Fashion shows in early cinema via Caroline Evans

“In 1904 a journalist described another type of worker, a member of a new female profession, the fashion mannequin, walking to work across Paris: …’This lovely woman with her slender, curvaceous figure, whose costume, one discerns, has come from a good dressmaker . . . hastens towards the rude de la Paix or the place Vendome. It is barely nine o’clock, but despite the morning hour and the sharp cold that stings the face, more than one passer-by turns round and slips while paying her a quick compliment.’

The four-minute Gaumont film starring Renee Carl, Une Dame Vrainment Bien (1908), made a comedy of just such a scene. A pretty woman exits from a clothing shop, promenades in the Paris streets, and piques masculine curiosity. All the men turn as she passes, setting in motion a comical chain reaction: Falls, collisons, and other blunders. The film is an instance in French film of the way that, as Constance Balides has argued in relation to American comedy films of the 1900s, everyday scenes of women walking through public places are turned into sexual spectacle . . .Perhaps the paucity of films of fashion modeling was due to the fact that, in the early 1900s, the mannequins, young women paid to walk to and fro in the elite fashion houses of the rue de la Paix and the place Vendome, were largely invisible to the general public. . .

–Caroline Evans, “The Walkies: Early French Fashion Shows as a Cinema of Attractions,” in Munich, Adrienne (ed) Fashion in Film. Indiana University Press, June 2011 (pgs. 112-113).

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1 Comment

  1. It is always great to see early fashion documents that show clothing in motion like this short film does. Too bad the music choice used in this video is so wrong! It would have been a simple choice to use period music, yes?

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