage Mafia.
Spring Festival is only a week away - don’t miss our Inspiring Filmmakers event with screenwriter/director Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), art department researcher Celia Barnett (all eight Harry Potter films!), production designer Tony Noble (Moon) and up and coming director Jamie Stone (Orbit Ever After). More info and tickets here.
Today’s guest blog on film costumes is written by students from Central Saint Martins Fashion History and Theory course.
Sunset Boulevard (1950) was one of the most critically acclaimed movies of the 20th century. Directed by Billy Wilder, it tells the tragic come-back story of fading silent movie star, Norma Desmond (Gloria Swanson) and the troubled companionship she finds in Joe Gillis (William Holden), a struggling screenwriter. The costumes were designed by Academy Award winner Edith Head.
A real icon of the silent-film era, Swanson fit the role of Norma perfectly. References to Swanson’s film career are dotted throughout the film and her personal photographs decorate Norma’s fictional mansion. Head later said that she had drawn on Swanson’s expertise and authenticity when designing her costumes.
The costumes epitomise the darker side of mid-century Hollywood glitz. Head’s designs for Norma resembled Christian Dior’s New Look of the late 1940s, combined with hints of Jazz Age glamour. Norma's signature look is leopard print. The first time we meet Norma, she is dressed in a sweeping house gown trimmed with leopard and topped with a leopard turban. Later, we see her dressed head-to-toe in leopard fabric whilst lounging by the pool.
The dramatic final scene reveals Norma dressed in what is arguably her most significant costume: an off the shoulder glittering evening gown with a jewelled snake bracelet coiled around her arm and sequins sprinkled over her bare shoulder. - Jihane Dyer
Ian McEwan’s Atonement, tells the tale of forbidden love and family conflict before, during, and after World War II. The novel, published in 2001, was adapted into a film in 2007 by director Joe Wright. Both works harmoniously introduce us to the confident aristocrat Cecilia Tallis (Keira Knightley), her sister and aspiring writer Briony Tallis (Saoirse Ronan) and their housekeeper's promising son, Robbie Turner (James McAvoy).
Nearly a character itself is Cecilia's iconic, green silk gown. Costume designer Jacqueline Durran, (Pride & Prejudice, 2005 and Anna Karenina, 2012) created the provocative dress with a flowing bias cut that transforms within different scenes. Durran added slits to allow for movement in that intense sex scene. The knot that decorated the front of the dress is a nod to a classic 1930s design and was used to symbolise Cecilia's virginity. In 2008 Durran won a Bafta for Best Costume Design. - Angelina Todd
The 1968 cult classic Barbarella starring Jane Fonda takes us on a futuristic fantasy journey in her shag pile spaceship to seek out missing scientist Durand Durand. While the plot remains a fairly simplistic sequence of Fonda getting herself into danger, it does lead to a showcase of incredible outfits.
Based on a comic book tale, Barbarella required costumes that embody a glamorous vision of the future and also represent a sense of comic surrealism. French costume designer Jacques Fonteray, took influence from the work of Spanish fashion designer Paco Rabanne who was known for his of use innovative materials. As a result, costumes were made from PVC, Perspex and chain mail. Rabanne was personally involved in creating a green dress made of linked plastic tiles, which gave Fonda an almost reptilian-like appearance while still carrying a 1960s silhouette. - Hannah Beach
For a full line-up of Spring Festival events visit: bl.uk/spring
When I first met fashion historian Amber Jane Butchart and blogger Christopher Laverty at the British Library I felt a little under-dressed and under-accessorised. (My workwear consists of a basic skater dress, Adidas trainers and sometimes a bracelet.) These two KNOW HOW TO DRESS. They are also film costume experts. You can hear them wax lyrical about their favourite fashion pieces from 1920s-30s films at our Spring Festival event Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion & Film in the Jazz Age. Here they kindly share their favourite accessories.
Amber's favourite accessories
Mine would have to be the turban! (OBVS) My favourite stockists are: Akhu Designs for incredible prints and West African vibrance, Alice Edgeley for high-octane glamour and Silken Favours who mainly do blouses but also sometimes turbans in amazing prints.
Amber in Akhu Design
Gloria Swanson wore great turbans and head wraps in the 1920s.
Gloria Swanson in Sunset Boulevard 1950
Another favourite accessory would be the skeleton! As modelled brilliantly by Theda Bara below.
Lastly, Josephine Baker's banana skirt. I love it so much that a friend and I made one along with a Carmen Miranda fruit headdress.
Christopher's favourite accessories
Clothes on Film blogger Christopher Laverty via Vogue Shot
What the Americans call ‘suspenders’. Belts were more of a utility garment during the 1920s, so you would often see them combined with braces on manual workers, which of course is considered a big no-no nowadays. For me it’s all about comfort. Braces combined with a natural waist (read high) trouser hang better, don’t pinch, and arguably look more masculine. Clip-on braces are a bit naff with trousers but work fine with jeans. Once you’ve tried braces you won’t go back. Gentlemen, your crotch will thank you.
Basically the generic name for a handkerchief stuffed in the top pocket of your suit jacket. You see this look all over Boardwalk Empire. The idea of the handkerchief is that it is supposed to represent a flower. This is why the folded over, angular shape seen in Mad Men and the like can seem a bit, well, square. Just hold a (silk) handkerchief between your thumb and forefinger, pull the fabric through the clenched fist of your other hand – a bit like a magician, fold over, stick it in your jacket pocket and you’re done. This is the British ‘tucked in’ style which is far easier to manage throughout the day. Avoid matching your pocket square to your tie though, unless you’re going for a very specific, and perhaps ironic, look.
I prefer the simple swivel bar type, but with as gaudier a jewel as possible. I think because you do not see the end of the shirt cuff, and as such the cufflink, all the time it gives licence to be ostentatious. After all if you are not going to have fun with your cufflinks, why wear them at all? Buttons are certainly easier to fasten and a lot less fuss when you want to roll your shirt sleeves up. Incidentally, while I’m on the subject, always roll your shirt sleeves up if warm, never ever wear a short sleeve shirt and tie. To be honest if you ever take off your suit jacket, rolling up your sleeves is a good idea. The jacket is made to be worn at all times, not removed when the central heating is too high; if you must remove it, rolling the sleeves kind of embraces the casualness.
Now back to cufflinks: for my own personal taste I avoid any cufflinks with words, logos, or god forbid, jokes. Keep it gold, ensure the stone is large (onyx if you’re not that brave), and pop ‘em with pride.
Michael Caine in Get Carter, 1971
Meet Amber and Christopher at Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age on Friday, 28 March at the British Library - tickets here.