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Essay: The Fashion Body on Film

by Fleur Britten on 25 August 2010

Author Fleur Britten explores the emergence of fashion film and its influence on the fashion body.

Author Fleur Britten explores the emergence of fashion film and its influence on the fashion body.

Stomp! Stride! Stop! Fix gaze, hold it baby, quiver gaminely, swish cape, pull up (lithe, Barbie-esque) leg. Cape swings just-so, falls perfectly into place; little leather-trim shorts caress a polished, flexing thigh; the clinging shirt, open to the midriff, struggles to contain the fecund femininity. It’s the new Chloé online campaign, and it heralds a new direction for fashion. The doll (here: Raquel Zimmermann) has come to life, and she’s vital - a living, breathing, wanting woman.

Online, fashion advertising has got moving. Clever – a 20-second film tickling your peripheral vision is far more effective than still, static photography in distracting you from your original on-screen intentions. Fashion advertising has jumped aboard the runaway digital train, just in the nick of time as catwalks are streamed live and direct from the fashion capitals, print media stops calling itself print, and those orders for the iPad rack up.

It might seem disturbing to acknowledge that even body type is subject to fashion, but you only need recall what Hedi Slimane’s Dior Homme did for fashiony boys’ calorific intake to accept it as fact.

But here’s the thing: to deliver on film the same kind of gloss that our eyes have grown accustomed to in print takes the kind of exponential budgets that are only available to the likes of Chloé and boom times – budgets that aren’t so available now, and rarely so to the emerging designers who tend to adopt new technology more readily than bastions. So those most likely to put fashion onto film (namely, those who can’t afford a catwalk show) are also those who can’t afford all that expertise in the editing suite to expunge unfashionable blemishes.

Which makes for an interesting sea change. Flaws are rubbish at hiding on film when the camera comes at you from all angles and not just your best side. It’s much harder (read: more expensive) to cheat it on film than with stills. What’s more, because on film, as opposed to on the page, a model is required to perform continuously and not just affect a fixed glare, designers are increasingly turning to non-models - yes, real people who can dance, emote, perform. That’s not to say that models can’t, but the ones that can are usually too busy earning to entertain the smaller budgets.

So could it be that, with the influence of fashion film, fashion is about to get much more real? It already has! Untouched is the new selling point, and has fed right back into still photography. 'Untouched photos of [someone you thought was perfect] inside!' shout out magazine cover lines. As that filters down to the street, as people stop fetishising perfection, our body ideal could well evolve into something shorter, fatter, wonkier – not another narrow, freaky vision, but simply something much more diverse. It might seem disturbing to acknowledge that even body type is subject to fashion, but you only need recall what Hedi Slimane’s Dior Homme did for fashiony boys’ calorific intake to accept it as fact. Yet here, a trend for honesty beckons. Real bodies will be fashionable bodies. Is fashion having a fatlash?

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