Movie Depictions of Boys Clothes


Figure 1.--Clothes worn in the era after the Civil War are shown in "Song of the South". It was set on a southern plantation. The white boy was dressed in fancy clothes like this velvet suit.

Some interesting images of period clothing for boys are available in movies. Producers vary greatly in the accuracy with which fashions are portrayed, some, however, take great pains for accuracy and detail. Important studios can finance enormous budgets for major films, permitting considerable attention to detail. Some of the child actors have been known to object to some of the styles they had to wear. The boy playing Harlan in Life with Father, for example, apparently was most displeased with ther kilts he had to wear, especially because of none of his brothers had to wear them. Some producers shy away from some costuming because of possible reaction. Thus productions of Little Lord Fauntleroy, for example, do not have Cedric in ringlet curls and in many cases not wearing a lace-trimmed velvet suit. Apparently the producers concluded the sissy image would adversely affect the box office success of the film. Movies set in contmporary petiods are a particularly useful source of information. This is especially true of European films. Unlike Hollywood productions, boys in ,many of these films often appear to have worn their own clothes rather than special costumes. In addition, movies from various European countries help to fill in the limited information and information on boys clothes in many countries. You will eventually be able to search the folms by both countries and titles as well as chronologically and clothing styles.

Importance

Film is a powerful medium in today’s culture. Great care, however, is needed to critically examine the historical accuracy and value of Hollywood and foreign movies. It is important to assess, how accurately the costuming is. It is also important to understand why movies some movies have inaccurate costuming. In many cases it reflects low budgets or simply poor film making, nut there are other reasons. Film makers sometimes choose costumes that the producer thinks will appeal to the audience rather than what is historically accurate. Productions of Little Lord Fauntleroy, for example, often costume Cedric much more plainly and with shorter hair than called for in Mrs. Burnett's book and the Birch drawings. Apparently producers decided that actual fancy Fauntleroy outfits would not be well received by audiences. HBC is unsure just who producers think woul be adversly affect. Perhaps boys, but one questions how many boys would have gine to see a production of Little Lord Fauntleroy in the first place.

Influence

Movies used to have a great influence on how people dressed. This was especially true of womens' fashions. Male stars also had siome influence. Male stars such as Fred Astaire, Gary Cooper, and Tyrone Power were known for their snappy dressing and often imitated. I'm less sure about children, especially boys. Certainly mothers wanted to dress their girls like Shirley Temple, but I'm not sure there was any desire to dress their boys like Jackie Coogan or Roddey McDowell. I'm also not sure that boys themselves were influenced by movie fashions. Boys used to par much less attention to how they dressed. Today there are a lot of influences, affecting both how mothers want to dress their children and how children want to be dressed. Movies appear to be less important than other media. The fashion designers can make all kinds of proposals, individualism is encouraged, but young eople especially get their wardrobe ideas more from rock, rap, and country music singers than from what they see in the movies. Even sports stars are widely emulated. Some recent films have had some fashion infuences. When Bonnie and Clyde came out in 1967 Faye Dunaway's clinging 30s sweaters and skirts and beret designed by Theodora Van Runkle (nominated for an Oscar) were widely copied. More recently, the torn sweatshirts and knitted muscle warmers worn by Jennifer Beals playing a dancer in Flashdance showed up in aerobics classes everywhere.

Costume Designer

The costume designer's job is similar to that of the set designer. The clothes (and set design) should set the mood and enhance the characters, but you shouldn't notice them too much--if the designer has done his job correctly. One subject that HBC has been able to find little information on is how decisisions on children's clothing are made. Presumably the producer meets with the costumer designer. One would think that the greatest attention is given to the adult actors, especially the women. One might think that the costume designer may have more latitude concerning the children's clothing than the adult's outfits, especially if thdey are not the central characters. This probably varies from producer to producer. Also film budgdets are a factor. Low budget foreign films, for example, may not even costume the children, but allow them to wear their own clothes. Another factor is that sond producers may costume the children in a way that might attract audiences. Disney for example rarely outfitted the children in movies with contemporary American settings in short pants, apparently comcluding that American boys would consider them sissies. By the same token, productions of films like Little Lord Faintleroy often take pains to avoid dressing the main character as depicted in the book. Presumably the costume designer is given strict guidelines by the producer in these instance.


Figure 2.--There are great variations in the accuarcy of the costuming in period movies. Some productions like this film, "La vie comme un dimanche," give great attention to costume detail.

