I wasn’t deep-digging, it just popped up in a search: Janet Rudolph’s excellent Mystery Fanfare (www.mysteryreadersinc.blogspot.com) way back in 2011 posted about fashion designer Hally McGehean debuting her wearable art collection at that year’s New York Fashion Week. McGehean’s designs included her Hard Case Crime Dress assembled from nearly 1,000 miniature reproductions of the line’s book covers. I’ll presume you had to rummage through your closet for the proper shoes and even a faux-fur, and of course, there was no word on whether the gun cost extra.
Five months after the release of Arthur Penn and Warren Beatty’s Bonnie And Clyde (soon to win two Academy Awards), Faye Dunaway posed for photographer Milton Greene in “Bonnie: Fashion’s New Darling – Faye Dunaway In A ‘30s Revival”, the cover story and interior fashion editorial in the January 12, 1968 issue of Life magazine.
You’d rightly assume this 1951 Vogue magazine photo is supposed to be a postwar ‘career gal’ art director or photo editor reviewing contact sheets. But I prefer to imagine a stylish ‘stiletto gumshoe’ going over steamy pics from the prior night’s no-tell motel stakeout on an adultery case soon to go really bad. From The Retro Housewife at www.the-retro-housewife-01.tumblr.com
Ahhh, Ava. I’ll have to wait till Summer winds down for this one: Kimberly Truhler’s Film Noir Style: The Killer 1940’s, which will look at popular men’s and women’s fashions from 1941 through 1950 as seen in twenty definitive movies from film noir’s first wave. The GoodKnight Books hardcover isn’t due till late September, and yes (big surprise!) I’ve already pre-ordered a copy.
While most folks are sheltering-in, and many are (hopefully) working their day jobs from home in pajamas (tossing on a blazer for a Zoom staff meeting, if needed), writers already accustomed to working alone probably don’t give much thought to what they’re wearing at the keyboard.
Or, so you’d think.
Lucy Mitchell’s Blonde Write More site took a look at this in a 4.12.20 post, “How To Dress Like A Writer – 5 Key Writer Looks” (link below), lightheartedly teasing those who “dreamed about becoming a writer and want to master that writer look”. She lists five basics like the ‘Tweed Writer Look’, the ‘Geeky Writer Look’ and so on. Check it out.
My own reignited writing endeavors have been solo and safely hidden in my writing lair with little need to worry about ‘writerly’ attire. But, when I was still a socially engaged writer taking community college night classes, attending a monthly writer’s group open mike live reading session (held in a bar to stoke shy writers’ courage so someone would actually read their works-in-progress), trekking to regional or national genre events, or even dialing way back to college days and immediately after, I’d have concurred with Ms. Mitchell that there definitely are ‘writer looks’ (or more specifically, a writer look, as in singular) adopted by the legit scribes, the wannabes and the poseurs alike.
I never actually spotted the tweed jacket or professorial corduroy blazer/sweater vest types, cliché that they may be. I saw a stray Boho or two looking more like refugees from Green Party rallies or Grateful Dead cassette swap meets. But mostly the writers, soon-to-be’s and just-acting-the-part folks uniformly wore head-to-toe black. Intended or not, the 50’s/60’s Beat Scene revival (or what we imagined it to be) was channeled through a Millennial monotony of black Levi’s, black leggings, black tights, black sweaters, black hoodies, black flats, black work boots, black Converse, black scarves, black t-shirts, black knit dresses, black leathers, black ripped sheers, black gloves (big on the fingerless ones) and – surprisingly – black hats aplenty: Porkpies, newsboys, tams, trilbies and the old reliable, black berets. Well, you get the picture, dark as it is. And shame on me for showing up in regular Levi blue jeans with non-black work boots (from Kmart, no less), black pullover notwithstanding (a lesson learned and never repeated after enduring all the derisive glances).
Say what you want about monotony, but black-on-black-on-black simplifies things when rolling out of bed still bleary-eyed, whether for class or breakfast with your fellow keyboard dancers.
I’m sure there are romance novelists in billowy Laura Ashley prints, YA vampire epic masterminds in 90’s Goth gear, and committed hard-boiled crime writers in fedoras with filterless Luckies dangling from their lips (surely looking down their nose at the rest of our laptops as they muscle the keys on their manual typewriters). But I’ve only seen those at costume parties,
Lucy Mitchell’s Blonde Write More post was well-timed. Y’know, this sheltering-in isn’t going to last forever. Whether it’s in June or not till the Fall, we’ll all be creeping back into the bars, coffeehouses, in-person classes and all-night bitch sessions at friends’ apartments. Soon enough, it’ll be time to stow the PJ’s, yoga pants and torn t-shirts salvaged from the rag bin. I’m just kidding about all of this. (Well, sort of.) Maybe the real point is: Lets not get too used to the new reality. This too will end, even if still socially distanced, and we’ll all have to get our uniforms out of mothballs.
Photos: Fred McDarrah, Natalia Vodianova for Elle Denmark, Taylor Lashae, Esther Canadas by Peter Lindbergh
A sleek black dress, heels and hose, a cigarette smoking away…and if looks could kill, then hers say murder. But it’s not a saucy scene from a retro noir in a steamy South American setting. It’s model Adriana Lima posing for Vogue Brazil in an editorial shot by Giampaolo Sgura.
Pascale-Mira Taurua didn’t set out to be an artist. Originally a model, she was crowned Miss France in 1978, though relinquishing the title six months later. But painting beckoned, and after studying at the Conservatoire des Arts in Tahiti during the 1980’s, her first gallery show occurred in the early 2000’s, and since, she’s been hard at work in her studio in the small French village of Pau in the shadow of a King Henry IV castle.
She works primarily in traditional oil on canvas, though sometimes (as seen in examples of her work) more adventurous pieces might be in mixed media acrylics with collage. Clearly much of her work is inspired by the same modeling and fashion worlds she once was a part of, with some paintings even reworking well-known fashion photos. Yes, there’s glamor here. But there’s something more, a cynicism perhaps, or something maybe just a bit darker?
How many mystery and noir-ish crime stories begin in a bar? Start things out with a drunk, a B-girl, a pickup or a clandestine meeting. Sure, good things can happen over a drink, and bad things are bound to occur over too many. Argentine model Magda Laguinge acts like she’s had a few or a few too many in this 2013 B&W fashion editorial from Interview Germany, shot by Sebastian Faena and directed by Julia von Boehm.
Kind of a Euro-Noir feel, dontcha think? It’s the hat, I tell you. Man or woman, a wide brimmed hat lends a noir-ish touch to damn near anything. Here a Thierry Mugler design is shot by Helmut Newton for Harpers Bazaar, back in 1994.
I think the photo suite was titled “Black Friday”. Peter Gehrke shoots model Lila Cardona in a noir-ish homage, strictly black and white, for And Other Stories’ Black Friday campaign in 2018. It’s no stretch to concoct your own story for this series, with Cardona heading up the dark stairway, perhaps to her in-town love nest getaway. A call is made on arrival. To her lover for a rendezvous later? Well…could be. Or, just as likely, for a rendezvous with something much more sinister. She peers through the blinds, apprehensive, then glances at her reflection in the mirror, seeing the face of a lover, the face of a liar, the face of a killer…