Commentary Archive

Chanel No.5 and Christmas

‘Christmas and Chanel Perfumes go Together’ reads the tag line of a Chanel No.5 advert in Harper’s Bazaar, 1937 New York, December issue. The world-renowned scent is perhaps the most recognizable perfume name of the 20th century, since its debut to select clients on May 5th, 1921. The release of the perfume of the fifth day of the fifth month was no coincidence, but rather an homage to Chanel’s favorite number- five. Her affiliation for the number five stemmed during her time spent at the care of nuns in Aubazine, where the pathways leading to the Cathedral were laid out in patterns of five extending into the abbey gardens. When sampling glass vials of scents numbered one to twenty for her first perfume, she of course chose the vial presented to her with the label ‘five’ on it, and thus the iconic name was born.

Chanel No.5 became a cult like fragrance, presented in a classic glass bottle, it disregarded any frivolity and fussiness of perfume bottles preceding it. The clean lines and invisible quality to the bottle design further highlights the simple, square label on the front reading ‘No.5, Chanel, Paris, Parfum’, as well as allowing focus to remain on the golden, honey coloured liquid inside. The popularity of the perfume continued decades later. In 1952 actress Marilyn Monroe claimed she wore nothing else to bed except ‘5 drops of Chanel No.5’, this statement further cemented the perfumes iconic scent status.

With such desire surrounding the perfume it is natural to see its correlation with Christmas, as a gift which is more than a perfume, but a lifestyle. Adverts in Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue from the 1920’s up until 2019 have continued to advertise Chanel No.5 as the perfect Christmas gift, emphasisng it’s timelessness, as well as revealing its modernity as the scent stands the test of time. The advert first mentioned from 1937 shows a model looking up towards the light with a flower crown on her head, evoking an aura of a Grecian Goddess, in her hands she casually holds a cigarette, placing her back into the modern world. The advert states, ‘It is only natural, then, that at Christmas, feminine thoughts turn to the perfumes of Chanel’. This idea is repeated in Harper’s Bazaar, 1985 New York, December issue, in an article titled ‘The Scents of Christmas’, illustrated with different gift boxes of Chanel No.5 containing bath oils, soaps and of course, the fragrance itself.

Harper’s Bazaar, 1937 London, December issue also featured a Chanel No.5 advert detailing the various other products you can buy to further layer your “Christmas” scent, including a cologne for men, the tag line reads ‘The Gift of Good Taste’, expressing how men and women can gift each other something synonymous with fashion. This idea is reflected in an advert from 1976 in which the various perfume products are detailed with the words, ‘You don’t have to ask for it. He knows what you want. Chanel No.5’, concluding how the fragrance has become intrinsic with gifting, lifestyle and status. Now, in 2019, the Chanel No.5 advert is the embodiment of Christmas, as snow falls around the bottle in a Chanel Christmas snow globe, complete with limited edition Christmas packaging. It is safe to say that for nearly a century now, Chanel No.5 and Christmas really has gone hand in hand.

The Return of the Mullet

Business in the front and party in the back. Yes, the mullet has returned. While critics have hoped the style will remain part of a regrettable past, the mullet is experiencing a comeback in fluorescent colors and dramatic lengths. What was once considered a dark spot in the history of popular culture, the hairstyle now graces the pages of Vogue and catwalks of major designers. Whether we like it or not, the mullet is here to stay for those brave enough to wear it.

The mullet seems to have emerged within the music world of the 1970s. As a precursor to giant 1980’s volumized hair, the 70’s rendition of the mullet perhaps expressed a forward-looking sensibility, a way to achieve volume on top of the head without masses of hairspray. David Bowie adopted the hairstyle in the early 1970s to capture his futuristic, androgynous character, Ziggy Stardust. The redheaded spaceman was a bizarre and shocking subversion of gender for its time. This sense of androgyny can be seen in a photograph of Paul and Linda McCartney donning matching mullets in 1973, proving that the hairstyle could easily cross gender lines. The 1970s iteration of the mullet perhaps reflected an idealistic, progressive style that could be worn by people of all genders which provided volume and long waves at the same time. It was a step towards the endless volume and curl of the 1980s, but still reflected the shaggy locks of the counterculture of the 1960s. In the 1980’s however, the hairstyle was cemented as a symbol of bad fashion. From country singer Billy Ray Cyrus’s adoption of the hairdo to the Joe Dirt films from the early 2000’s, the hairstyle has long been synonymous with white trash, the antithesis of fashion.

