Lately, I have been on an old Hollywood kick and most intrigued and inspired by the film The Women. Not only was an all female cast madly innovative for its time – 1939 – however the fashion was some of costume designer Adrian’s best work while at MGM.
The Technicolor fashion show sequence in the film highlights his designs better than any other motion picture. His clothing stood alone, not only giving new life to the characters, however propelling the story forward in a way that fashion is no longer used for in films; proving why to this day Adrian’s role in the history of cinema is unmatched. While his legacy merely lives on through his films, his designs have both stood the test of time and serve as a constant source of inspiration for modern day influencers; in fact, a friend once told me that Azzedine Alaia has the largest privately owned collection of Adrian gowns.
The storyline of The Women was incredibly provocative for the time with three very empowered female leads – Mary, played by Norma Shearer; Sylvia, played by Rosalind Russell; and Crystal, played by Joan Crawford. Each character’s persona reminds me of a different body of work by female photographer, Valérie Belin.
Belin’s soft, somewhat blurry images in Têtes Couronnées 2009 (pictured above) represent Mary. Mary is a member of the wealthy, aristocratic class who looses her husband in an affair.
Sylvia, Mary’s cousin, is an unrelenting gossip and always the instigator. She is a member of the upper class but has two sides to her, just like the double exposure of Belin’s images in Black Eyed Susan 2010 (pictured above). She hides behind a flowery exterior while causing havoc.
Lastly, Crystal is responsible for destruction. She is out of place amidst high society, while her passive, seductive attitude gets her noticed by men and loathed by women. She is the provocative women who every husband wants, like those photographed in Belin’s series Untitled 2007 (pictured above)