- Pub. Date:
- University of Minnesota Press
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.