Photograph of Paul and Linda McCartney in black and white leaning into each other and looking at the camera.

Paul and Linda McCartney, 1973. (Image: Liverpool Echo/Stephen Shakeshaft)

Despite the sordid past of the mullet, this hairstyle has recently been seen on high fashion catwalks, magazine pages, and it-girls across the world. Marc Jacobs has particularly been interested in bringing the mullet back. In his autumn 2013 fashion show, he outfitted all of his models in in textured, uniform mullets. Anna Sui did something similar in her autumn 2019 show, in which all of her models wore spiky, technicolor mullet wigs. Gucci has also been rigorous in rounding up personalities and musicians who have mullets for their advertising campaigns, like Dani Miller and Amy Taylor who both wear mullets as frontwomen of punk bands, Surfbort and Amyl and the Sniffers, respectively.

Three models in a line on a runway with mullets.

Marc Jacobs, Autumn/Winter 2013 (Image: Josh Haner/The New York Times)

Instagram Screenshot of Anna Sui models wearing pink outfits with pink mullets.

Anna Sui, Autumn/Winter 2013. (Instagram: @annasui)

Instagram Screenshot of two models shooting a Gucci campaign sticking their tongues out.

Dani Miller and Amy Taylor for Gucci Pre-Fall 2019. (Instagram: @gucci)

Early in the semester, our class considered the definitions of fashion, and discussed the work of Joanne Eicher and Mary Ellen Roach Higgens who wrote that dress can be considered “an assemblage of body modifications and/or supplements displayed by a person in communicating with other human beings” (15). In this sense, clothing, tattoos, piercings, and even mullets are considered fashion, and those who adopt the these elements communicate something to the world in doing so. But what exactly does the mullet communicate?

As silky, shiny beach waves and blunt bobs have become fashionable in recent years, the mullet is a rebellion against orthodox styles. The mullet does not make much sense as a practical hairdo, as the flowing layers in the back of the head need to grow long while the shortness atop of the hairdo needs constant trimming. The backs of mullets often become infamously thin “rat tails” while the front stands up strait. It doesn’t make a lot of sense as a hairstyle, but this certainly appeals to people who want to push against the beauty standards and trends of the fashion world. Suitable for any gender, the mullet is a subversion of gendered beauty standards that separates men and women by their hair. It is both male and female. When we see a mullet we conjure up memories of David Bowie and Billy Ray Cyrus, but above all, I think the mullet is a rebellion against fashion and a celebration of “bad taste.”

 

References:

Arden Fanning Andrews, “Mullets and Shags, Oh My! The Anti-Blowout Movement Taking Over NYFW’s Runways” in Vogue, February 13, 2019. https://www.vogue.com/article/mullets-shags-hair-fall-2019-new-york-fashion-week

Joanne Eicher and Mary Ellen Roach-Higgins, “Definition and classification of Dress: Implications for Analysis of Gender Roles” in Dress and Gender: Making and Meaning, (London: Berg, 1992). 8-28.

Sequins

With Christmas fast approaching, it is the time when sequins make a reappearance. Sequins are often considered a hit or miss, depending on personal taste. And yet, during this time of year stores continually produce sequined garments for the holiday season. Sequins of varying colours and sizes are eye-catching and are perfect to wear for celebrations. However, they are not only viewed as seasonal within the fashion industry but are now considered as year-round embellishments.

Often thought to be popularized by the 1970s or Michael Jackson, sequins in actuality have a long and complex history. It was Leonardo di Vinci who made a sketch for a machine to produce sequins between 1480-1482, which used pulleys and levers. However, this never came to fruition.

