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November 25, 2011 10:28 pm
Fashion doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Just as social movements and moods influence what appears on the catwalk, so too does culture. From the popularity of 1950s silhouettes spawned by Mad Men to the raft of designers who have referenced the documentary Grey Gardens (1975) about two eccentric socialites, films, plays, TV shows and pop videos shape the landscape of fashion directly or in more subtle ways.
David Cronenberg’s latest film, A Dangerous Method, might not send audiences rushing out to buy the sheer blouses, floor-skimming dresses, high collars, and gathered sleeves made from original period lace that feature in the film, but it could give the lace trend a new lease of life in time for Christmas. Purists might argue that lace has already had its big moment this year, thanks to the royal wedding and the Duchess of Cambridge’s Sarah Burton-designed gown, but its reign may yet continue.
Released in the US last week, and due to open in the UK in February, the film is set in early 20th-century Vienna, and examines the troubled relationship between psychoanalyst Carl Jung (Michael Fassbender), his disturbed patient and muse Sabina Spielrein (Keira Knightley), and his mentor Sigmund Freud (Viggo Mortensen).
Costume designer Denise Cronenberg, who has collaborated on nearly all of her brother’s films over the past 25 years, says: “I felt a tremendous responsibility because these were real people. So I felt that I needed to research them first, rather than the period.”
Only one image of Spielrein at the age of 16 remains, so Cronenberg and her assistant Nigel Egerton built up an idea of her clothes by scouring old Berlin department store catalogues for inspiration and mining Broadwick Silks and the Cosprop boutique in London for original outfits and fabrics from the period. The results can be seen in an off-white ankle-length dress with lace bodice tie-strings worn by Knightley (during a scene, where Jung gives himself over to her desire to be spanked); an elegant, square-neck crochet cutaway long gown, crowned with a down-curved woven bell hat wrapped in lace netting; and a £100 per metre lace gown worn by Jung’s wealthy wife Emma (Sarah Gadon), who looks as if she might march off the screen on to the haute couture runways at Dior.
The outlier of this film, in both dress and manner, is Otto Gross (Vincent Cassel), a nymphomaniac drug addict whose arrival is the catalyst for Jung’s sexual relationship with Spielrein. While Freud and Jung wear dashing frock coats and waistcoats, a raffish Gross stalks the grounds of Jung’s hospital in a surprisingly contemporary grey tweed coat and sporty dark sweater. Although Denise Cronenberg says the look is based on a real period photo, she hopes the result may inspire modern designers to experiment with 1910 chic.
Knightley, at least, may be pioneering the look. The actress was so enamoured with Spielrein’s wardrobe that, after filming, she asked to take home a period gown and a pair of handmade Italian white boots. Look for them soon on a red carpet (or a store) near you.
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