Stream Films About Fashion IV: More Documentaries

The Eye Has To Travel (Diana Vreeland) 2012 Directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt, Frédéric Tcheng. If you’re barely acquainted with the indomitable Diana Vreeland, this will impress and entertain. “She was never a very rich woman, she was never a very beautiful woman, but she created wealth and she created beauty.” As a child, her mother told the girl, “It’s too bad you have such a beautiful sister and you’re so ugly.” She didn’t feel secure about her appearance until meeting handsome future husband, Reed Vreeland.

One night out dancing, by dint of personal style she was asked to join Harper’s Bazaar by Editor-in-Chief Carmel Snow. “But I’ve never worked before,” she responded. “Why don’t you?” Snow countered. This became the title of Vreeland’s wry column for the magazine. Examples:  Her column was a great success, but Vreeland never rose in the ranks so when Vogue came calling, she jumped.

The previously “sleepy” magazine welcomed a new editor with an unerring eye for visual talent, an ear to the ground of culture and trends, and sophisticated aesthetics. She popularized bikinis and blue jeans, brought Twiggy to Vogue, discovered Lauren Bacall, used personalities as models, and indulged in extravagant photographic shoots the likes of which were never repeated. Vreeland also fraternized with artists of all stripes.Vogue cut her loose at age 70.

When The Metropolitan Museum of Art hired her to consult for the then quiet Costume Institute, they had no idea how Vreeland’s energy and vision would change everything. She took garments out of boxes and put them on mannequins; instituted blockbuster exhibitions and the fundraising party of the year. It’s great fun to hear throughout from the accomplished woman herself. We also see/hear Diane Sawyer, Jane Pauley, photographer Richard Avedon, model/actress Angelica Huston.  Free with Amazon Prime.

About Face-Super Models Then and Now 2012 Directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders. A visit with “Supermodels” of the 70s-80s some years later (oddly missing Linda Evangelista). Most are retired, a few, after lengthy careers, enjoy intermittent bookings with current appreciation of older women (Carmen Dell’ Orefice whose career may be the longest). Needless to say, everyone looks good, some great.

Beverly Johnson (the first black woman on a Vogue cover) and Bethann Hardison faced prejudice, while no one knew what to do with “exotics” China Machado and Pat Cleveland. There’s talk about early days, how the ladies got started, shelf life, changes in the profession. Isabella Rossellini and Marisa Berenson turned to acting. (Rossellini went back to school for advanced degrees and writes/produces charming educational theater.)

Christy Brinkley (forever young), Karen Bjornson, Carol Alt, Paulina Porizkova, Christy Turlington Burns, and Lisa Taylor speak of their families. Jerry Hall continues to be a personality (having married both Mick Jagger and Rupert Murdoch). Iconic Agency owner Eileen Ford knew them all back when. She’s the only one who refers to cosmetic surgery. No one offers tips except to develop discipline and personality. Oddly, all still wear the same hairstyles their images established. Free with HBO trial through Prime.

Advanced Style 2014 Based on the website and books by Ari Seth Cohen (no relation) Directed by Lina Piloplyote. If you are or know a woman between the ages of 60 and 100, Advanced Style is an upbeat must-see. Close to his grandmothers, Cohen has particular affection for older women with joie de vie and visual pizzazz. The street photography blog has spawned a full web site, books, the film, live appearances and fashion or advertising work for some of the women. Cohen helps the ladies navigate opportunities.

“I never wanted to look young, I wanted to look great,” one says. “Style is about personal creativity,” notes another. “Fashion improves the environment,” says a third. Meet the women, learn something about their pasts, see artful ensembles. None are rich. All depend on imagination, selection, and careful maintenance of garments. “I don’t need to impress anyone. I really feel good about me.” “We’re here, we’re elders, and we’re still attractive and vital.” Web site: Rent video on Amazon Prime.

Versailles ’73: American Runway Revolution 2016 Directed by Deborah Riley Draper. If this film is to be believed, in 1973 Americans brought about a seismic change in the way Paris, axis of fashion at the time, viewed our designers. A lavish ball including fashion and entertainment was held at and to benefit Versailles. When the Americans finished, a rarefied audience of 600 rose to their feet cheering. French newspapers called their own participation stiff and pompous.

Curator of Versailles Gerald Van der Kemp and powerful fashion journalist Eleanor Lambert invited French and American designers to Versailles. Both denied it was a competition. Hosted by Baronne de Rothschild, France offered Mark Bohan (Dior), Pierre Cardin, Yves St. Laurent, Givenchy, and Ungaro. Hosted by socialite C. Z. Guest, America sent Jimmy Galanos, Oscar de la Renta, Bill Blass, Anne Klein (with Donna Karan), Halston, and Stephen Burrows; 36 models including some of our best black mannequins (called out for excellence), Liza Minnelli, 10 dancers, make-up and hair practitioners.

Talking heads in the film include, in part, every model who appeared (speaking evocatively, but at unfortunate  length).The French, it seems, were tacitly unwelcoming. Their shows, which collectively ran 2 ½ hours, had extremely elaborate scenery, a full orchestra, and no group coordination. Americans, having received incorrect stage measurement, had no usable scenery, recorded music, and ran like clockwork for under 40 minutes. Glory was theirs. Free with Amazon Prime.

Love, Cecil (Cecil Beaton) 2018 Directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland. Photographer, author, Oscar winning set and costume designer, painter, and aesthete Cecil Beaton “gave his life over to expressing beauty.” He began with home glamour photos of his sisters, then, through wealthy, well connected Stephen Tenant, fell into the honey pot of “bright young things” at Cambridge University establishing himself in fashionable society. Some of the artful, often “decadent” photos (many self portraits) found their way into papers and magazines. Meanwhile he failed all his exams.

On Beaton’s very first New York visit he secured a contract with Vogue to which he brought romance and style. A visit to Hollywood introduced him to Greta Garbo, to whom he’d eventually propose marriage. (They’re said to have had an affair.) The artist went back and forth from England until, fulfilling an illustration assignment, he used the word “Kike” on a drawn newspaper. Unable to explain why (he had Jewish friends), Beaton was let go, never ridding himself of accompanying guilt.

After a year of depressed unemployment, he received a call from the palace. Queen Elizabeth wanted portraits, beginning a lifelong association with the royal family. Beaton’s war photos, with which few are familiar, covered England, Burma, China, and Egypt. His eye created something beyond mere capture. Life on battlegrounds was rough and dangerous.

After the war, he designed theater productions. This lead to responsibility for everything visual in both Gigi and My Fair Lady. “You can ask for the impossible and it suddenly appears.” We see and hear about clips from the lavish films, his homes, and the two other (male) loves of his life (after Garbo). Passages from a late interview are telling. Beaton wrote 38 books, kept 150 diaries and 97 scrapbooks – some of which have been duplicated. A remarkable life. Rent on Amazon Prime.

Top photo: Shutterstock

About Alix Cohen (837 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of eight New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.