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Libraries' Fall Exhibit

On October 20, 2010, the Libraries' fall 2010 exhibit opened with a talk by UCI history professor Lynn Mally titled, From Hollywood to Main Street: The Democratization of Film Fashion. Dr. Mally described how Hollywood introduced a new kind of fashion and definition of glamour to the world. No longer were the couture houses of Paris dictating what American women bought. Exclusivity was out and popular fashion for the everyday consumer became the driving force of costume design. After Joan Crawford wore a white organdy dress with gigantic puffed sleeves in the movie Letty Lynton, women across the country clamored for a copy. Macy's department store eventually sold 500,000 copies. Movies had made glamour a mass commodity.

The exhibit examines the history of Hollywood costume design from its inception to the end of the 20th century. In the early 1910s, costume design was little more than an afterthought with silent screen actresses providing costumes from their personal wardrobes. During the Golden Age, Hollywood realized how much publicity and money it could generate through its promotion of new fashion designs, and so set to work building an image of splendor and luxury. Tinsel Town was born; actresses were draped in exotic furs, jewels, and fabrics. There was nothing that would not be bought by an adoring public.

Major historical events such as the Depression, World War II, and the invention of television also factored into and shaped film fashion and are featured in the exhibit.

The exhibit focuses on images of pivotal costumes that have become part of our cultural identity. Vivian Leigh's green velvet dress from Gone with the Wind, Audrey Hepburn's shoulder-bowed black cocktail dress in Sabrina, and John Travolta's white leisure suit from Saturday Night Fever possibly conjure up memories of our own attempts to dress like the stars.

Hollywood was, and is, a powerful social force that teaches us what is beautiful, glamorous, sexy, and exciting.

The opening night included a montage of film clips from dozens of movies known for their influence on fashion. Other visual elements on display are clothes and accessories inspired by the movies that are generously on loan to the Libraries from UCI's costume department.

Puttin' on the Glitz: Hollywood's Influence on Fashion is curated by Becky Imamoto, research librarian for history and African American studies.

For more information, please contact Becky Imamoto, (rimamoto@uci.edu or x42639).

Above right: Exhibit Invitation
At left: Letty Lynton-inspired dress


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