Starkle Dream Up. Stephens College
« Back to Sc-Scene Archive

Exhibit shows Hollywood's influence on fashion throughout the decades

October 1, 2015

Blockbuster movies have powerful influence over culture and society, oftentimes sparking trends and shifting pop culture.

A new exhibit in the Historic Costume Gallery at Stephens College this fall will explore Hollywood’s imprints on fashion.

“Reel to Real: Hollywood's Influence on American Fashion” opens Oct. 16 and runs through Dec. 13.

The show will include information explaining which films inspired which looks, show curator Sheryl Farnan said. The show begins with Hollywood’s Golden Age in the 1930s and features a white organdy gown with large ruffled sleeves and puffed shoulders—the iconic dress Joan Crawford wore in “Letty Lynton.”

“Joan Crawford had an athletic, almost boyish figure,” Farnan said. “By giving her a silhouette with large shoulders it gave the illusion of an hourglass.”

Macy’s department store sold more than 50,000 replicas of the so-called “Letty Lynton” dress nationwide.

Also on display will be an example of the slinky white satin gown made famous by Jean Harlow in “Dinner at Eight,” and an embellished coat mass produced after Bette Davis wore one following her transformation in the movie “Now, Voyager.”

In the 1950s, Elizabeth Taylor was making her mark on fashion, portraying a young socialite in the movie “A Place in the Sun.” She wore a strapless bouffant gown with a full tulle skirt that was adopted as the official attire of proms and beauty pageants around the country. Similar dresses will be among the exhibit.

Other fashions on display will include cocktail dresses inspired by “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” Russian-inspired pieces that came out after the release of “Doctor Zhivago,” examples from the mod look that followed “2001: A Space Odyssey,” and colonial Dutch-inspired safari fashions inspired by “Out of Africa” in the 1980s.

The most contemporary garment in the exhibit will be an example of the structured, polka-dot dress made popular by “Pretty Woman.”

“That movie really helped tone down the looks women had been wearing throughout the 1980s,” Farnan said. “It took us out of the 70s and 80s for a softer sophistication.”

The gallery is located on the mezzanine in Lela Raney Wood Hall and is open Thursday evenings and from noon to 3 p.m. on weekends.

Most computers will open PDF documents automatically, but you may need to download Adobe Reader.