Fashion Film Fun: Suspiria (1977)
Halloween means indulging in a scary movie (or two). What better time to revisit our Crystals & Mystics and Ballet Russes trends as well as the original Suspiria - just in time for the release of the remake of this cult classic film this week!
Why is it Influential Now?
The 60's and 70's birthed a genre of Italian horror named "giallo" for its early origins in the bright yellow-jacketed pulp fiction paperbacks that were popular at that time. This subgenre of horror was a direct reaction to the burgeoning feminist movement of the time, and some directors working in this genre made no mistake about how negatively they felt about the concept of a liberated woman. Many of the films were frankly misogynist in nature and the gruesome violence depicted can only be seen as a metaphor for their insecurity about the social climate. Other directors, still in keeping with the genre's demand for blood and gore, managed to positively introduce the ideas of not only female independence but also a growing demand for less gender-conforming individuals to be more accepted into society. In some ways, this makes these films of particular interest today in the era of #metoo and all the social upheaval surrounding gender and sexuality. But I have to admit, you will need to consume them with an understanding that they are a product of another time and can sometimes seem pretty offensive when watched by the modern viewer - not unlike the reassessment of popular 80's films by directors like John Hughes have had of late.
Timing for the release of the remake of Suspiria is perfect, not only because it is Halloween week, but on a grander scale, it will naturally renew interest in the original film which opened at a time of similar social unrest. I am very curious as to how the remake may address any of these issues.
below is a trailer for the 2018 remake in US theaters this week!
Dario Argento's original Suspiria is a gory, pulp film that tops cult horror movie lists year after year for good reasons. He is a director well know for this genre but of all of Argento's films, Suspiria was his highest-earning in the United States and probably the best known. All giallo films of the 70's have a definite sex appeal and a certain subversive slickness that comes with highly designed sets, lingering shots, and innuendo. Although Suspiria deviates a bit traditional subjects of giallo by making witchcraft rather than a murderer the sinister element in the film, all the typical trademarks of the genre are present in the slick presentation and stylish delivery. Another somewhat unfortunate hallmark of the giallo are plot lines that are surreal at best and often just feel pointless. In this, also, Argento's original does not disappoint, but despite the lackluster plot line (in my opinion), the set design, direction, music, and cinematography are all top notch and the visual appeal of the film is unmistakable. A lot can be forgiven in the story-line if a film delivers in all those departments.
below is a clip from the 1977 original:
Why is it a Fashion Film?
The overall style of the film is what makes it inspirational for fashion. The sets are outlandishly lavish and pattern-rich with various styles from Art Nouveau and Deco to Baroque elements present. There is Escher- inspired wallpaper in the powder room in one of the earlier scenes and many examples of geometric patterning on floors, glass windows, paneling.
The scale and abundance of pattern actually add to the sense of unease in the film. The eye does not have a quiet place to settle and instead darts around the set. Also the over-designed interiors almost give the impression of a dolls' house where the occupants are being manipulated like playthings. Another disquieting detail that may go unnoticed but adds to this feeling is that Argento purposely had the doorknobs of the interiors positioned higher than normal - nearly at the actors' shoulders as a normal doorknob height might be for a child. This playing with proportions and perspectives is a common manipulation for Argento.
The manipulative use of color is another stand-out feature that makes this film fashion-worthy. Argento skillfully uses an over-saturated palette to create a psychedelic vibe and the effect is unnerving. Screens fill with acid yellow and ultraviolet in one scene and beige, vermilion, shocking pink, and rust in the next. The entire film is a study in how color can affect the psyche. The color changes and jarring musical score which Argento collaborated on with the Goblins, combine to jangle the nerves and prime the audience for the jump-scares that abound in the film.
Last, but not least, the clothes themselves are noteworthy, although I have to admit they do take a backseat to the other elements already mentioned. There are some truly great 70's outfits, especially in the brief airport scene at the beginning - back then people actually dressed up to fly! The lounging sets worn at the school are worth taking note of; as the students are boarding they spend a lot of time either in leotards or in their pajamas. There are lots of satin robes and silky shadow striped sets, and also some nice examples of crochet and even macrame.
Will you take the inspiration from this film to develop any of your lines?
We are happy to see some elements from two of our trend groups predicted for this fall here. Both Crystals & Mystics and Ballet Russes have design and inspiration elements that are aligned with the aesthetic of this film.
Below is a selection of prints from these groups to get you in the mood!
I can hardly wait to see if the remake will live up to this classic film. When you have seen them both we'd love to hear your thoughts on the remake vs. the classic!
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