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FIT event discusses costuming in 1930’s

The Fashion Institute of Technology’s Scott F. Stoddart, dean of the School of Liberal Arts and author of “Analyzing Mad Men,” spoke to a fashionable audience on Feb. 26 at “Dressing Divinely: 1930’s Hollywood Costume/Couture,” an event at the Katie Murphy Amphitheatre.

The main topic of conversation was the change in women’s fashion throughout the ‘30s. Stoddard explored the evolution through the point of view of designers, stars and the audience themselves.

Stoddard spoke about how the ‘30s were times of trouble: by 1932, 13 million Americans were unemployed. Yet while society suffered, Hollywood thrived, and starlets continued to spread the looks and trends of designers.

Throughout the talk, Stoddard refers to ‘30s Hollywood as the “dream factory.” Not only were films reflections of society, but they were also spurring the future of fashion. Costumes started to be less flashy and more targeted at being something people would actually want to wear.

Costumes evolved to be something appealing to the modern woman by becoming more tailored and flattering to the waist.

“It was in the 1930s that costuming found its legs in Hollywood and became a part of the overall profession,” Stoddard said.

Stoddard talks about how designers such as Travis Benton and Muriel King touched the dream factory in a powerful way.

“Going to the movies was the one pastime people would take to get away from the depression,” Stoddard said. “There was a connection not only to Hollywood but also to Seventh Avenue [in] Manhattan, because couture was an outbreak in the costume industry. Movies are tied to both the artist and the reality of the audience, the audience becomes the potential customers,” Stoddard said.

Allyn Young, an FIT Fashion Merchandising graduate from the class of 2013, enjoyed Stoddard’s discussion.

“I really like learning about fashion history,” Young said. “I am in love with vintage clothing, so Stoddard’s talk was very interesting.”

Stoddard’s talk was accompanied by a slideshow of Hollywood fashion, with a special focus on the famous red dress worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in “Gone with the Wind.”

“It’s all about product placement,” Stoddard said. “And even though [Leigh] only wore it for a few minutes, it was a damn good few minutes.”

FIT alumna Brenda McCall found Stoddard’s discussion of the correlation between the stars of the ‘30s and the designs created for them most interesting.

“I was surprised to find how much designing had to do with fitting the star’s body rather than making the star fit the design,” McCall said.

Ilona Tuominen is a staff writer. Email her at [email protected]

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NYU's Independent Student Newspaper
FIT event discusses costuming in 1930’s