Saturday, August 18, 2012

Bitchin' Velvet

For those readers who may not be familiar with a cultural construct typified in a concept I like to call "the bitchin' Camaro", there is a use of this adjective which evokes a dude (it is *always* a "dude", man) who may have a mullet, is almost certainly smoking a Marlboro (it is always a Marlboro, man), and is wearing acid wash jeans tight to the ankle.  He may have heard about the memo that 1990 has come and gone - but he doesn't care.  And he drives a Bitchin' Camaro, thinking it's gonna get him "some tail".

Bitchin' jacquard

The "bitchin'" this guy embodies is the way a lot of historical productions treat their design these days, most especially costuming.  Films, miniseries, and shows touching on flashbacks or actual historicals seem to be populated, at our point in pop-culture history, with metal heads and emo lovers, endowed with crappy extensions (sorry, but as a lover of long-haired men, an actor given "long hair" by way of kanekalon always pretty much looks like a guy endowed with a bad fake mullet) and two-to-four days' stubble growth, wearing amazing costume design with all the historical authenticity of Prince after a particularly sweaty concert.

I'm focusing on men, you notice, and may want to sneer that I'm leaving the picture incomplete.  True.

The women in these productions, you see, are given SUPERIOR extensions.  Almost preternaturally glossy, thick, romance-novel tresses tend to unrealistically abound.  Unbound.  Of course.  Oddly, the costume design on women, I notice, is often poorer, historically speaking.  I think this is because the authentic look for certain periods seems cooler to our current sense of style, for men - as long as we give them the "bitchin'" look to keep it edgy, or goth, or dirty, or whatever.  Authentic-with-lace is acceptable, as long as an actor is given a sheen of sweat, his laces are undone at the neck, his doublet carelessly loosened or entirely open - as long as we have the fake rockstar "hair" and some anachronistic modern sexual posturing to go with it.

Women's costuming, though ... has to be enhanced - actually changed, to suit current sensibility.  To watch a film today is to believe that decolletege' was de rigueur at every hour of the day, for all possible occasions (especially one's own wedding - hah), for something approaching the ten centuries up to and including ours.  Corsetry and that "well cut through the body" look have never, ever gone out of style - even in periods known for a more billowing, or at least less midriff-conscious silhouette.

This isn't new - but it amuses me that designers right now almost certainly presume to a higher level of "authenticity" than one saw in historical productions in, say, the 50s or 60s when (just for fun) Liz Taylor used to run around in inexplicable bouffant styles or hideous swim cap styled headgear, as if THAT were remotely believable:

The Inexplicable Swim Cap
A Mid-Century Modern Sunburst Wall Clock as Hair Decoration

(The less I say about trends in makeup, then OR now, the better - it all follows on this rant anyway.)

I think my personal favorite throw-authenticity-to-the-winds idea of feminine costume design in recent memory is the body paint, nude gold lipstick, and fishnet fantasy from "The Mummy" (a movie, by the way, I actually enjoy - let it always be understood that my willingness to enjoy a production is as distinct from my willingness to dumb myself down to its caprices in design):


My point isn't so much that I would bother to call designers or makeup artists to go for authenticity.  Very few viewers of these productions truly prefer to give up the eye-candy aspect for rigorous veracity, after all.

This is just one of those areas in which a lot of fans get to, and love to, play Guitarist for a sort of fun.  Even as we lust after the insanely beautiful taffetas, and maybe think about how we will get to dress for Hallowe'en ...

This post will have a companion post in the upcoming Immaculate Misconception ...

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