Dressed to Kill ; Sharp Tailoring, Nipped Waists " Hitchcock-Style Elegance Is Back. Rhiannon Harries Reports
reports, Rhiannon Harries, The Independent (London, England)
The opening sequence of Alfred Hitchcock's 1964 thriller Marnie contains what must be the most significant shot of a handbag in film history. A tight close-up of a seductively plump yellow leather number, tucked beneath a tweed-suited arm, slowly expands to reveal Tippi Hedren's elegant silhouette gliding gracefully along a railway platform.
A couple of scenes later, we see Hedren emptying bundles of stolen cash from the same bag. Suddenly, what initially appeared to be the classic finishing touch to her polished, ladylike exterior is revealed to contain the spoils of this highly subversive character's kleptomaniac tendencies.
It's a piece of classic Hitchcock that captures the British director's instinctive understanding of the suggestive power of clothing and accessories, as well as his enduring fascination with beautiful women whose looks belie their complex personalities. Besides Hedren, Grace Kelly, Kim Novak and Ingrid Bergman were just a few of the actresses immortalised on screen by the director in films spanning the Forties, Fifties and Sixties. In each case, they were transformed through meticulously planned costume, make-up and hair into icy blondes whose very flawlessness might seem a little prim if it weren't for the uncanny feeling that there is more to them than meets the eye.
Now, almost half a century later, Hitchcock's heroines are continuing to fascinate film fans and designers alike, as they provide the inspiration for the new wave of sophistication in fashion. It's the perfect antidote to a summer of sloppy boho, as poise and self-control become the watchwords for an altogether more thoughtful approach.
The influence began to take shape last autumn, in fact, with sharp tailoring and nipped waists appearing in collections by the likes of Roland Mouret. This year, however, it has evolved into a full revival of old-style elegance. At Prada, deceptively simple coats and dresses in understated black and brown owed more than a little of their austere beauty to the standard daytime uniform of Hitchcock's leading ladies. Meanwhile, Mouret elaborated on last year's work with some suitably demure ultra-tailored offerings, as designers ranging from Jil Sander to Dolce & Gabbana all produced their own interpretations of the look.
Appropriately, it was British designer Alexander McQueen " never afraid of a dark, psychological undertone or two " who really warmed to the theme. He sent a succession of Hitchcock blondes, and brunettes, too, down the catwalk in severely cut tweed skirt-suits and structured dresses that created paradoxically womanly silhouettes.
Minimal bare flesh allowed the discreetly sexy tailoring to speak for itself, while immaculate up-dos, pearls and leather gloves provided the perfect finish. McQueen has even designed a suitably ladylike handbag in honour of Kim Novak, the star of Hitchcock's 1958 masterpiece Vertigo. …