Langson Library premiered its fall exhibit “Puttin’ on the Glitz: Hollywood’s Influence on Fashion” last week to an enthusiastic crowd of students, staff and interested members of the Irvine community.
The premiere event was held in the Roger C. Holden Reading Room at Langson Library and featured a lecture by Lynn Mally, 20th century Russian history professor, on the birth of fashion design in Hollywood and its prevalent influence on American fashion ever since. Special guests of the evening included dedicated supporters of the library, Tom and Linda Salinger, as well as UC Irvine Drama Department’s head of costume design, Holly Durbin.
Professor Mally’s lecture, “From Hollywood to Main St.: The Democratization of Film Fashion,” highlighted the emergence of a fashion design category in Hollywood films from the Golden Age to present-day Hollywood. During the lecture, Mally explained how American fashion was primarily non-existent until the 1930s, when it became widely popularized by actors and actresses in Hollywood films. Before then, outfits were sold ready-to-wear, and designer names, for the most part, did not exist. Designs worn in films were, and still are, produced and sold in retail stores to the general public. Thus, film fashion has become something of a trendsetter, both in Hollywood and world-wide. Sewing patterns advertising various actresses’ costumes in famous films also became popular as seamstresses began sewing versions of Hollywood fashions at home. As Professor Mally put it, Hollywood fashion showcases “what it is to be an American: prosperous, fit, ready to take charge.”
During the lecture, audience members participated in Mally’s interactive talk, sharing their ideas and personal experiences in fashion.. Third-year comparative literature and political science major Kelly Novahom commented on the environment in the room: “I loved it. It brings people together. The community and students were in conversation with each other.”
Professor Mally was awarded a plate at the end of her lecture to be placed in the book “Vogue History of 20th Century Fashion” in Langson as a token of appreciation for her speaking at the event.
Proceeding Professor Mally’s lecture was a small reception and an opportunity to view the exhibit at Muriel Ansley Reynolds Exhibit Gallery. Guests also took advantage of this time to speak with Professor Mally and the exhibit’s curator, research librarian for history Becky Imamoto. Imamoto expressed how she was attracted to the light-heartedness of this year’s exhibition topic, which is one of the reasons she wanted to curate it.
“I had a fabulous time putting it together,” she said, which is evident in the wide array of sources, artifacts, books and images she put together that best exemplify the mark Hollywood has made on fashion.
Trademark examples of this fashion include James Deans’ red nylon jacket in “Rebel without a Cause” (which one member of the audience admitted to buying after he first saw the film in the 1950s) and Audrey Hepburn’s iconic gown in “Sabrina.” Imamoto also edited clips from several key movies together to better display how the fashions were advertised by actors and actresses.
The exhibit was exciting for everyone in attendance that evening. Novahom recalled how she was pleased that a Jimmy Choo shoe was compared to a shoe used in Hollywood films of earlier decades as a marker of early fashion’s influence on today’s designers. Caitlin Cisek, a third year costume design graduate student, said of the exhibit, “It’s about our own way of life. Being able to see ‘us’ in things is exciting.”
Students also participated in the creation of the exhibit. Second-year costume design graduate student Rebecca Meredith worked to restore items of clothing donated by the costume shop on campus. As a designer-in-training, she found the idea behind the exhibit and the lecture “interesting, coming from a non-costume design background.” The angle taken to put the exhibit together makes it interesting to people of all backgrounds. Cisek added, “I love history that relates to the way people live. It defines how we act, who we are, how we react.”
”Puttin’ on the Gliz” runs through May 2011. Professor Mally’s lecture may be viewed in full on the UCI Libraries website at http://www.lib.uci.edu.