Fall Trend Alert – The Mystery and Glamour of Film Noir Fashion

Every fashion season finds itself infused with retro looks from the past and Fall/ Winter 2013 is no different.  However, this season is moving slightly backwards in time from the late 1950′s /60′s to the darkly sophisticated glamour of 1940′s film noir.

Movie still from the 1945 film "Scarlett Street," featuring actress Joan Bennett.

Movie still from the 1945 film “Scarlet Street,” featuring actress Joan Bennett.

 

For those of you unfamiliar with the genre, film noir refers to a style of American crime dramas emerging in the 40s that featured highly stylized visuals, overly theatrical performances and cast of handsome characters whose motives were shadowy and moods cynical.  These films were also known for their glamorous costumes and supremely confident, yet often dangerous, female leads.  Women who, as the great film critic Roger Ebert so aptly described, “would just as soon kill you as love you, and vice versa.”

From the 1958 film, "Vertigo," Kim Novak.

From the 1958 film, “Vertigo,” Kim Novak.

This is where the original femme fatale was born into the Hollywood consciousness.  Again quoting the late great Roger Ebert, the look of female film noir protagonists, or antagonists (sometime you just didn’t know), was humorously, but perfectly summed up as follows:

For women: low necklines, floppy hats, mascara, lipstick, dressing rooms, boudoirs, calling the doorman by his first name, high heels, red dresses, elbowlength gloves, mixing drinks, having gangsters as boyfriends, having soft spots for alcoholic private eyes, wanting a lot of someone else’s women, sprawling dead on the floor with every limb meticulously arranged and every hair in place.

 

Movie still from "To Have to Have Not," a 1994 film starring Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart.

Movie still from “To Have to Have Not,” a 1944 film starring Lauren Bacall and Humphrey Bogart.

 

This look isn’t a new inspiration for designers, but this season’s version of film noir is edgy, alluring and fiercely sexy in a very powerful way, yet never losing one ounce of femininity.  Overall, it’s a brilliant bit of fashion alchemy.   Those designers with the freshest take on this season’s film noir look were Prada, Louis Vuitton and Bottega Veneta.

Luckily, this sophisticated trend is one of the easiest ones to work into your wardrobe and is also one of those rarities can be worn both at work and out for cocktails.  Here are a few ways to get the film noir look:

  • Stay with black, white,and gray-toned color scheme.  Choose menswear plaids (houndstooth is especially hot this season) for daytime looks and liquid-y body draping silks cut on the bias  for night. To modernize the look, add splashes of rich colors like burgundy or blood red.
  • Get the right suit or blazer.  It should be nipped at the waist and have a shapely silhouette. A little padding at the shoulders is especially on point. If you can find one with a belt, nab it.
Graphic Flounce Jacket by Ann Taylor for $179.00.

Graphic Flounce Jacket by Ann Taylor for $179.00.

Patent/ suede stretch belt with bow detail from White House Black Market for $48.00

Patent/ suede stretch belt with bow detail from White House Black Market for $48.00

  • For skirts, choose an A-line knee length skirt.  For those going for that extra vaaavaavoom, definitely go for the pencil skirt.
  • J Mendel's tweed pencil skirt available at www.barneys.com for $1,390.00.  (Ok, yeah, I can't afford it either.)

    J Mendel’s tweed pencil skirt available at www.barneys.com for $1,390.00. (Ok, yeah, I can’t afford it either.)

    Since we are dreaming... Givency's striking side ruffle pencil skirt, also available at www.barneys.com and on pre-order for $1,375.

    Since we are dreaming… Givency’s striking side ruffle pencil skirt, also available at www.barneys.com and on pre-order for $1,375.

  • The peplum top.  Again, film noir femmes were all about accentuating curves, so the peplum blouse is perfect for this.

    Silk peplum blouse by Nina Ricci.  Available online at www.matchesfashion.com.

    Silk peplum blouse by Nina Ricci. Available online at www.matchesfashion.com.

  • The Bonbon Vivant Top from modcloth.com for  $39.99.

    The Bonbon Vivant Top from modcloth.com for
    $39.99.

     

  • Plunging necklines with yoke waistlines.  Dangerous curves ahead! For a more conservative, but still smoldering look, check out this fabulous dress from French Connection:
Mona Crepe Jersey Dress from French Connection UK for $148.00

Mona Crepe Jersey Dress from French Connection UK for $148.00

  • If you are the pants type, go for wide legged trousers with fitted crisp white blouse and a triple strand of pearls. No skinny pants! (Hurrah from the peanut gallery.)
  • Ditch the floppy tote or over-the-shoulder bag (sniff, sniff). Film noir is all about structure and polish.  Go for a top handle handbag that is sleek and minimalist. No bling, no umpteen hundred pockets, and no motorcycle hardware.  Here is one of my favorites.  Oh so chic!
    Patent ruby handbag by Furla available at zappos.com for $248.00.

    Patent ruby handbag by Furla available at zappos.com for $248.00.

     

  • For the shoes, stick with basic pumps with a pointed toe. The modified Mary Jane is perfect for the look.
The Kennedy Pump from Banana Republic.  Available online for $120.00

The Kennedy Pump from Banana Republic. Available online for $120.00

… Or this one…..

The April Cap Toe pump from Club Monaco. Available online for $249.00

The April Cap Toe pump from Club Monaco. Available online for $249.00

  •  Finally, no film noir look would be complete without a hat and the classic trench coat.  If you are really daring, go for some mid-elbow length kid gloves.

    Black trench from White House Black Market.  Available online and in some stores for $198.00

    Black trench from White House Black Market. Available online and in some stores for $198.00

 

The Cinema hat from www.modcloth.com.  Available for $39.99

The Cinema hat from www.modcloth.com. Available for $39.99

  • Film noir actresses always seemed to have a fur stow or floor length coat, a look featured by both Prada and Louis Vitton this season and paired with silky negligee- like dresses.  Here is an animal-friendly version to try:

    Faux fur coat by Alice + Olivia, available onlie at www.revolveclothing.com for $484.00.

    Faux fur coat by Alice + Olivia, available onlie at www.revolveclothing.com for $484.00.

 

For more film noir fashion tips, go straight to the source and search online for the famous looks of Hollywood starlets of that era, such as Rita Hayworth, Veronica Lake, Lauren Bacall, and Kim Novak.  To get the total 194o’s look, check out this week’s Tuesday Tutorial on film noir hair and makeup tips.

 

 

 

 

 

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3 Comments

  1. Tracy Herz - September 24, 2013

    Really enjoyed reading this. At last film noir has its moment!

  2. Dennise Smith - September 25, 2013

    THANKS, Tracy. Hey, I want to see that new sarong of yours! :-)

  3. Tracy - December 3, 2013

    You can totally wear/have/borrow that sarong Dennise. I will also send you the Wolford look book baby! Tracy Herz

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