Sunday, 29 March 2015

Design Journal: Suite Francaise

This weekend I went to see 'Suite Francaise' at the cinema with my friend. I went for fun, not for research purposes, but I couldn't help but admire the costumes and thought it would be worth blogging about. The film is set in a Nazi-occupied France during World War II and is based on the novel which was actually written at the time of the war but wasn't discovered until 1998, and then published in 2004. The film is about a small village in France that becomes occupied my German soldiers, and subsequently the French families have no choice but to share their homes with the enemy.

The main character, Lucille, played by Michelle Williams, lives with her Mother-in-law in one of the few remaining big houses in the village due to their family's wealth. Lucille's husband, who she later says she only met twice before they married, is away fighting at war, and she is left to cope with her difficult Mother-in-Law. You can pretty much guess that a German soldier moves in with them, and where the story heads, but I won't spoil anything.

It was particularly difficult trying to find stills from the film that properly show off Lucille's costumes, because the film is still relatively new. The costumes were designed by Michael O'Connor who studied pictures and magazines of the time, as well as using authentic French fabric in order to stay as true to the 1940's fashion as possible. Apparently the book itself describes the outfits in detail - I would like to read it one day because I enjoyed the film so much! For the majority of the film Lucille is seen wearing various different utility dresses, something which the 1940's is known for.

I'm not very clued up on 1940's fashion as I've always preferred the 1950's in general, because it's much more colourful and fun and free - but I'm guessing thats to do with the end of the war. After watching this film I feel I need to research more into the 1940's. I'm usually not that interested because images of that era are often very tailored and straight, with big shoulders and a boring hemline. Clothing is very serious and practical, to the point of almost a 'female uniform'. Obviously I am generalising here and I need to research further into it.

However, I was particularly drawn to Lucille's wardrobe. She only had a small selection of clothing, which I assume everyone did due to rationing, and her dresses were relatively all the same shape. I actually really like the 'practical' side of the 1940's clothing (which does carry over to the 1950's too), but I also love how feminine it is too. Lucille would obviously have a much more prettier wardrobe than most of the women in her village due to the wealth of their family, and this is definitely made apparent in the film. As simple as the shapes of her dresses were, what I really like was the use of print; my favourite dress is the one with the red and black check print - it's simple but really effective. I love how the costume designer made the clothes not look like actual costumes, as films from those sort of era's often exaggerate the clothing, and I think these dresses would still be popular by women today. I personally would love to wear clothes like Lucille, but maybe more of a circle skirt instead. (I do much prefer the 50's silhouette)

This week i've become really interested in print and have been looking into 1950's/1960's interior's, as well as the modern interpretation of that era. Vintage has been having a 'come back' for a long time now, and people who enjoy wearing vintage clothing, or reproductions, often carry that love into their home life too. Whilst researching I got lead down a sort of print hole and started looking at florals, Orla Kiely, flower power, abstract art, Mary Katrantzou, collage etc. I would love to be able to design a print myself but I have basically no experience and my tutor is concerned I am getting distracted from my original interest in pattern cutting. I completely understand as for me getting the shapes perfect is really important, however I was looking for inspiration for colour direction, and also having done my print research I now know what sort of prints to be looking out for when fabric shopping. I think I would still like to pursue some sort of print design direction on my MA, even if it doesn't go very far because its a skill I would like to eventually learn going forward in my career. My tutor also says I should forget about the 1960's and just focus on the 1940's/1950's - but my issue is, as much as I love the fashion and silhouettes of those era's, I must prefer a bolder, pop art sort of print that is associated with the 1960's. I don't want to have a very boring floral print, I want it to be bold and exciting and modern, which I definitely feel plus size fashion needs. Obviously my brand/collection is for a customer who loves vintage clothing, but I picture her to also be very modern, so it's just finding the balance. I want my clothes to look vintage but have a twist - I don't want them to be costumes, or like someone stepped straight out of that era.

The nearest brands I can see myself fitting inbetween, but obviously for plus size instead, are Emily & Fin:

They remind me of a modern day Horrockses, with their simple and wearable silhouettes, with varying cotton prints and even though it has a vintage vibe is definitely for a modern woman. This, in my opinion, is what plus size fashion needs!

Another brand I see myself fitting beside is Miss Patina, who I absolutely would love to wear if it came in my size:

They actually describe themselves as a vintage lifestyle brand, which is what I want to be too. But you can tell that it isn't just reproduction straight out of the mid century, but they're actually modern and wearable for someone today without looking like costume. I also need to find this balance of vintage vs. modern, and I think whilst I'm home over Easter I will have to keep an eye out for prints and fabric.

As usual, any input that you may have would be very beneficial to my work. Have you seen Suite Francaise, what did you think of it? And did you like the costumes? Are there any other films you could recommend me for fashion inspiration, particularly from that sort of era? What is your opinion on modern vintage clothing, and can you recommend me any brands? Lots and lots of questions! Any feedback is welcome.

Until next time,


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