Old sketch of machinery on yellowed paper

Instagram: @renaissance.art

The word sequin or sikka in Arabic translates as ‘coin’ or ‘minting die’, which references money and wealth. Early examples come from the Greeks, who would drill holes into coins and tie them onto clothing for the elite. Similarly, gold sequined disks sewn onto garments were found in King Tutankhauamun’s tomb in 1922, which were deemed as a way to promise financial stability in the afterlife. In the late 16th century the term transformed into the French word ‘sequin’ that has been used ever since. Sewing gold, coins or sequins onto clothing became a symbol of wealth or status, and in some parts of the world was used to ward off evil spirits. As centuries passed, sequins came to serve new functions. During the 1920s, flapper dresses were often embellished with sequins to reflect the glamour of the age. In antiquity, wearing coins was expensive, heavy and impractical. However, by the 1930s Herbert Lieberman solved this issue through developing acetate sequins when working in film production for Eastman Kodak. This allowed for plastic and lightweight sequins to be seamlessly attached to garments, as seen in the modern day.

The impact of sequins on fashion is exhibited in the collection of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. Many of their items demonstrate the long history of sequins within the industry, for example a 1932 Chanel evening dress made of saxe-blue silk that is covered with matching sequins. Furthermore, Cristóbal Balenciaga’s elaborate evening outfit reveals the designer’s interest in surface textures and patterns. In this example, the sequin discs are of varying shades of pink, which are designed to shimmer through the movements of the wearer.

As stated recently by Fashionista: “SEQUINS ARE COVERING THE SPRING 2020 RUNWAYS: Fashion’s obsession with sparkle is still going strong.” Sequins seem to be dominating modern spring fashions rather than floral prints, as shown in Marc Jacobs and Bottega Veneta’s recent shows that included a variety of shimmering evening gowns. Ultimately, designers are suggesting that sequins are not seasonal but a year-round trend.

Model in long orange coat and orange hat and gold sequin dress

Instagram: @britts_picks

Modern in silver sequin dress on runway with other models behind

Instagram: @bottegaveneta

References

Fashionista, “SEQUINS ARE COVERING THE SPRING 2020 RUNWAYS: Fashion’s obsession with sparkle is still going strong”, https://fashionista.com/2019/09/mfw-spring-2020-trend-sequins

Fashion Gone Rogue, “How to Dazzle in Sequins this Season”, https://www.fashiongonerogue.com/sequins-about-fashion-style/

Smithsonian Magazine, “A History of Sequins from King Tut to the King of Pop”, https://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/a-history-of-sequins-from-king-tut-to-the-king-of-pop-8035/

Threads Magazine, “A Short History of Sequins”, https://www.threadsmagazine.com/2019/04/24/short-history-sequins

Victoria and Albert Museum Website, “Evening dress”, http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O85664/evening-dress-chanel/

Victoria and Albert Museum Website, “Evening outfit”, http://collections.vam.ac.uk/item/O110006/evening-outfit-balenciaga-cristobal/

Second Time Around

Colorful knit sweater hanging on wooden bookshelf filled with books.

Helena Klevorn “The Cardigan in Question” (2019), digital photo.

On a rainy Sunday afternoon in October, I get off the number 19 bus and am greeted by a block-long line snaking out of the Chelsea Old Town Hall. Populated in equal measure by eccentric older ladies with pastel purple hair and fashion students sporting their most recent creations, I scan the flamboyant outfits as I stroll past them, to the front of the line, and in the door.

“I have a pass,” I say, retrieving a crumpled piece of card stock from inside my (for now) empty tote bag. The ticket-checker looks at the pass. “Oh you must have been here last month!” she exclaims. “Welcome back.” I smile and confirm that yes, in fact, I had been here last month and I was back for a second helping. For “here” was not just any weekend fête at the center of Chelsea’s shopping district; “Here” was the Frock Me! vintage fashion fair, a beloved gathering for the fashion-ccentrics of London to find the (not so) latest and greatest additions to their own vintage collections.

The typically spacious main room of Chelsea Old Town Hall today feels stuffy and crowded with vintage venders from across the country, selling clothes from across the globe. Each vendor has their own stall, with only a few tables and clothing racks. Despite the pared down set-up, every vendor has brought their best and (literally) brightest, cramming their stalls with garments of every color, fabric, and ornamentation imaginable. From heavy, jangling necklaces brought in from the Middle East to the preppy, chestnut wools of New England to scratchy and constricting undergarments of Edwardian England to the slippery silk of Japanese kimonos, the very fabric of fashion history seems to have been crumpled up and stuffed beneath the grand dome of the Town Hall, like some kind of magician’s trick.

