A Fine Man Once Said:

"Part of the 10 million I spent on gambling, part of it on booze, and part of it on women. The rest I spent foolishly."

- George Raft

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Swing Time: Apparel Arts & The Golden Age of Film

Fred Astaire, in an early scene from Swing Time, perhaps wearing formal 
attire made for his own personal wardrobe commissioned from Anderson & Sheppard.

There is a great scene early in the Fred Astaire - Ginger Rogers classic Swing Time that caught my eye the other night. In the sequence, Astaire, in his wedding attire, informs the members of his dance troupe that he's giving up the stage (or the dance troupe, anyway) to get married. In order to stall for time and keep Astaire from attending his own wedding, one of the troupe shows him a Lawrence Fellows-like drawing in the pages of Squire magazine (whose title and cover look suspiciously like an Esquire magazine).

The cover of the fictitious Squire magazine, which looks very 
much like the Esquire magazines of the day.

The artwork depicts a stylish fellow in attire that is strikingly similar to what Astaire has on, with the only difference being the cuffs (which the troupe-member has added with a pencil to the drawing). Convinced that his trousers will look terribly dated without this year's look - namely, cuffs - Astaire sends someone down to the tailor with his trousers in order to have the cuffs added.

The Lawrence Fellows-like rendering from Squire 
magazine with the cuffs being added by pencil.

The scene, in and of itself, would have been amusing had it ended right there. But in the subsequent scenes, the tailor is shown steadfastly refusing to ruin his reputation by adding cuffs to the trousers. He pulls out various reference materials to make his point - and this is what caught my eye, as it appears that he has a small stack of Apparel Arts magazines on display which he uses to try to make his point about the cuffs! The magazines appear to be the soft-cover, over-sized versions of the classic mid-1930s issues which feature the title in bold lettering, with some type of painted image at the center of the cover. I tried to capture a few screen-shots, but because of the movement in the scene, they're all a bit blurry. I think the Apparel Arts issues are more obvious if you just watch the scene.

An authentic issue of Apparel Arts, captured on screen 
and in the wild back in 1936? You decide.

One of the questions that often come up in the context of Apparel Arts is just how much of an effect the trade publication actually had on everyday menswear, or how widely circulated the magazine was beyond the stockrooms and corporate offices of the leading men's retailers of the day. Hollywood films of the era certainly offered a highly-stylized version of the "realities" of the 1930s, but if the films of the golden age of cinema did in fact influence the fashions and styles of the day, then it says something if Apparel Arts magazines were being used as props to convey a certain knowledge or understanding of the rules governing men's dress at that time.

The pile of magazines on top of the shelf to the right - more Apparel Arts?

Whether its simply a coincidence that a trade publication such as Apparel Arts, with its distinct fondness for all those things English, just happened to make an appearance in a film headlined by a noted Anderson & Sheppard acolyte such as Fred Astaire is a question for another day :-)

1 comment:

  1. all questions aside, indeed a great, light-spirited movie always worth one more viewing. i have twenty-something of the Astaire's movies and is always a renewed pleasure coming back to any one of them, for cause (or not) of observing the luxurious wardrobes of yestertimes. cheers. Vic (one depaupered dandy from Portugal).