Screen Style: Fashion and Femininity in 1930s Hollywood

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A vividly illustrated social history of 1930s film and fashion.

Greta Garbo, Joan Crawford, Marlene Dietrich-all were icons of beauty and glamour in 1930s Hollywood. Screen Style reveals the impact of celebrities like these on women filmgoers, looking beyond the surface of the films and fashions of the era-often described as forms of escapism from the difficult realities of the Depression-to show how Hollywood presented women with models for self-determination during a time of rapid social change.

Revealing the fascination of Hollywood movies in the thirties with strong-willed women-from the ambitions of gold-diggers, working girls, and social climbers to the illicit appeal of female androgyny and ethnic exoticism-Sarah Berry presents a lively, accessible, and lavishly illustrated look at films, fan magazines, and advertising. She views Hollywood glamour in the context of popular debates about fashion, identity, and social status, discussing such films as What Price Hollywood?, The Bride Wore Red, and The Bitter Tea of General Yen; big-budget, style-driven vehicles such as Fashions of 1934 and Vogues of 1938; and musicals, costume dramas, and Technicolor extravaganzas.

Screen Style explores the consumer economy that was still a novelty in the 1930s, as well as the shift from "class" to "mass" fashion marketing. Berry analyzes Hollywood and fashion-industry perceptions of the huge potential buying power of women, both as purchasers of goods for the entire family and as filmgoers, and the subsequent boom in star endorsements and merchandising, fashion publicity for upcoming films, and movie tie-ins of clothes and accessories. Wide-ranging changes accompanied the popularization of fashion, including the growing acceptance of cosmetic use and women's appropriation of pants. The fact that more women than ever before were working outside of the home led to a blurring of the social distinctions that fashion had traditionally served to accentuate-and, as a result, popular fashion provided women with a new tool to challenge and shape their roles in society.

Sarah Berry is assistant professor of film and media studies and production at the College of Staten Island, City University of New York.
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
In the second in the "Commerce and Mass Culture" series, Berry (film and media studies, Coll. of Staten Island, CUNY) attempts to explore "the relationship between popular fashion and Hollywood films of the 1930s," arguing that both were significant aspects of "the decade's shifting definitions of femininity." She discusses popular fashion, costume as spectacle, beauty and cosmetics, and the popularity of trousers for women in the context both of film and the fashion and cosmetics industries, as well as styles that became popular in the 1930s. Although Berry has obviously done her research, her writing style leaves something to be desired. She fails to define some terminology and provides weak transitions between subjects. Her undirected narrative seems disjointed, and it is difficult to determine the point, and point of view, of each chapter. Furthermore, the initial argument seems rather obvious. This academic book may be useful for students of popular culture, but it is not very accessible to the lay reader in spite of the popular-interest topic. Recommended for academic libraries or libraries with a large motion picture or fashion collection.--Julia Stump, Voorheesville P.L., New York Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Internet Bookwatch
This survey of women's fashion issues in 1930s Hollywood provides a fine social history of 1930s film style, survey the impact of female celebrities on fashion and showing how Hollywood used actresses as models during a time of social change. Screen Style explores changes in fashion marketing approaches during the 1930s and is a recommended pick for students of fashion history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816633128
  • Publisher: University of Minnesota Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2000
  • Series: Commerce and Mass Culture Series, #2
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 264
  • Product dimensions: 6.26 (w) x 9.29 (h) x 0.81 (d)

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