The clinking of one hanger against the next collapses my very sense of time, space, and even decent taste. Between a starched tuxedo shirt and a woolly Irish sweater, my fingers land on a smooth, silky fabric. I pull it out to find a flimsy cardigan, loosely woven, in a lime green, aqua blue, and tangerine orange zigzag pattern. I fumble around looking for the tag in anticipation of my suspicions, to find that yes, indeed, it is an authentic Missoni from its Studio 54 heyday. Perhaps to many an ugly vestige of disco sensibilities, I know I’ve found a gem. I rush to try it on in the makeshift dressing room (read: a stall in the women’s restroom).

As I slip my arms through the thin sleeves and button up the front, I feel the Missoni story wash over me. Suddenly, it’s not raining outside, I’m not in London, and it’s not even October. Instead, I’m wearing nothing but the cardigan and a teeny bikini bottom on a beach in the south of France in 1975. On a much-needed vacation after a hazy summer in glittery cocktail dresses and bouncing from gallery shows to club nights and sleeping until noon, the ease of the sporty cardigan is both a welcome respite and a nod to the “haute-bohéme” sensibilities of the fashionable upper crust. Despite the dim lighting and grey walls of the bathroom stall everything in room seems just a bit brighter.

As I exit the stall to see myself in the mirror, a woman trying on a billowing skirt looks at me and gushes, “Oh, you look just like one of those teeny girls in the 70’s! They’re the only ones who could pull that off.” I thank her, and return to the stall, dizzy with styling ideas for the cardigan: paired with old 501 jeans and a glittery sandal; draped open over a tissue-thin tank top; tied up in the center with a long, silk skirt; tucked into white linen shorts with tall gladiator sandals…it’s a feeling with which I’m not unfamiliar on these sorts of fashion journeys: When discovering something old makes everything in my closet somehow feel new again.

Feeling affirmed in my choice and excited about my warm-weather outfit prospects, I return to the vendor to see what kind of damage my wallet will have to take. To my utter surprise and delight, she says, “That one’s 22 pounds. Do you need a bag?” Feeling as though I’ve just gotten away with something illegal, I hand her a £20 note and two coins and shove the cardigan into my now only mostly-empty tote.

After a few more perusals and purchases, I leave the fair just a few minutes before it’s set to close. Exhilarated by my finds, I ride the high of the successful fashion-hunter all the way down the road to a café. As I sit down and take off my coat, I run my hand over my head. Shocked, I realize the piece of scrap silk I had worn as a headband that day has fallen off. Looking around me, I figure out that it must have come off while trying on some clothes at the fair. I resign myself to the karmic balance of it all: just as a lovely garment enters my life, so something else must go. Nothing left to say but, “Frock Me!”

Knitting in the Digital Age

Once we turned the clocks back and it started to get dark around 4:00 pm, I immediately broke out my knitting supplies and resumed my favorite winter activity of making scarves, hats, sweaters, and mittens. Not only does it feel cozy to knit once it is dark and cold outside, it is a tactile hobby that is very rewarding after staring at a phone or laptop screen all day. I’m not the only millennial that feels this way and has learned to knit. Many of my friends and peers are knitters or crocheters and it is a common trend among 20-somethings. In response to this demand, there are numerous online “knit kit” companies that make it easy to learn to knit, learn new stitches, and start new projects. There are also numerous local yarn shops to buy supplies and find a community of knitters. Online, there are knitting communities like Ravelry that are a great resource for patterns and YouTube has a trove of video knitting tutorials.

Pair of hand knitted mittens

Pair of mittens I knitted this year.

