Each of these cinematographic projects tells us a little bit about the mythical history of Haute Couture. Let yourself be transported to these different time periods, which defined the fashion of today.  

As they say, all good things must come to an end. And, our online courses on the history of fashion are now over. This journey that we started out on at the beginning of March ended last month. In each class, we learned how society has influenced fashion and vis vera. 

We’ve learned about individuals who changed the course of history like Marie Antionette and Eugénie de Montijo, who made their own rules, or Coco Chanel and Elsa Schiaparelli, who let their creativity run loose. Finally, we learned about two men, Christian Dior and Yves Saint Laurent, who supported women’s liberation through their clothing. 

While we can learn about history in books, fashion is harder to explain just using words. And, if an image is worth a thousand words, then a film is worth a million. So, here’s a list that will help you learn more about high fashion through movies. 

Elsa Schiaparelli, Transforming Art into Fashion

Schiaparelli was the complete opposite of Chanel. She grew up in an aristocratic family, got the best education possible, and had access to the most exclusive social circles. Her designs were highly influenced by the Dadaist and Surrealist art movements. Some of her iconic pieces were right on the line of art and fashion, like the Lobster Dress and the Shoe Hat. She left her mark on the world thanks to her individuality, determination, and ability to march to the beat of her own drum. Elsa Schiaparelli showed us that fashion isn’t something frivolous but an art form. 

What film should you watch? 

Every Day’s a Holiday (1937)

Directed by: Eddie Sutherland

Edmund Lowe and Mae West celebrate with two other men in a scene from the film ‘Every Day’s A Holiday’, 1937. (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)

Why?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a biopic about this designer, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we were to see one on a streaming service very soon. I chose this film since Schiaparelli designed the costumes. As we talked about in the class, Mae West became one of the designer’s muses. The clothing in this film is spectacular, and it’s only a little taste of Schiaparelli’s talent. 

Where to watch: Watch it here

Christian Dior, French Luxury Takes Over the World

This French designer appeared on the scene in the post-WWII era. With his “New Look,” he gave life to a new generation of French fashion, which became synonymous with luxury and exclusivity. It was his boldness and understanding of the needs of postwar women that made him stand out. He expanded his business outside of Haute Couture by licensing and launching a ready-to-wear line. His fame spread beyond France, and his name was recognized everywhere from Latin America to the Middle East. He was a true visionary who made the fashion industry what it is today. 

What film should you watch? 

Oh, Dior! (2017)

Directed by: Carla Duarte

Why?

This film was launched for the 70th anniversary of the brand in 2017. In it, we are told the story of the man who founded the most important fashion houses in the industry. This film helps us understand the creative mind of the designer. His creations defined fashion in the 1940s and are still a source of inspiration for many designers today. This docufilm is a window into high fashion history.

Where to watch: Watch it here

Yves Saint Laurent, The Genius Behind 20th Century Aesthetics

Yves started his career under the tutelage of Monsieur Dior;  in fact, he was chosen to be the brand’s successor after the designer’s death. As luck would have it, Yves was fired from Dior, and this gave him the energy and determination to create his own brand. Together with his business and life partner, Pierre Bergé, Yves founded a fashion house that redefined all the rules. The Mondrian dress, the Safari jacket, and the tuxedo are some of the brand’s most sensational garments, which are still as relevant today as they were the day they were launched. Through Yves’ clothes, women were able to take back their sexuality and transform it into the armor of female empowerment.

What film should you watch? 

Yves Saint Laurent (2014)

Directed by: Jalil Lespert

Why?

This biographical film was authorized by Yves’ life partner, and it’s a must for all fashionistas. We see pieces from the brand archives, which is something truly special. This film is a portrait, through which we are able to see not only the glamour and creativity of Saint Laurent, but also his genius. 

Where to watch: Watch it here

Each of these individuals played an important role in the world of Haute Couture. Thanks to their creativity, fashion is what it is today. Of course, they are not the only ones who defined the course of history, but they did change the societies in which they lived. 

This has been an adventure full of dreamy clothes that made us want to hop into a time machine and go back in history. Since that is not actually possible, we’re left with exploring the rich history of Haute Couture on film.

XO

Sira

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