As fashion designers look back to the turn of the century, so, too, do the costumes of January's sumptuous film release, The Wings of the Dove. By Tamsin Blanchard. Styling by Emma Sanchez. Photographs by Garth Meyer
Saturday 20 December 1997
Conduit Street, London W1
Left Navy wool beaded dress, pounds 4,700, by Chanel, 26 Old Bond Street, London W1; jet beaded earrings, pounds 135, by Erickson Beamon, as before Right Black embroidered velvet wraparound jacket with pom pom tie, pounds 1,005, matching skirt with applique flowers on hem, pounds 855, both by Marni, from Browns, 23-27 South Molton Street, London W1; plum suede boots, pounds 450, by Gina, 189 Sloane Street, London SW1; hat, to order, by Philip Treacy, 69 Elizabeth Street, London SW1 Photographer's assistant John Walton
Stylist Emma Sanchez
Hair Malcolm Edwards
Make-Up Helen Barnes for Make-up For Ever
Model Radana at Boss
One of the strangest aspects of fashion is the way old things - very old things - are continuously being rediscovered. Seen through new, younger eyes, a Victorian corset is suddenly "new" and "modern". It is perfectly logical, then, that one of the great exotic and romantic moments in fashion history, the belle epoque of the early 1900s, should be the next big thing.
Think Paul Poiret, Bakst, the Ballets Russes, and Erte - designers Karl Lagerfeld at Chanel, Yohji Yamamoto, and Clements Ribeiro certainly have. So, too, has Sandy Powell, the costume designer for Iain Softley's forthcoming film, The Wings of the Dove, starring Helena Bonham Carter, Linus Roache and Charlotte Rampling. The movie of Henry James's story, opening nationwide 2 January, is one of those sumptuous costume dramas that has you wishing to rummage through your great grandmother's dressing-up box. You will want to swathe yourself in velvet drapes and gold fringing, put peacock feathers in your hair and hang tassled necklaces round your neck. It will also make you long to glide down the Grand Canal in Venice in a gondola by moonlight.
"The film is set at the time just before Paul Poiret transformed fashion," says Sandy Powell, who is now working on a film about Jacqueline du Pre. "It was a time in fashion when women were moving away from heavy corsetry and going for a much freer, flowing look." The main inspiration came from Lartigue's photographs of women strolling in Paris with their big hats and little dogs. For the Fortuny look, Powell used the British designers Charles and Patricia Lester.
The turn of the century was a period when fashion was changing rapidly. In the 1890s, doctors had begun to petition for the abolition of the whalebone corset on grounds of health, and more forward-thinking women were beginning to discard their corset stays on the grounds of comfort. In Wings, Charlotte Rampling's character is the most avant-garde of the women in the film and, as such, appears to have already fully grasped the Orientalist, languid bohemian style of Paul Poiret. He was to introduce the higher waist, making it no longer necessary for women of style to be incarcerated in whale bones, one of the 20th century's great revolutions in fashion. As we approach the turn of one century, perhaps it is fitting that we should look back to the turn of the last.
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