In a fashion industry that actively hides the systems and conditions of production from the consumers, hand knitting brings the production right into the consumer’s own home. By knitting the item, knitters know that workers haven’t been exploited and there are no harmful environmental side effects when making the garment. (This is only true if the yarn used was produced in an ethical way.) The allure of doing the work yourself is possibly in response to a romanticizing of a pre-industrial revolution society. This nostalgia manifests as a trend for personalized, bespoke items that reject the unethical and ecologically harmful production methods of large fashion corporations. Knitting is a more accessible way to accomplish this production at home compared to sewing. Sewing requires more tools and knowledge, whereas knitting can be a casual activity that is done in front of the TV or talking with friends.

Knitting needles, ball of yarn, and knitting pattern

Hat in progress with pattern instructions.

Knitting is also related to the “hipster” trend of enjoying analogue objects like records, typewriters, and polaroid cameras. To millennials and other young people, these items could be reminiscent of a time when lives were not based in the digital world but in a physical, tactile one. They are also a brief respite from the digital world where we view glowing screens and have our touch mediated through a mobile device, laptop, or TV. Physically touching knitting needles or a polaroid camera is how a new scarf or polaroid picture is created. There is no mediation of touch through a screen and the product it creates, unlike digital images or applications, is available to touch and manipulate in real life. In this age of instant gratification, knitting is also a lesson of patience. Sweaters and scarves can take hours and hours to make (especially if you mess up a few stitches!). This, along with the physical product, makes finishing a knitting project more rewarding than anything accomplished on a laptop or phone.

Purple mittens and blue hat

Personally, I enjoy knitting because it lets me design my own scarves, gloves, and sweaters and I can make great personal gifts for my friends and family. I like having control of the design process by choosing the type of wool, the color of yarn, and the pattern to create exactly what I’m envisioning. This winter I am attempting to knit socks – a technical challenge I have not mastered yet.

Sources:

Knitting Is Cool: 20-Somethings Taking Up Knitting, Crochet. Huffington Post article

Handcrafted Fashion: Why We Crave It in the Digital Age, WSJ

The Power of the Brooch 

A few weeks ago, on a wet but crisp autumn day in Greenwich, I happened to catch a glance at a sparkling spider brooch through a shop window. Maybe it was Halloween being around the corner that made me take a closer look at the curious brooch, and maybe it was the novelty of something terrifying being presented as dazzling that made me buy it. Nevertheless, I was now the proud owner of a diamond spider, which I wore on my shoulder to class on Halloween.

 

Close up of diamond spider brooch pinned to black fabric

The brooch in question (author’s own image)

That evening, in the spirit of Halloween, I posted a picture of the spider accessory on Instagram for my friends to share in the novelty, and what I had believed to be uniqueness, of my new brooch. This act was soon to show me the power of social media, especially in spreading and creating trends in fashion. A friend sent me a message replying to the image I posted, ‘Lady Hale!’ he wrote, starting my search online to find the relation between Brenda Marjorie Hale, Baroness Hale of Richmond DBE, PC, and my new spider brooch.

On 24th September, Lady Hale declared Boris Johnson’s prorogation of parliament “void and of no effect”, while wearing a large, statement spider brooch fastened just below her shoulder on her black dress. The spider summons connotations of entrapment, a stealthy creeping of subtle dominance. Lady Hale was the black widow to Boris Johnson’s Brexit. Vogue described the brooch as ‘maximalist perfection’, and clearly the fashionably inclined public agreed, as web searches for brooches, particularly animal shapes, increased that day by 126%. Supporters of Lady Hale and her politics rallied behind her on social mediaputting a spider emoji in their bios online, spreading news not only of her power move, but also of the accessory worn during it.

Politics and fashion have been entwined since the beginning, with politicians using specific motifs to show power, and designers to allude to their beliefs. The brooch is a small yet imposing way to express an idea, quickly fastening onto anything in any placement at the wearer’s discretion. Lady Hale’s very public brooch approach displayed to the public how impactful such a novel accessory can be, giving her words added depth and connotations. 

British fashion brands like Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood express their punk ethos through brooches, reminiscent of the 1980’s DIY safety pin aesthetic. Westwood’s recurring ‘penis’ motif dates to her 1970’s ‘SEX’ boutique, when t-shirts were printed with controversial, phallic designs referencing homosexuality. This motif has been reincarnated into a diamond brooch, for a modern wearer to also show support and place their beliefs in the narrative of the brand, constructed by Westwood.  