Period Films

Costumes are especially important in period film. Unfortunately, costumes in period films are not always that authentic. The 1949 version of The Great Gatsby starring Alan Ladd, for example, had clothes that were more late 1940s than 20s. But in the 1974 version Mia Farrow's flapper dresses were true to the 1020s period. Sometimes producers don't budget for real period costuming whichcan be quite expensive. Other times the movie stars balk and don't want to wear the period clothes designed for them because they don't think they are flattering. In 1975 Raquel Welch insisted on more provocative costumes for The Four Musketeers whereas Geraldine Chaplin allowed herself to be made up and dressed true to the period. There are often major mistakes. In the latest version of Titanic Kate Winslet's ruby-red lips were teribly inappropriate. Any young woman her age would have been banned from polite society as a "loose" woman with such makeup. Not to mention the evident mascara. Accuarte period costuming can require extensive research. Professional costuming companies have been known to undertake enormous research for authentic fabrics and trimmings of the era to use in the costumes, as well as using old homemade dyeing processes to get the exact color. The greatest effort is normally given to womens' costuming. Items may be involved that the camera never records. Actresses have often been quoted saying that wearing tight corsets and layers of petticoats in period films affects their posture and carriage and helps them to "feel" the character. Less attention is often given to children's costuming--especially boys' costuming

Country Films

Many movies show clothing and school uniforms worn in specific countries during certain countries. In most cases those films were made in the country in which the story is set. The clothing depicted is often quite accurate when dealing with contemporary times. More care needs to be taken with films set in historical eras. Some films take great care while others with limited budgets can be very misleading. HBC as with much of the site is most familiar with American and British films, but is aware of some foreign films, mostly French. Hopefully HBC readers will suggest other relevant foreign films. These are particularly rich sources of information for countries for which HBC has no local correspondent. HBC has noted several Australian films of interest, but at this time can not recall the titles. Perhaps the most famous is Walkabout which shows a brither and sister in school uniforms. Belgian films look remarably similar to French ones. I do not know of particularly classic Belgian films, but HBC correspindents have provided some sample images. English clothes at the turn of the century are shown in How Green is My Valley (19??) including Eton collars. Clothes during the 1930s are depicted in Lassie Come Home. English school boy clothes during the early 1940s can be seen in Hope and Glory (1985?). The short pants suits worn even in secondary schools during the 1960s can be seen in Kipperbang (1980?). French clothes and school uniforms worn during the 1940s are shown in Auervoir les Infantes (1990?). Clothes and school uniforms worn a decade later are depicted in Murmer of the Heart (France, 1971), including the white knee socks worn by schoolboys at Catholic colleges (private secondary-level day and boarding schools). Zero for Conduct (France, 19??) is another well known film. A film that shows French children's clothes during the 1950s is Happy Road. It was made by Americans, but shot in France. HBC has little information on German films. The Tin Drum has excellent post World War I costuming. HBC has virtually no information on Italian films. Italian clothes styles are nicely shown during the 1940s in The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Italy/Germany,1970?). HBC has little information on Japanese films. The various Godzilla film, however, often have roles for children in which the boys usually wear the short short pants so popular beginning in the 1950s. In a few instances there are also parts for American boys whonalways wear long pants. Turkish films often show children wearing the black or blue smocks and white collars that the schools require.


Figure 4.--Turn of the century clothing was sumtously depicted in considderable detail and with great accuracy in "Death in Venice".

Subjects

Movies in a variety of subjects provide useful information on boys' fashions. It is often difficult to wade through long lists of movie titles to find films on so specific themes. This section will give you an alphabeticalmlist of films touching on certain topics. Some films may be on mote than one subject list, depending on the theme and plot line. One common theme in American movies during the 1930s-50s was that rich kids were spoiled and often dressed in fancy sissy clothes. Movies with that them included The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), many productions of Tom Sawyer (the Sid character, and Newly Rich (1931). It was called Forbidden Adventure in the UK. Newly Rich is a good example of this genre. It is about Tim Tiffany, a poor boy who makes it big in Hollywood. He wears a velvet suit and broad white collar with ringlet curls throughout most of the movie. The basic plot is about two women who are constantly trying to one-up each other. Jackie's Mom takes him to Hollywood where they make it big in the movies. The other woman has a daughter about the same age portrayed by Mitzi Green. Basically, it's a comedy and Mitzi makes fun of Jackie when they revisit their small town with him all done up as "Tiny Tim". Jackie's not thrilled with his new attire, but he also knows it's the price he must pay for being in the movies. The picture was child actor Jackie Searl. Jackie was quite popular in movies during the 1930s, usually playing the part of a brat. He was born in 1920, he would have been about 11 years old at the time the film was made. Jackie also played young "Sid" in an early 30s version of "Tom Sawyer", so wearing fancy outfits was not uncommon for him. These themes and subject lists will include films from all countries and chronological periods. HBC currently had a subject or topic page for: brats, choirs, dance, governesses and nannies, military schools, prodigies, reformatories, schools, and youth groups. More subject selectors will be added as appropriate and as more films with useful costume information or loaded on HBC. Please let us know if you know of a subject page which should be added to this section.


Figure 5.--This publicity photo shows Jackie Searl playing a spoiled Hollywood brat in the 1931 film "Newly Rich".

