Sunday, 29 November 2015

Vintage Fancy Dress Dogs

I've certainly never got so much joy from a Daily Mail article before, but look at these beauties.

These are Vintage Dog Show Photos. And this picture doesn't just show any vintage Dog show, but dogs in fancy dress. Honestly, what is not to love??

Yes that does indeed appear to be an odd sort of Scotty dog, a couple of period dames and a clown.

And points for spotting the dogs in this photo

To read the full article, click this link here

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Guilty Pleasure Frock Flick No 4: The Slipper and The Rose

Many people raved about Kenneth Branaghs recent Cinderella story, but for me there really only is one true Cinderella film, and it's The Slipper and The Rose. Made in 1976, 4 years before I was born, it's like Star Wars or The Sound of Music, I simply cannot recall a time when I hadn't seen this film.

This film also marks a moment for me as a film professional. A few years ago I was fortunate enough to work on a short film with Tony Imi the cinematographer of this film of this film. Professional pride prevented me from geeking out and confessing to him that I was a massive fan of this film and begging him to tell me stories about working on it (it's very poor taste of fangirl on a colleague  with so we all wander around film sets pretending we're totally cool with working with movie stars, which we're usually not, at least for the first couple of hours before we realise they're just as, if not more, annoying as all the other actors we've worked with). Anyway Tony Imi died a few months after filming and it's a lifelong regret that I never asked him about the film.

No 4:

The Slipper and The Rose (1974)

Costume Design: Julie Harris

But what makes this film so good?

Apart from the fact it's set in my favourite period of the 18th Century, it's also very well written and bloody hilarious. Particularly Annette Crosby as the Fairy Godmother and Julian Orchard as the King's Cousin whose background in Carry On films puts him in good stead. 

And it seems I can't resist a powdered wig and a good pair of paniers.

This film, in true 1970s fashion has just as many failures as successes, but it's also so unashamedly lavish and unafraid to use synthetics that you can't resist it. 

And I promise to go with a different period for the number 3.

The Plot

Margaret Lockwood as the evil stepmother, with Sherrie Hewson and Rosalyn Ayres as the stepsisters
It's Cinderella, plain and simple. Our Prince Edward (Richard Chamberlain) is bored of being a prince and wonders 'Why can't I be two people?' but his wonderfully older parents wonder "What has love got to do with being married?" Our heroine is mistreated by a brilliantly pantomime villain Stepmother and ugly stepsisters and remembers that "Once I was loved" as she sees her mothers grave. The Prince is disgusted by the idea of "A Bride Finding Ball" but his wonderfully repulsive (in a totally endearing way) cousin is delighted at the prospect of getting his leftovers.

For those who haven't worked it out yet, have I mentioned that it's a musical. My personal proclivities aside, don't let that put you off. The songs are (for the most part) the comedy highlights of the film. The Sherman Brothers who composed the film won Oscars for best song and best score, the Golden Globe for best score and the BAFTA for film music. Naturally there's the token boring songs, but the fast forward button was invented for a reason.

Cinderella is visited by the worlds most wonderfully cynical fairy godmother in the guise of Annette Crosbie, gets to go to the ball, meets the prince, falls in love, but before they can get together fate steps in, blah, blah, blah. You know the drill. It's fricken Cinderella. If you're watching this film to find out if the girl gets the Prince you're probably not the target audience

This film made me want a fairy godmother, but more for the wonderful sarcastic humour than the pumpkin coach

The Cast:

This is not an A-list cast. Richard Chamberlain is the most recognisable face of the bunch. He's the man I always think played James Bond but didn't, and epitomises Prince Charming, safe in the knowledge that nothing is more charming than a man who doesn't want a woman who desires him simply for his wealth and position. 
International ballet star Christopher Gable brings the dance element for the men as John, our princes trusty sidekick, who suffers from his own case of forbidden love and so can sympathise with our Prince's problems.
A relatively unknown Gemma Craven is our Cinderella, but in case I haven't mentioned it before, it's the humourous supporting cast that really make this film worth watching. It's a quintessentially B Grade (and that might be generous) English stars shine with people like Kenneth Moore as the Lord Chamberlain, Michael Hordon and Lally Bowers as the aging King and Queen and as I mentioned above, the show is totally stolen by Julian Orchard as the Kings cousin, the man who you don't want to love. And of course Margaret Lockwood and Annette Crosby. If you've not heard of any of these people, I can guarantee you're going to want to see more of them after watching this.