While we have yet to see Lady Hale fashioning a Westwood penis brooch, it is fascinating to watch the influence of how her spider spread on social media, inspiring a multitude of copies and t-shirts replicating this powerful moment. The web has been cast into the unstable Brexit climate, providing proof of the power behind a great accessory as well as social media. My impulsive spider brooch purchase will certainly not be my last, bring on brooch season!

Pearls

Spring/Summer 2019 saw pearl earrings explode off the catwalk and onto the ears of many a fashion blogger on our instagram feeds. Large, irregular and often inlaid with semi-precious stones in surrealist settings, these pseudo-baroque creations are the latest take on the statement jewellery trend. No longer a revered hand-me-down from your grandmother or the ‘suitable’ option worn exclusively at birthdays, weddings and funerals, ‘Cool Girl Pearls’ have revitalized a gemstone that has fascinated the public imagination for centuries.

Neck and chest of woman in white shirt with two pearl necklaces of varying size

Instagram: @blackandcoral.jewelry

Pearl jewellery is thought to be so old that no one exact date of origin can be found. Following recent excavations in Abu Dhabi, Emirati experts announced that the world’s oldest pearl had been excavated from a stone age settlement near Abu Dhabi. Thought to be over 8,000 years old, pearls have served as a symbol of wealth, modesty and purity in most ancient cultures across the globe. During the Roman Empire, Julius Caesar ruled they could only be worn by the aristocratic elite whilst Queen Cleopatra is said to have crushed a pearl into a glass of wine to prove to Marc Antony that she was capable of holding the most expensive dinner in history.

Neck and chest of woman in white shirt with hair up wearing pearl necklace, bracelet, and earrings.

Instagram: @blackandcoral.jewelry

Pearls have continued to enthrall wearers well into the twentieth century. Transforming from the jewel of European royalty to a mark of contemporary glamour, it seems fitting that Elizabeth Taylor’s acquisition of ‘La Pelegrina’, ‘the most infamous pearl in history’ connected Hollywood to a long line of regal predecessors.

Open palm holding strand of pearl earrings dipped in gold

Instagram: @willsnotebook

In more recent times, independent designers like Alighieri, Sophie Pacheree and Nadya Shelbaya have sought to reinvent the idea of perfect pearls and the women that wear them. From imperfect shapes to unique, organic settings, contemporary designers celebrate the elegance of the pearl in its natural form. A fresh change from single-strand necklaces and modest studs, these so-called ‘cool-girl’ pearls break away from the conventional standards of jewellery popularised from the twentieth century onwards. Rather, these gems celebrate natural beauty, their organic and unrefined design mirroring the originality of the contemporary women that them.

Three pairs of pearl earrings dipped in gold against notebook background with writing describing the jewelry

Instagram: @rgarrahan

Throughout history, the power of the pearl has never waned. As the latest chapter in the story that has enthralled wearers for generations, ‘cool girl pearls’ illustrate how a timeless jewellery trend has been reworked to suit contemporary consumer demands. Regardless of size, setting, shape or value, pearls remain a popular luxury of the natural world. To quote Jackie Kennedy, “pearls are always appropriate”; the girl with the ‘cool-girl pearls’ is undoubtedly here to stay.

 

References:

https://www.vogue.co.uk/article/baroque-pearls-trend-2019

https://www.dw.com/en/worlds-oldest-pearl-found-in-abu-dhabi/a-50909299

https://www.pacharee.com/story

https://www.vogue.co.uk/gallery/tough-girl-pearls

How The Jonas Brothers Paid Homage to The Favourite in their Sucker Music Video

In the middle of research for my dissertation, I procrastinated by watching the Jonas Brother’s music video for their single ‘Sucker’. I can’t say I’m a close follower of the band but I was drawn in by their reunion and I feel that they are genuinely hilarious, indicated by this Paper cover.

Pls be my friends.

