Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Hollywood: Inventor of Legend, Destroyer of Vintage

Hollywood has been an important force in the American social scene for about a century now, often giving us inspirational, insightful and, no doubt, entertaining films and television. Rocky, It's a Wonderful Life, The Best Years of Our Lives, Gone With the Wind, Rear Window, etc. The list goes on.

Those films and many others are legends, a normal part of popular culture. That's what Hollywood is known for: creating and changing popular culture.

Kid Galahad

Something Hollywood is not well know for is destroying vintage clothing but it is second to none in that regard.

It may or may not be common knowledge that Hollywood regularly uses original vintage clothing in the making of its films and TV shows. There are two main reasons for this: first, modern reproductions are often unable to capture the look and feel of Golden Era clothing and, secondly, real vintage clothing is often much cheaper to buy or rent than it is to reproduce. And that second part, the price, is the main reason Hollywood opts for the real deal.

And here's the rub: film and theater are rough business and things get destroyed, especially 70-year-old clothing. Look at the recent movie "Hugo" by director Martin Scorsese. According to the costume designer for that movie, Sandy Powell, hundreds of vintage pieces were destroyed during filming:

"There were literally over 1,000 costumes, so it took us a long time. We contracted costume rental companies, and we actually did a lot of buying, we sort of scoured markets and secondhand stores both in London where it was filmed and also in Paris; there are great flea markets there. And then we were filming so long, some of the extras were wearing the same clothing for weeks on end, and a lot of the original vintage pieces actually ended up falling apart, disintegrating."

The movie "Titanic" was just as bad, using many original vintage pieces during filming, especially dresses and gowns.  These were unfortunately shredded by the end of filming, just like the pieces used in "Hugo".
History disintegrating and being destroyed just to make a movie. If an architecturally important building or a valuable piece of artwork were purposely destroyed for the filming of a movie there would be an outcry from the media and the public. Yet when hundreds of historical pieces of clothing are allowed to fall apart for the same reason there is nothing.

Vintage fedora ruined in "Boardwalk Empire".

Several months ago I was approached by a costume designer from a popular and well known cable TV channel. They were looking for original 1940s/early 1950s pieces of men's clothing for an upcoming series about a detective in 1950s Los Angeles.  I was enthusiastic about supplying vintage to be used in the production of the TV show but soon remembered the horror stories like those above.  As a result, although I would have loved to participate in and supply the filming, I denied the studio both the sale and rental of my vintage (many of the same pieces found at the haberdashery).  I was even told by the costume designer that pieces rented were not guaranteed to be returned in the same condition and may not be returned at all, having 'disappeared' from the set.  And anything bought might be thrown out after filming.

That is unacceptable.

Vintage is a non-renewable resource.  Once it's gone, it's gone.  Reproductions will always be around and plentiful but collectors of vintage clothing are like the Hollywood studios: we prefer the real deal.  And while vintage is still fairly easy to find it is getting more difficult.  Eventually it will be impossible to find.  The days of large costume departments are gone: it's much easier (and cheaper) to buy 'new' costumes for a movie and throw them out at the end of filming.  It's the result of our disposable society.

What can be done to stem the destruction that Hollywood is sowing?  Little if anything.  No one really cares, except for those few vintage nerds like ourselves.  All we can do is watch history disappear piece by piece, right before our eyes. 

And all of it caught on film...

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sale at the Houndstooth Haberdashery and Other News

The Houndstooth Kid blog has hit the 500,000 visitors mark!

As a "thank you" for helping us reach 500,000 visits, select items found at the Houndstooth Kid Haberdashery are on sale for a limited time.  This sale will end June 14th.  Don't miss out on some great deals.

Also, you may have noticed a recent slow-down in posting here on the Houndstooth Kid blog.  Not to worry, it is merely temporary.  I am currently getting ready to move within a month and preparing for my wedding in August.  Posting is unlikely to pick-up again until at least September.  So hang in there and keep your eyes trained upon this space.

And don't miss out those deals over in the Haberdashery.  We couldn't have done it without our faithful readers.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

1931 Pamphlet: "Correct Apparel for Gentlemen"

These were printed for 'Society Brand Clothes'; this specific one is from 'Wilson's Clothes Shop', Brookville, Pa.

Very high quality illustrations and color suit photos. Also several flaps with style advice underneath. In perfect condition, like it's never seen the light of day.  The colors are crisp and rich.

The beginning of the Golden Era of men's clothing started in the late 1920s and early 1930s, putting this little book right in the middle of it.  This pamphlet is from when silhouettes and proportions were just getting to be perfect and it shows within its pages.


right-click, open images for full size:


page 1

first style flap

page 2

page 3

second style flap

pages 4 & 5

page 6

page 7

third style flap

page 8

last style flap

back cover


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