The Costumes:

The costume designer is Julie Harris who unfortunately died earlier this year. You've probably never heard of her but this won't be her only appearance on my list. Her most famous works include The Beatles film A Hard Days Night, The Great Muppet Caper and Bond film Live and Let Die, so she's definitely earned her stripes.

As I promised, there are some doosies here. The 70s flourescent candyfloss tones of the great ball cannot be ignored.

Neither can our heros weird 70s hairdo and upholstery velvet suit, or the  net cape and the pink wig that our heroine is transformed into by our fairy godmother. But as an example of the juxtaposition of the period a costume is set and the date it was made, this film absolutely nails it.

But where the costumes really shine is when Cinderella decides that she must escape for the good of the Prince and country. As an massive art lover the homage Fragonard's archetypal Rococo masterpiece The Swing just gets me every time I see this film. (my husband has zero time for Rococo art, which I appreciate, it's about as girly and fluffy as art gets.)

Her wedding dress is pretty damn lustworthy too.

Favourite Frock

I can't explain it, but something about this velvet travelling hood just makes me go weak at the knees.

Monday, 11 May 2015

An intriguing picture of Henri et Caroline

I just stumbled acrross this picture on my phone. This Christmas my husbands family decided that it would be fun to hire out a small Scottish Castle which was absolutely amazing. (For the curious it was Castle of Park with a link here and only cost us about £500 a couple for a weeks accommodation which is pretty damn cheap to be able to say, "oh yes, we spent Christmas in a castle last year).

Anyway this print was on the bathroom wall. Regular readers will know how obsessed I am with curious costumes, and a French castle in Scottish dress of an indeterminate (or perhaps non existing) period while she is in 1830s (or at a push late 1920s?) dress is more than I can resist.

Are they going to a fancy dress ball, and if so does that mean she's just wearing a surprisingly authentic different period. Are they on holiday from France or why else would they be French?

And don't even get me started on his clohting. I've NEVER seen anything like it. Is it 16th century(esque),  Is that a short kilt of some somrt of pantaloons. So many questions. If you have any theories please share them with the rest of the class.

Is he just a very confused Sir Walter Scott fanatic?

So many questions. If you have any theories please share them with the rest of the class.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Top 5 Guilty Pleasure Film Flicks

When I meet people I usually know within about 5 minutes how good a friend they will be. One of my very best friends and I met when she wanted to hire me to costume a period film (which is a pretty good start). While we can both wank on about arthouse films with the best of them and happily use the criticism "that is so mainstream" to discuss an Oscar winning film, we also have a shared deep dark secret: at our very first meeting we discovered a mutual love of historic romance novellist Georgette Heyer, and it turns out we share a love of film of a similar vein.

I just received the dvd for this film, which looks sumptuos and amazing, and has been specially selected for a movie night with said best friend. I'll review it once we've seen it, but it got me to thinking.

Of course there are the usual frock flicks like Gone with the wind, Room with a view, The Princess Bride and The BBC Pride and Prejudice that are widely acknowledged as classics of the genre. But there are also the lesser known films, the slightly embarassingly corny, naff, raunchy, or even worse to some, not remotely historically accurate. *Gasp!* They're the Sunday-afternoon-in-your-pyjamas films that would never even be remotely considered for an award, yet I can recite them word for word and secretly prefer to their much better scripted, directed and acted counterparts.

So I'm going to do a series of posts on my top 5 costume films that I don't like to admit to being obsessed with.

Number 5:


Costume Design: Phyllis Dalton

Sink me. There have been many adaptations of Baroness Orczys novels but this made for TV film adaptation is by far my favourite. The strangest thing about this film is I started watching it because my very straight, then in his mid teens older brother, loved it. (He also had an unhealthy obsession with Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves when it came out, but lets not go into that).

