Historic style secrets: A 1957 lesson in normcore

WWP’s all-time favourite scene in a film is that of Audrey Hepburn dancing around a smoky club in Paris maniacally, in the much-overlooked classic Funny Face. Not only is the choreography about 30 years ahead of its time and showcases Hepburn’s talent as a dancer (which like many stars of her generation, eclipses her acting abilities hands-down), the fashion is everything any lover of minimalist normcore could ever desire to achieve.

A mid-level ponytail complete with a Deschanel-esque fringe. The best eyebrows in history. A black, soft turtleneck. 7/8ths slacks. White socks paired with loafers. It’s as if the film’s stylist – just some guy called Hubert de Givenchy – transported himself forward in time 57 years to pick up a selection of catalogues from J Crew, Cos and American Apparel and recreated them amid a decade synonymous with ra-ra skirts and Christian Dior.

Of course, this film is largely remembered in sartorial circles for characterising the New Look; indeed, when I visited the V&A’s Golden Age of Couture exhibition back in 2007, they had those photoshoot scenes playing on loop in the background. But just as we as a 21st century, (hopefully) feminist audience are more sympathetic to the philosophising, intellectual Hepburn than the bimbo who ultimately gives up her morals to marry a 58 year-old Fred Astaire, her all-black outfit speaks to us more than the decadence of silky red ball gowns and the aristocracy of mid-century Paris.

Don’t take my word for it, just ask Beyonce and Gap. The video for Countdown and the 2006 advert for ‘the skinny black pant’ are both homages to the best scene in a film ever.

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Historic Style Secrets: Plato and Aristotle

 

As WWP is an unashamed Greekophile, Mythology nerd and student of ancient philosophy, it seemed like a good time to discuss the merits of ancient Greek menswear.  Never in history has there been clothing so androgynous yet so flattering – and also so practical.

Athenians of today do not dress for their climate; women totter round in skin tight jeans, kitten heels and black Missoni t-shirts and men, ancestors of democracy, favour the low-slung chino and overly open-buttoned shirt.  Comparison to the fresco above is futile.

Plato and Aristotle were two very similar men with different ideas.  Born into a time when sexual urges could be overcome by the pleasure of the mind, philosophers lived together in schools in order to understand…well, everything.  Plato quite fancied the idea of a society segregated by talent; a Republic as Utopian as it gets which falls short at the killing babies part.  Aristotle took a slightly more reasonable approach that was big on natural virtue ethics and one that assumes man needs politics to live a fulfilled life.  Quite the way to keep yourself in business boy.

In this painting, Plato (the one pointing at the sky) has pioneered colour blocking, the three-quarter length sleeve and the neckerchief.  Aristotle has gone for an ethereal embroidery and khaki to highlight his olive skin tones.

So something clearly went wrong in the middle ages when it came to fashion.  And hygiene.  And overall well-being when it comes down to it.  The Greeks seemed to have it all, only for the world to flush it away with the pig slop.  Not so surprisingly Grecian inspired style is still one of the most flattering that there is – skimming and clinching where it needs to – and one that no doubt will stick around for a while at least. As far as I know, Stella McCartney doesn’t have Joan of Arc-inspired collection in the pipeline.