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Filtering by Tag: retro fashion

Tailoring the '20s: Boardwalk Empire

I'm a huge fan of epic American tv shows; you know, the ones EVERYONE is talking about. I've obsessed over LOST, I've shunned Heroes, I drooled over Spartacus: Blood and Sand (don't judge me), and of course I've spent hours and hours of my life watching Mad Men. But you know, I'm sick of hearing about the latter. Although brilliant, and full of Jon Hamm, Mad Men is not the ONLY good retro show full of jaw-dropping costumes.

In fact, when it comes to costumes, Mad Men is surely beaten by Boardwalk Empire. There, I said it.

Set in the boom town of Atlantic City, NJ during the prohibition, Boardwalk Empire is as rich a story-line as it is visual. Just finished up with it's second season, with another in production, this Martin Scorsese produced show is BIG budget. The pilot alone cost $30million dollars, and no expense was spared on the clothing.

Costume is a key aspect of the show - in the 1920's clothing was the most important factor for showing social status, as it had been for centuries beforehand. Like many of the personas in Boardwalk Empire, the lead character, Nucky, (played by Steve Buscemi) is based on a real person who was known for being a snappy dresser.

"The wardrobe is incredible, you just put on the clothes and walk on the set and see everyone else in character - you feel like you are there," says Buscemi

In this interview with Esquire costume designer John Dunn discusses how he brought out the male characters by tailoring alone.

Dunn and his team immersed themselves in the year 1920, contacting vintage clothing dealers, researching tailoring of the period, to ensure complete authenticity. Using real vintage suits just wouldn't cut it; as with most 20's clothing, what has survived is usually too ragged, the cost of restoring the clothing too high. The suits had to be tailored from scratch, using only the fabrics of the era.

Boardwalk Empire is not for the faint-hearted; it delves into the gangster underworld of the prohibition, and in a Scorsese-produced show, you know it isn't going to be all happiness and rainbows. As characters get beaten, murdered and more, multiples of the same suit had to be created, further ruling out authentic pieces.

Accessories and some dresses, on the other hand, are mostly vintage. The team scoured the country looking for original pieces - stockings, coats, gloves, pins.

The rise of character Jimmy is shown through his clothing - previously the drab khaki of a returning soldier, to a full suit meaning business

The most surprising thing about the costumes of Boardwalk Empire is how colourful they are. We are so used to seeing the 20's in black and white, who knew what colours would be in vogue at the time? Using references to colour in magazines along with sketches and swatches of fabric used by tailors, it was obvious that this was an era where manufacturers experimented with dye.

Different characters living in different cities were dressed in different ways. The seaside summer of Atlantic City (the shows key location) has a brighter palette than the elegant, cutting-edge tailoring of the New Yorkers (I'm particularly in love with Arnold Rothstein's wardrobe) or the old-world darker colours of the Chicago-based Italians.

The female characters, too, were instantly recognizable by their costume, which also tells the story of the women's part in the prohibition. The dour old-fashioned button-ups of the Temperance League (whose slogan was "Lips That Touch Liquor Shall Not Touch Ours") contrasts against the decadent beading and elaborate patterns of the early flappers. The main female character, Margaret Schroeder, transforms from struggling immigrant to more exquisite locations and thus, dresses. In one scene she wears a green silk evening dress recreated from a sketch by Coco Chanel.

During this era fashion also reflected the changing status of women in society. Going from a corsetted silhouette to rectangular shapes just skimming the body, perfect for showing off beading and decoration. Light fabrics were used to lay thin layers against the body, and women were just starting to wear bras and knickers rather than bloomers.

For the first time in history, clothing started to look like its modern-day counterpart - a 1920's dress could easily look the part on today's fashionista. But what makes these fashions so beautiful is the hand-crafted detail, something which we rarely see now. Dunn points out, "The 1920's was a transition into modern clothes, but with all the embellishments of the past" - and that's exactly why I love it.

And just how cute is this image of the Boardwalk Empire girls, shot by Ellen Von Unwerth for Vanity Fair! Perfect for Summer inspiration!

How The Artist used costume to bring the 20s alive

It’s no secret that I’m a big silent movie fan. Give me Chaplin over a modern romantic comedy any day!

So, imagine my delight when film of the year, The Artist, won 5 of the biggies at The Oscars! This modern day silent movie took everyone by surprise, even more so when it began to win big time at each award. It seems there is hope for the audience of the 21st century, so used to talkies, big effects and Hollywood drama; the silence has proven that it is not a completely alien concept.