The plot:

Set during the French Revolution, the thorn in Ropesbierre's side is the infamous Scarlet Pimpenel and his league, famed for snatching the (innocent *cough*) aristocrats from the horrors of Madame Guillotine in audacious and cunning escapades. The Scarlet Pimpernel is none other than Sir Percival Blakeney, who acts the society fop in order to protect his identity. Whilst in Paris he falls in love with and marries beautiful actress Margeurite St. Just, whom he whisks off to England. But Margeurite has ties with Percy's nemesis and fervent revolutionary Chauvelin, and nothing, not even his love for her, can endanger his plans to save the Dauphin, the heir to the French throne.

When Gandalf met Sebastian Flyte

The Cast:

The film is most notable today for having a young(er) Ian McKellan as Chauvelin, long before he became the hero of geeks everywhere, at a time when he was almost exclusively known as a highly respected Shakespearean actor. He is brilliantly uptight as the much thwarted villain of the piece, but also brings an almost sympathetic, softly comic side to what might otherwise be a fairly dull character It also stars an almost unrecognisably beautiful Jane Seymour as Marguerite St. Just, and Anthony Andrews (sans Aloysius) playing the titular fop-come-masquerading hero to perfection. The script is witty and fast paced and doesn't ask you to think too much, aware that it is firmly placed in the Rollicking Good Time genre, but by casting some of the England's finest, the characters become more than cardboard cutouts with complex relationships, lifting what could have been mellodrama into a love triangle between layered and three dimensional characters. Playing fast and loose with the source material (it's based on at least 2 of the Baroness' books, both the original Scarlet Pimpernel and Eldorado), it's as ridiculous as it is completely charming, escaping the self-congratulatory smugness or attempts to make serious commentary on the revultion, it allows as the laddish charm and romantic subplots of the league seduces you into their adventures.

Those hats, that collar, the hair

The Costumes:

And the costumes? It's designed by Phyllis Dalton. The name may not mean much, but when I tell you her extensively impressive list includes Doctor Zhivago and Laurence of Arabia before this film, but who also went on to costume two of the most beloved frock flicks (at least in my opinion) The Princess Bride and Kenneth Branaghs Much Ado About Nothing, you will appreciate that I don't need to wax lyrical about her talents. Unusually for this period of paniers, heaving bosoms and powdered hair, the costumes manage to be gorgeous without distracting from the characters wearing them. Margeurite's are particularly impressive from both a beautiful and character driven perspective, as she convincingly transforms from Republican sympathetic French actress to wealthy English Lady.

Margarite as on the stage...
vive la revolution ....
to English garden party

Favourite Frock:

This was genuinely a difficult one, simply because this is the one era where the mens clothes genuinely come close to outshining the ladies, and as an utter fop and friend of the Prince Regent, Sir Percival Blakeney has some of the most stylish togs around. However as this is a guilty pleasures post, and I'm confessing my deepest darkest secrets, it has to be the Margeurites wedding gown, It's not even the prettiest frock in the film, but its beautiful silhouette and simplicity has basically ruined every other wedding dress for me. Ever. In fact I want that whole wedding -  complete with a romantic dance with a man dressed in white satin.

Sexiest costume:

I'm not going to go into too much details - Spoilers! - but here it is. Watch it and tell me I'm wrong. But there is costume logic to it. In basically every other scene Percy is immaculately dressed or in disguise, whereas here this may be the closest you get to seeing him in his natural state.

Why this film is a Guilty Pleausre:

It's a 1982 made for tv movie (lets be honest, they don't have the best reputation) based on a series of books that have never quite worked out which side of the Classic/Trashy Romantic Fiction line they walk. Originally a play in 1903, it was released as a novel in 1905 to great success, with many sequels. This is one of many adaptions for stage and screen (both big and small), most notably the 1950 David Niven film, the 1999 Richard E. Grant miniseries and Don't Lose Your Head, a Carry On Film starring Sid James as The Black Fingernail. While this film ads nothing profound or great to the collection, it is unashamedly good fun.

Why you should watch this film:

The grand finale at Mont St-Michel, the island castle reached by causeway is brilliant (your belief should be well and truely suspended by this point), but actually the greatest thing about this film is the language. Witty banter combined, old world phrasing and idiosyncratic catch phrases make this film entirely quotable. Sink me, watch it and see if I'm not right!