I’ve since become hooked on the song, but the most significant part of the video for me was the location: the stately home, Hatfield House. This is because a key part of my dissertation was based on the locations used in Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite, especially Hatfield, which was used for Queen Anne’s palace.
For the most part the music video matches the theme of the song, with the brothers literally falling at their wives’ feet. There was also a chaotic atmosphere, which I felt resembled a mad hatter’s tea party through the exuberant outfits and actual tea parties. In this sense, the grandeur of Hatfield suits the excess in the video; lounging in a bubble bath in a diamond hairnet should be an everyday ritual.

Sofie Turner in the ‘Sucker’ music video.

However, having obsessively looked at Hatfield onscreen and in person, there were some definite nods to The Favourite. I’ve narrowed it down to these three moments:
1. Rabbits

Sophie Turner and Danielle Jonas in ‘Sucker’.

Olivia Colman and Emma Stone as Queen Anne and Abigail Masham in The Favourite.

In The Favourite, Queen Anne has seventeen pet rabbits, which represent the real monarch’s number of miscarriages. They are a key visual motif throughout the film, communicating the Queen’s tragedy and eccentricity. In Sucker, Sophie Turner and Danielle Jonas lounge on deckchairs in the distinctive Marble Hall (think of the scene in the film with the dance mash-up of voguing and waltzing), while a herd of rabbits surround them.

2. The Long Gallery 

Priyanka Chopra in ‘Sucker’.

Emma Stone in The Favourite, with a wide angle lens used for this shot.

This expansive corridor is used many times throughout the film to convey the idea of isolated spaces, with the gallery often manipulated by the use of fisheye lenses to enhance the length and add a period look to the film. In the music video, Priyanka Chopra strides down the corridor, and there is the same gilded ceiling and wooden panelling which makes it so distinctive in The Favourite.

3. The Library 

Image 7: The gang’s all here.

Rachel Weisz and Mark Gatiss as Sarah and John, the Duchess and Duke of Marlborough.

The library is used as Sarah’s bedroom in the film, distinctive for its floor to ceiling bookshelves and ladders lining the walls (think of Sarah throwing books at Abigail, if the room isn’t coming to mind). In the final moments of the music video, the band and their wives pose in front of the shelves as their portraits are painted.
Hatfield House, with its distinctive Jacobean architecture, is a popular film location, and this could be the reason why the Jo Bros chose it for their music video. However, assuming those moments are references to The Favourite makes me enjoy the video and the film so much more, so I can only thank the band for some mid-dissertation distraction.
Watch ‘Sucker’ here.

A Kit Of Their Own

On 9th June 2019, the England Women’s football team took to the pitch at the Stade de Nice for their first match of the Women’s World Cup. They wore white, with red and blue striped cuffs, andsported the Three Lions (or maybe the Three Lionesses) on their shirt. This was the first time in the 140-year history of women’s football in England that a national team wore a kit that had beenspecifically designed for them.

England Women’s Football Team (‘The Lionesses’), June 2019.

Even on a practical level, the new England Women’s strip is of huge significance. Up until now, female players have worn kits designed for the masculine body. Often baggy and ill-fitting, the strip made the players less aerodynamic and caused discomfort while playing. The new kit is designed for and fitted to the female shape. For the first time, sportswear technology has been channelled into the development of a specifically female, professional-standard football kit, in order to support and enhance the performance of these top-level players.

England Women’s Football Team, UEFA Women’s Euro, June 2005.

Kirsty Pealing of England, ca. 2004.

Beyond this important practical progression, the new strip allows the England Women’s team to construct a unique visual identity, distinct from that of the men’s team. Academic discourse has, inrecent years, focussed on the interrelation of sport and gender. Jayne Caudwell and Jennifer Hargreaves, among others, have highlighted how, since the Victorian period, sport has become central to both the symbolic construction of masculinity and the lived experience of many men. As such, women have historically been excluded from sport on organisational, symbolic and cultural levels. These deeply engrained attitudes towards sport have often resulted in the derision ofwomen’s sport, clearly highlighted in the criticism female footballers have received via social mediain recent years. The implication of such criticism seems to be that women’s football is merely an inferior version of the men’s game, which is held as the pinnacle of what football as a sport can be.Despite the many and varied successes of England Women in the last 30 years, their kits – identical to the male strip – arguably visibly reinforced this perception of female football as merely anextension of the men’s sport, their achievements and identity drowned in the din surrounding men’sfootball.

