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article imageOp-Ed: Noir film festival helps celebrate vintage fashion and world-wide Special

By Jonathan Farrell     Dec 15, 2013 in Entertainment
San Francisco - As staff and volunteers prepare for the upcoming Noir City film festival in January and the mini-festival prelude Noir CIty Xmas on Dec. 18, fans and patrons of the festival show their enthusiasm by dressing up in 1940's and '50's fashion.
"I love the clothes of the time period," said long-time Noir City festival fan Jenifer Strickland. She and friend and fellow Noir CIty fan Morgan Von Rueden anticipate the festival each year and take time to look around the audience to see who dressed up. Fedoras are plentiful often worn by both men and women. Yet it is particularly women's fashion of the era that stands out the most. The theme of this year's Noir City 12 festival is "international"
"Focusing on the years immediately following World War II, this year's NOIR CITY film fest features classic noir films from France, Mexico, Japan, Argentina, Germany, Spain, Norway, and Britain," said communications director Anne Hockens for The Film Noir Foundation which hosts the event each year.
I was first seduced by film noir in the early 1980's said Steve Indig, senior regional publicist for Landmark Theaters in San Francisco. "Starting with films featuring well-known actors like Bogart, Burt Lancastar, and Orson Welles, their performances and on screen charisma were one of the first elements that kept me coming back for more," he said as he was pleased to hear that Noir City is going strong and attracting more fans. "In my early viewings, back in those days, I would discover by a film’s end that there were often were no happy endings in a noir film; that was a shock to me," said Indig. "But something I eventually appreciated as that is how it sometimes is in life," he said. And, that type of honesty was something that was not only expressed in American film noir but also universally in the noir genre around the globe.
Typically, "back-lit" with some sort of smoldering unspoken passion or hidden intrigue, film noir lends itself to complex problems that often include some type of social or political conflict.
Noir City 2012 s theme will be International  featuring noir films from all over the world. We are e...
Noir City 2012's theme will be International, featuring noir films from all over the world. We are exploding the long-held belief that noir film stories and style are a specifically American phenomenon," said Anne Hockens, communications director for the Film Noir Foundation.
Courtesy of The Film Noir Foundation
"I'd need to see the (festival's) list of movies to tell you which ones I am going to see," said Strickland. "I've seen a fair bit of British noir I've enjoyed, she said, but not much else, (in the international aspect). According to movie entusiast, Sao Tome Apu there are 369 British noir films made between 1937 to 1964. Apu has posted favorites on the iCheckMovies website. Apu also notes that there are over two-dozen British noir films listed in Michael Keaney's "Film Nor Guide." Apu also notes that among the list of British noir there "are many obscurities worth checking out."
No matter where noir a film story is set, be it in Britain, the 'good old USA' or anywhere else for that matter, the fashion and the styles add to the genre's mood and suspense. And, Strickland is not alone in her appreciation of the fashion and style.
With the "international" aspect of film noir, in focus, the love of vintage clothing from that era is international as well. Since Strickland has seen British noir films, she would be happy to know that vintage clothing designer and shop owner Clare Quartermaine of Great Britain can share the same affinity for the era. "I grew up with a passion for vintage clothing; In particular, the 1930s fashions," she said.
Quartermaine bought her first vintage outfit when she was 14; "with the ill gotten gains from a rotten cleaning job," she said. This was the start of many purchases - and resulted in the birth of an intense affinity for vintage clothing.
"This was just a hobby until after having three children resulting in figure changes and a need to be glamorous again!" Quartermaine said she became so frustrated by high street fashions that she starting looking for vintage styles. If was there but the gap in the market for vintage styles that reflected today's women was clear. 'Foxy' as she said, was born. Quatermaine is the visionary and proprietor of "20th Century Foxy" in Elland Yorkshire, England. Quatermaine took time to respond to this reporter's questions about the look of noir style as expressed in the famous movies with clothes and fashion of those times.
When you view that time frame of the 1940's/'50's, how would you describe the clothes and mood of the time?
"Fashion is an expression of society," said Quatermaine. This also includes politics and culture. "And the 40s and 50s gives us the perfect example of this," she said. "Wartime fashion in the early 40s is vastly different from Christian Dior's New look in 1947 that spearheaded the 50s silhouette."
"The styles we nostalgically view as the 1940s are that of the war era - angular, boxy with padded shoulders - clearly influenced by the war where ladies were encouraged to dress patriotically and make do and mend." said Quatermaine. "The Late 1930s clothing was reworked and in many countries there were strict austerity measures which restricted use of fabric, trimmings, buttons right down to colours," she said. "Hence, the innovations used by ladies to define themselves - the padded shoulders and the amazing hair styles so iconic during this time!"
"Of course, noted Quartermaine, US fashion moved independently as there weren't such restrictions on fabrics and Paris was no longer influencing fashion like it used to before the war. "Many of us (women here- across the Atlantic) adore the American 1940s styles. They were much more glamorous and elegant with their drapery!"
"So when the war ended, said Quartermaine, although there was plenty of euphoria, there were still restrictions and rations for years to come." However, she pointed out, by the time of the mid 1950s, mainstream fashion was afforded by most with ready-to-wear taking hold." "So high fashion, said Quartermaine, kick-started by Dior as mentioned earlier, was decadent in comparison with swathes of fabric in full skirts, petticoats and a trend for over-sized trimmings and buttons etc." "Everything was optimistic, said Quartermaine, from the use of colours and prints to makeup and accessories. 1950s fashion was clearly the reaction to what have been before," she said.
What is it about that time that is still appealing to this day that makes vintage clothiers like your 20thCenturyFoxy shop want to share this love of the era with contemporary people?
"Vintage clothes are well made, feminine, well cut and use beautiful fabric," said Quartermaine. "Life is so fast now and influenced by technology." More and more people yearn for a simpler life and look nostalgically to the past," she said. "Wearing these styles for some is a reflection of that."
Then this reporter said, I ask this because to me today's contemporary fashions seem to favor more the leisure or casual, even for formal occasions rather than the "dressed up" style of that 1940's/50's era.
"Fashion, in the main, is not necessarily about women and how they feel anymore," said Quartermaine. "It's a consumer industry like everything else. Style is dictated by what fits most people, what's cheap to make and what other products one might sell on the back of it (makeup, perfume etc)."
"This is our society now." she said. "And, that's how fashion is reflecting it." However, noted Quartermaine, many women enjoy dressing in well made, beautifully fitting clothes and turn to vintage style." "But more than that, fashion in the 1940s and 50s celebrated women and beauty without the bare flesh and the sexualisation," said Quartermaine. "Of course it was there but it was more about femininity, elegance and dressing well. I think women miss that," she said.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of
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