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"Films and Fashion: The Photographs from the Collection of Alexandre Vassiliev" on view at ROSPHOTO
Sophia Loren and Kim Novak in cocktail dresses, Hollywood. Late 1950s. Photograph from the collection of Alexandre Vassiliev.

By: Alexandre Vassiliev

SAINT-PETERSBURG.- The new exhibition Films and Fashion, which is open at ROSPHOTO, features rare and unique photographs from the collection of the fashion historian Alexandre Vassiliev. The original pictures of Hollywood film stars not only reveal the beauty, inborn sense of style and talent of the famous actors and actresses, but also vividly mirror the change of times through the prism of vogue.

Among those who have contributed a lot to the creation of the presented images were many prominent costume designers, who used to stay in the background and thus, were little-known to the wide public. Adrian, Edith Head, Travis Banton, Helen Rose, Orry-Kelly, William ‘Billy’ Travilla and other celebrated designers were the creators of the iconic images of such legendary screen stars as Greta Garbo, Katharine Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Grace Kelly and Elizabeth Taylor. But for the costumes designed by the abovementioned artists and couturieres, the familiar look and image of the film celebrities and even their approach to acting might have been quite different.

“For many years I have been collecting authentic photos of various film stars, which illustrate the fashion shifts in different ages,” says the renowned fashion historian. “Feeling the Zeitgeist, the spirit of the time deeply, cinema can spread and popularize new fashion trends more effectively than any of the vogue magazines or fashion shows do. The thing is, that being the idols of the millions, the iconic actors bring the world of vogue right to the viewers, as each of us can find something familiar and dear to the heart in the screen characters, be it appearance, height, weight, age or way of life. However, a fashion show does not provide the equal advantage, as the models usually look pretty much the same: all of them are young, slender and tall. Cinema is always in demand, and we enjoy watching movies being in quite different moods, in joy or sorrow alike, while each decade produces a certain type of actresses who are to become the style icons and role models for their contemporaries.

The new exhibition traces the evolution of fashion and the standards of beauty in the American and European cinema from the 1910s silent films and to the late 20th century, when the film fashion traditions yielded to the pressure of the television shows and music videos widely distributed in the Internet. The visitors to the display will see the pictures of the temptresses and vamps Alla Nazimova, Theda Bara, Pola Negri and Olga Baclanova, the photos of petite ingenues Mary Pickford and Lillian Gish as well as the portraits of the legendary femme fatales Greta Garbo, Gloria Swanson, Mae West and Anna Sten. Films and Fashion also features the pictures of the celebrated actors Rudolph Valentino, Gary Cooper, Robert Taylor, Cary Grant, Ivan Lebedeff and Gregory Peck. Among other highlights of the exhibition are the photos of the postwar superstars Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Grace Kelly, Audrey Hepburn, Natalie Wood, etc.

The changes in the dress code, hairstyles, headwear, outfits and fur clothing happen in a blink of an eye, and thus, only the Hollywood studio shoots can effectively document the pumping of the ‘fashion barometer.’ However, it should be noted that the cinema industry have never followed the trends, established by the Paris-based fashion houses, blindly, as some films have been a success with the audience for several years and even decades. For instance, such renowned costume designers as Adrian, Travis Banton, Helen Rose, Barbara Karinska and Walter Plunkett did their best to create the pieces, which were neither clearly associated with a certain age, nor related to the everyday routine. A camera is keen on close-ups, because it is there, where you can see all minor details of a costume: jewelry, neckties, lace collars, embroidery, applique, etc. That is why the costume’s top is more important for the film shooting.

The majority of photos at the exhibition are black-and-white, as they date back to the golden age of Hollywood. Still, the display boasts not only the pictures of A-list celebrities, but also the photos of starlets and lesser known actresses and actors, many of which have been unknown to a contemporary viewer due to the notorious Iron Curtain, among other things. Thus, Films and Fashion provides a great opportunity to fill this cultural gap.”





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