Twitter Comments on Women’s Football, June 2019.

Twitter Comments on Women’s Football, June 2019.

The new strip, by contrast, creates an aesthetic associated exclusively with the England Women’sfootball team. Worn by players, it links this aesthetic to their performance and the pride and support it generates. Worn by fans, it expresses an allegiance to specifically the England Women’s team. Furthermore, it allows for a differentiation between the men’s and women’s games.

While perhaps, in an ideal world, there would be no distinction between the two, in reality the sports have developed in different ways. Men’s football is highly professionalized and skilful, but has also seen large-scale organisational corruption, while enormous salaries and invasive media attention is arguably damaging to the well-being of players. Women’s football aims to take a more holistic approach. At a talk I recently attended at the British Library, a representative of the F.A. suggested that there are structures in place to support female players, providing financial advice, career support and mental health provision, issues that she believes were historically overlooked in themen’s sport. Fans present at the same talk suggested that the sport itself had its own distinctive andpositive attributes, describing it as ‘football like it used to be’. Other fans praised female players for the efforts they make to interact with fans and the safe, friendly atmosphere of the crowds. The visually distinctive new England strip allows both players and fans to celebrate these unique aspectsof women’s football.

England Women’s Football Team (“the Lionesses”), June 2019.

That is not to pit men and women’s football against one another. Personally, I would love in the future to see them learn from one another in order to create two equally skilful, equally holistic sporting structures. Because, for those of us who love sport, two sets of high-quality football to watch can only be better than one.

 

Bibliography/Further Reading

@lionesses Instagram account

Hargreaves, Jennifer, Heroines of Sport: The Politics of Difference and Identity (London: Routledge, 2000).

Hargreaves, Jennifer, Sporting Females: Critical Issues in the History and Sociology of Women’sSports (London: Routledge, 1994).

Caudwell, Jayne, ‘Gender, Feminism and Football Studies’, Soccer and Society 12, no. 3 (2011), pp. 330-344. Accessed online via British Library.

Caudwell, Jayne, ‘Reviewing UK Football Cultures: Continuing with Gender Analyses’, Soccer and Society 12, no. 3 (2011), pp. 323-329. Accessed online via British Library.

Dissertation Discussion: Marielle

Screenshot from Peter Greenaway’s The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover (1989)

What is the working title of your dissertation?

I haven’t decided on a snappy title yet, but right now it could be called ‘Bodies and Borders in Jean Paul Gaultier’s Carnival Space’.

What led you to choose this subject?

I’ve been interested in looking at Peter Greenaway’s 1989 film The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, for which Gaultier designed the costumes. During an early tutorial, Rebecca suggested that I consider it in terms of Bakhtin’s theory of the carnivalesque, which has proven to be a perfect lens through which to view Gaultier’s work, and really captures its spirit. I’m now treating the film as a culmination of his work until that point, so I can look closely at the early years of his career, just before his fame really soared to another level when he did Madonna’s costumes for the 1990 Blond Ambition tour.

Favourite book/article you’ve read for your dissertation so far and why?

Initially, I loved Nita Rollins’ ‘Old Masters, Fashion Slaves’ essay because I love how she writes about the baroque sensibilities of Greenaway’s film and how Gaultier’s costumes operate within that. This is part of what sparked my excitement for the film. Since diving into Gaultier, I’ve really loved Colin McDowell’s book called Jean Paul Gaultier. It describes his work really nicely, but also integrates quotes from the designer which I’ve found to be amazing insights into his ethos and thought process.

Favourite image/object in your dissertation and why?

Greenaway’s film has been an amazing visual resource to spend time on. The colors are super saturated and it has this really dark, vile underbelly contrasted with the over-the-top interiors and costumes. I like that it can be so beautiful and appealing, and so grotesque at the same time. That feeling of discomfort is what appealed to me in the first place, and has been very useful for setting up discussions about Gaultier and Bakhtin. Plus, Helen Mirren stars in it and looks fabulous in all of her costumes.

Favourite place to work?

Senate House Library! I like to find a corner near a window in a section of a totally unrelated discipline to minimize any kind of distraction.