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.
Back in October we launched our second short film competition The Sound Edit: British Accents and Dialects at the London Film Festival with IdeasTap. In January we short listed ten entrants who were given £500 to make a film inspired by our sound archive and today I'm very happy to announce the winning entry. Drumroll please....
James's boldly experimental short wordlessly captures the dialect term ‘plodge’ both visually and sonically. We were captivated by his quietly innovative and meditative visual method and we wanted to watch it again and again.
'Plodge', to the anonymous member of the public who recorded the word at our Evolving English exhibition, means to to wade through water.
Many congratulations James!
We are screening Honeycomb on Monday, 31 March at our Spring Festival Inspiring Filmmakers event with four award-winning short films including Beat starring Ben Whishaw. You can also hear stories and mingle with acclaimed filmmakers Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas), Celia Barnett (all eight Harry Potter films!), Tony Noble (Moon) and up and coming director Jamie Stone (Orbit Ever After). This event is in partnership with the good people at Cinema Jam and Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival. For more information and to book tickets click here.
Stills from 'Honeycomb (Plodge)' directed by James Spinney
About James Spinney
James studied English Literature to MA level and now works as a freelance editor. With directing partner Peter Middleton, his short film Rainfall was nominated for the ICA Experimental Film Award and won the Best Short Award at Hot Docs 2013. The follow up - Notes on Blindness - was commissioned by the New York Times Op-Docs and selected for Sundance and SXSW 2014. James and Peter are currently developing Notes on Blindnessinto a feature film.
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.
I'm very happy to announce the line up of events in our third Spring Festival at the British Library. A celebration of fashion, film and design - we invite you to play in our building, explore our collections and find inspiration for your next creative project. I hope to see you there! #BLSpring
Puttin' on the Glitz - Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age Friday, 28 March 18.30 - 22.00
Join fashion extraordinaire Amber Jane Butchart and the ever dapper Clothes on Film blogger Christopher Laverty in this illustrated talk about the glitz and glamour of Jazz Age Hollywood. Ruffled gowns, sequined hats and zoot suits - this stuff never goes out of style darlings!
Followed by a cocktail party hosted by The Vintage Mafia - the first round of 'Prohibition Era' drinks are on us.
Hanif Kureishi - My Beautiful Film Career Saturday, 29 March 13.30 - 18.00
Double bill of acclaimed screenwriter Hanif Kureishi's My Beautiful Laundrette and Le Week-End. In between screenings Kureishi will talk about his work with fellow writer Rachel Holmes. Plus you get an exclusive viewing of material from his personal archive, acquired by the Library this year.
History Relived - Storytelling Worshop Monday, 31 March 10.00 - 16.00
Twitter in the 1890s - what would it look like? What events would people tweet about? Find inspiration in our massive British Newspaper Archive - over six million digitised, searchable pages you can play with. Create characters, bring them to life and share your stories on social media. Hosted by our friends Sheffield Doc/Fest and Crossover Labs.
Inspiring Filmmakers with Tony Grisoni Monday, 31 March 18.30 - 20.30
Whether you're looking for inspiration or on a fact-finding mission for your film project - there's something for you in the Library. Award-winning screenwriter and director Tony Grisoni (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Kingsland #1, Southcliffe) and art department researcher Celia Barnett (Harry Potter, Quantum of Solace, Gosford Park) talk about how they've used the Library to do research - joined by production designer Tony Noble (Moon).
Inspired by... vinyl records Monday, 31 March 18.30 - 20.00
Our vinyl collection is enormous. It's also largely unknown and we want to change that. Our curator of popular music Andy Linehan looks at the history of vinyl and digs into the archive to bring you cool record sleeve art and unique album titles including some rare bootleg records. A perfect event for graphic designers and music lovers.
"If ever there's a nuclear war, I'm coming here with a portable record deck." - Radio presenter Tom Ravenscroft.
Protecting the big picture Thursday, 27 March 10.00 - 12.00
Intellectual property can be a boring subject but an understanding of it is absolutely vital for anyone producing creative works - whether it's film, fashion or design. This is a practical and informative event where you can ask questions to a panel of IP specialists. In partnership with ACID, Anti Copying in Design.
From now until the end of March I’ll be posting a series of guest blogs written by students from Central Saint Martins Fashion History and Theory course. They’ve taken the theme behind our upcoming Spring Festival event Puttin’ on the Glitz – Fashion and Film in the Jazz Age to spotlight fashion in films from the recent American Hustle to classics like Breakfast at Tiffany’s.
Today’s guest blog is from Osman Ahmed on the Bafta-winning American Hustle.
Sequins, lamé, plunging necklines – if you’ve seen American Hustle, the mere thought of Oscar-nominated actors Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale, Cooper, and Jeremy Renner in glamorous ‘70s getups is enough to re-consider your hair curlers and towering heels.
Set in New York City and New Jersey, the film is laden with the sexed-up silhouettes and unapologetic glamour that emerged as a reaction to the counter-cultural hippie styles of the previous decade. A distinct whiff of aspiration is achieved by the furs, gowns, gold chains and velvet suits worn by the con men attempting to convince the world of their success and sophistication.
“We wanted the actors to use their costumes as a part of their hustle,” the film’s costume designer Michael Wilkinson told The New York Times. “They dress as the person they aspire to be. Characters playing characters.”
There’s a clear dialogue in the costume that contributes as much to the characterisation as the stellar acting performances. Bradley Cooper’s F.B.I. officer, Richie DiMaso, starts the film in ill-fitting polyester suits and nylon shirts but shifts to three-piece wool suits and silk shirts when he becomes accustomed to the luxurious lifestyles of New York City fraud duo Sydney Prosser, played by Amy Adams, and Irving Rosenfeld, played by Christian Bale.
As for the girls, the inspiration varied from mail-order catalogues and Helmut Newton’s Vogue editorials to Playboy and Cosmopolitan covers and documentary photographs taken at Studio 54 by Allan Tannenbaum. It seemed fitting that Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dress featured prominently as the film’s release coincides with the 40th anniversary of the iconic design. The streamlined quality of the dress with the bold prints embodies a moment that continues to hold significance for countless women and an era in New York that will forever be embedded in history.
As Wilkinson puts it, “American women at that time were enjoying new freedoms in fashion: less underpinnings, less structure and bold, streamlined shapes. It was an era for clothes when ideas were big, people lived large, took risks and didn't give a damn.”
Lots of plunging necklines in the American Vogue archive - available digitally in our British Library Reading Rooms. It features every issue from 1892 to the present day, spanning over 400,000 pages.
I've often seen British Library collection items and thought, I'd wear a dress with that pattern on it. Then I dream of all the designers I would ask to make that dress for me. Lucy Tammam is one of these designers.
Lucy specialises in hand-crafted ethically sourced bridal and evening wear. Last night at the Baftas, Nat Luurtsema (nominated for her short film Island Queen) wore a Tammam white silk crepe lace gown. Check out the Twitter reactions - they're hot! Lucy designs have also been showcased at London, Paris and New York Fashion weeks. Rising star Eleanor Tomlinson was spotted wearing a Tammam coat at LFW this weekend.
Lucy has used the British Library for both inspiration and business support. Hear her story below as part of our Made with the British Library video project spotlighting how people are using the Library to create something new.