I love fashion documentaries for their messages not just about clothes, but about life. Fashion always tells a story about society and the age in which they're worn: the economic conditions, the social status of women (or lack of it), the zeitgeist, the predominant sentiments.
With summer on our side and some time up our sleeves, it's a good opportunity to get your fashion documentary watching up to date.
Just before the Dior film I talked about in the previous blog, I watched one about fashion icon (and I don't use that word lightly, she really is) Diana (pronounced Dee-anna) Vreeland. Acclaimed magazine editor for Harper's Bazaar and Vogue from the early 30s to 60s, she defined style in her time.
Her eccentric sense of self, long red fingernails, outspoken, strong voice and belief in the need for style as a "way of life, without it you're nobody" inspired fashion and creativity for four decades.
That statement from Vreeland may seem harsh, but once we understand more about her ethos, as you unwrap her beliefs, we can learn much from her encouragement to all women to celebrate themselves. She constantly dreamed and imagined the world as it could be when a woman was at her most beautiful.
"There's only one life. It's the life you want and you make it yourself," Vreeland says in one of the interviews in the documentary. This was highly daring for the period, when women were still trying to emerge in business and the world of work.
To Vreeland fashion didn't necessarily mean clothes, it meant style, posture, skin, movement, and most of all, education. For her, a woman was alluring when she was interesting and interested- hungry to explore the world to know more and express herself through knowing herself well. I couldn't agree more.
Part of her trademark was that she wasn't classically beautiful. But she believed a woman should accentuate her bold features and even her 'faults'. If you're tall, you should wear heels, according to Diana, if you have a big nose, you should hold it up and out. I love that.
"We live through our dreams," says Vreeland. Fashion for Vreeland was a way of presenting and preparing oneself for the day ahead, because "life is artifice". I think she was saying that life is about what you want to present to the world. We are all capable of doing and being what we want to be, and for Vreeland, fashion aided and helped that process of realising oneself. I know that I dress to feel strong or soft, feminine and even masculine.
Style and caring for oneself is also a personal thing. I mean things like having your toenails perfectly painted in the height of winter when only the inside of your boots sees them. Vreeland says such attention to style makes you walk differently, makes you feel more confident. The same applies, for some women, to wearing beautiful lingerie- only you know about it and it makes you feel good.
Vreeland was also fascinated by ballet and things like surfing for their rhythmical qualities. She believed that life and our relationships, everything was driven by a rhythm and pulse. Things like body language, the quick glance of an eye or flick of the hair, is what drove life for Vreeland and the style factor informed those rhythms of a person.
She said, "The eye must travel." And it must. We are forever absorbing impressions from one another. That's a big part of how we communicate- using one's sense of style and self, with the help of fashion, to communicate. It's often not about words, but what's said silently in the way we walk, move or stand. That's why the right clothes worn with confidence can be so liberating and fulfilling.