I could go on and on about silent films, but I’ll spare you, and focus on the part that has got all the fashionistas’ attention: Costume.

One of the 5 awards it took away on Oscar night was costume design, and there is no wonder why!

Channelling the golden era, costume designer Mark Bridges obviously did his research. Picking and choosing elements from popular styles and silver screen sirens, there must have been a whole host of inspiring designs from the 1920s. Just look at this amazing backless dress worn by Clara Bow:

When looking through the fabulous costumes worn by silent film stars, there is a definite theme running through the pieces: texture. Before the advent of glorious Technicolour, costume designers had to find another way of springing their actors out from the screen, ensuring they didn’t blend into the background. This, too, was the struggle for Bridges; although The Artist was originally filmed in colour, he had to use patterns, crystals, fur, feathers and more to ensure the characters remained the focus when desaturated.

It wasn’t only texture that the team used to really bring out their characters, but they also had some clever tricks up their sleeves for using costume to add narrative. As the rise of talkies begins to dampen George Valentin’s star-studded career, so we see a change in his looks. The actor that played him, the gorgeous Jean Dujardin, suggested to costume designer Mark Bridges that the costumes should just be “a little bigger to reflect that somehow George is less of a man than he was.” They did just that, tailoring the size and style of his suits; from a well fitted tuxedo portraying wealth, grace and success, to a dishevelled loose-fitting suit.

With this attention to detail, the costume worked alongside the narrative, acting talent and cinematography to make a success of a film which could have so easily missed the mark, had any of these things had been less than perfect.  

We also can’t help loving Uggie the dog’s Oscar outfit.

Christmas gift review: One Thousand and One Nights


The Morgana line from Playful Promises Autumn Winter Damascan Dreams collection really does promise one thousand and one nights of boudoir play. A black lacey and racey retro collection, including; underwired bra, brief, thong, suspender belt and garter dress, which I strongly recommend.



Initially I didn't feel the line was as strong as Etti or Jasmine, however the quiet subtlety of the line soon made it's name within magazines, blogs and photo shoots. The Morgana garter dress was an incredibly popular piece to be called in by stylists, often queuing up to borrow it for their shoots.


It wasn't until I got my hands on the Morgana bra did I realise just how wondrous this line was to be. The bra is surprisingly comfortable, I can honestly say I've never had such a comfortable bra. With lace panelled cups and two inch thick elastic, the Morgana bra is a femme fatale bra like no other.



It has a very thin, almost transparent lining between the lacey exterior making it a soft bra to wear. But more than soft-to-touch comfort, the bra offers perfect sleek support which was surprising for such a lacy piece. In particular I like the shallow dip this bra offers, making it a uniquely shaped bra ideal under t-shirts, the LBD or for playful excursions.


The chunky ribbed elastic band, the signature of this line, is really what makes the collection. Such an original trim, comfortable and yet there is something quite racy about this oversized, two inch thick, elastic finish. The attention to detail is sumptuous, this elastic is finished with a small scalloped edge, therefore the elastic isn't cutting into the skin, rolling or other temperamental activity elastic can usually offer.


The brief, also finished with this chunky trim, features a rather saucy triangle cut-out on the back displaying glimpses of unmentionable regions. The lace fabric offers a racy glimpse and the mesh shows off further flesh, making this a real temptress of the night. And I have to say comfortable and sexy to wear, a match made in heaven (or by Playful Promises).



The garter skirt, or suspender belt, is very desirable. Just like the brief, the back of the garter skirt is as detailed as the front. The chunky elastic is crossed over on the back cropping the skirt high showing off your peachy cheeks, welcoming glimpses of your best assets. I really like the cut of this retro-inspired garter skirt. It includes adjustable straps for your stockings finished with a rubber tip to grip your nylons.


The jewel of the collection, steaming the mirror in your boudoir, is the Morgana garter dress. A real show stopper, the garter dress could almost be a little black dress. Perhaps a little risqué, it's definetly something to show off. The underwired bra offers support and comfort whilst the dress shapes your curves. Again a criss-cross cut-away effect with the chunky elastic offers promising glimpses of what lies beneath.


The garter dress is a real must-have for fun in the bedroom and ideal to be worn under dresses and more. But I strongly recommend the entire line for everyday-wear, boudoir shenanigans and shaping your curves.