14 December 2009

So Very Metropolitan

It's party season at last, and while wading through the endless racks of silk and deciding what look to go for, why don't you keep in mind the opulent styles of early 90s New York as immortalized by Whit Stillman's Metropolitan - a tale of young "Urban Haute Bourgeoisie" chatting about class, literature, fourierism, the severe escort shortage, and their inevitable downward mobility in tails and gloves and frilly frocks while circulating debutante galas and after parties.

Few things are as glamorous as formal attire and cold weather.  As the virtuous, Fanny Price obsessed heroine Audrey Rouget says, "There's something about winter in the city at night with everyone dressed up that reminds me of War and Peace."  This film captures the sentiment perfectly.

  "I guess you could say it's extremely vulgar, I like it a lot."
 -Nick Smith

 "Snobbery is looked down upon."
-Charlie Black

"I'd read Veblen, but it's amazing to hear that these things still go on."
 -Tom Townsend

"The cha cha is no more ridiculous than life itself."
-Nick Smith

Metropolitan was very much a product of its time.  The dresses are as decorated as a wedding cake, with puffed sleeves, sweetheart necklines, ruffles in the strangest of places, and yards and yards of brightly colored taffeta and lace, all offset by simple strands of pearls, large bows for the hair, and black tights, both sheer and opaque.  Aside from the length issue, the formal looks were amazingly similar to the dresses shown in the Christmas Ball scene of Meet Me in St. Louis (set in 1904!) which I watched while searching for some dresses to show.  But there's something kind of quirky and devil may care about embracing these extremely dated looks.  I'll offer some modern updates below, but the ornate Dynasty look will be back soon.   Why not dive in now?

Inspired by Metropolitan

Bob Mackie


So, for the most part, I'm not sure that the basic tuxedo has changed for men.  While the girls in the film changed dresses and accessories for every evening out, the men seemed to only alternate between a black bow tie/black cummerbund and a white bow tie/white vest.  Annoyingly simple, but elegant all the same. 

For the Gents 


Kyle said...

What expensive winter clothes do they wear to cover their expensive formal attire? Livery cars?

ldbahr said...

Good overcoats. Actually this is a plot point: the West Sider has to defend his choice of a rain coat without admitting that he can't afford a proper winter jacket. Poor Tom Townsend.

Also they take taxis and tease public transportation snobs.

Gerri Ward said...

When I am fortunate to wear formal attire a BEAUTIFUL wrap does the trick for me especially since I don't wear furs!

Kit Pollard said...

Watching Metropolitan has been one of my personal little holiday traditions (read: one I can't get anyone else to do with me) since I was in college. I love it.

All the ruffles and embellishments look so festive to me. I'll be sad when the mid-90s minimalism/Calvin Kleinish look comes back around.

ldbahr said...

It's a great film for the holidays - it makes me nostalgic for a world I was never part of, ha!

But I would love a ruffly dress. Helmut Lang and Calvin Klein are better for the sober month of January. It's the holiday's, bring out the excessive fabric.


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