Styles

Movies differe greatly in the attention given to reproducing period styles. Often boys are simply outfitted in non-descript suits, rather than the characteristic outfits of the 19th century. In other films considerable attention is given to costuming. While period movies vary in historical accuracy, they do provid some insights into the life styles of the boys involved and the world in which they lived. This provides insights far beyond what can be provided in still photographs and paintings.

Hollidays

Some films are know as holliday classics. This is certainly the case for Christmas, but there are other holidys for which films are associated. We thought it might be useful to list some of these films in case HBC readers want some assistance selecting a film for holliday viewing. This is a new idea, so we are just beginning to compile pur list of holloiday films showcasing boys' fashions. Please let us know if you have any suggestions.

Child Stars

The boys that appeared in these movies were often smartly dresses, especially for publicity photographs. In some cases, parents and guardians liked to dress them in juvenile fashions so as to prolong their child movie careers. Others were dressed in clothes approapriate for their age. Thus they reflect popular styles for boys from well to do families. Many affluent mothers often dress their clothes in very conservative fashions. Generally speaking the child stars did not wear the more conservative styles. Today child stars wear trendy clothes deigned to make them look "cool" or neat to their movie going peers. A generation ago the trens was more to amke them look adorable to movie going moms. Most available images show the child stars in their film costumes. HBC is especially interested, however, in finding images and information about the clothes the boys wore when not performing.


Figure 6.--This poster for the movie shows one of the boys in a military-style cap and pea jacket smoking a cigar. 

Schools

Quite a number of films have dealt with school life. Often these provide useful images as to what boys wore to school in different countries. These productions vary, but they often provide useful insights as to school uniform and dress. Many of these films are English or French, as well as Belgian. Many but not all are set in private schools, often boarding schools. Perhaps the most beloved school story is Goodbye Mr. Chipps set at an English public school. A very important one is Tom Browns School Days, another English film. Some other good examples are Au revoir les enfants, Kipperbang, 0 de de conduite. I can recall relatively few American films with school themes. One example is Toy Tiger. The American films tend to be less serious than the European school films.

Alphabetical Listing

HBC is am compiling a alphabetized list of movies which accurately depict period costuming for boys. This is the central depository on HBC for information about movies. Each movie or made-for-TV-movie mentioned in HBC will be listed alpahberticall in this section to make it wasy for you to look up any filom in which you may be interested. HBC has been so involved with constructing this site that we are just beginning to get to the movie list, but it is one of the items on my to do list. Please let me know of any movies and television shows that are good depictions of country or period dress. You can slect the movies available on HBC by using this alphabetical movie listing. At this time only a few movies have been analized in detail by HBC for clothing information, but more pages are being added all the time. This is the easist way of looking up a film if you have the tittle. Foreign films are usually listed in the original foreign language name. They will also be cross referenced on the different country movie lists.

Important Scenes

HBC has noted certain scenes in the movies listed here that are particularly powerful or provide interesting information about boys clothing. Perhaps the most powerful scene with a boy is the "Tomorrow Belongs to Me" scene from Cabaret, but many other scenes have fascinating little insights about boys' clothing. Perhaps our readers can alert us to other important scenes.

Power of Film

The power of visual images has been known from am early point in nan's development. They begin with the cave paintings of prehistoric man. Ancient rulers recognized the importance and erected huges sculptures of themselves to demonstrate their power. The manner in wgich they were depicted offers tantalizing clues into their personalities and civilization in which they arose. The various art mediums was the primary way this was accomplished. This changed in the 19th century with the invention of photography and subsequently at the tirn of the 20th century, the motion picture. Movies were developed in democratic, free enterprise societies and thus film msking was left in the hand of private companies. And in these hands was made the first and enormously effective propaganda film--"Birth of a Nation" (United States, 1915). Politicians did not begin to grasp on the political implications until World War I and the need arose to generate populsr support for the War. Even so after the War, film industries were lagely left in private hands. The Bolsheciks seized on the arts to legitimize and promote their regime. Theeir forst propaganda film was Sergei Eisenstein "Potemkin" (Soviet Union, 1925). Most Soviet propaganda films fell flat because the propaganda was so obvious and the films so poor. NAZI prpaganda films were more effective because Propaganda Minister Josef Goebbels understood that propaganda was more convincing if it was subtle. Of course the Perhaps the greates propaganda film of all time was the NAZI paean, Leni Riefenstahl's "Triumph of the Wills" (Germany, 1935) portraying a eople united by Fascism building a New Order. Of course the NAZis also created films totally lacking in subtlety. The pinacle of this genre was "The Eternal Jew" (Der ewige Jude) (Germany 1940), but this was more to generate hatred among the already convinced and to provide a justification for what was to come. HBC is building aist of particularly effective scenes in major films. HBC readers have commented on films that have affected them.

IMDB

HBC readers interested in pursuing th films we discuss here in greater detail should consult the IMDB data base. This is the beston-line data base.







HBC






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Created: June 18, 2001
Last updated: 7:15 PM 11/1/2009