Wednesday 30 December 2020

Cinematic Fancies

Beau casting judgement on our cut of cloth

The original Dandy, Beau Brummell, was a man who certainly had a few opinions about dressing for the occasion, and indeed there was probably no occasion in his books that didn't require a considered review of the sartorial choices before setting out. And to give the fops their due, neither would they forego an opportunity for some peacock preening, just with a more colourful flourish. 

All hail the Macaroni!

Just imagine him in colour!
Philip Dawe mezzotint, 1773

Given his eventual fall from royal grace, Beau would have been delighted to see Our Queen, below, arriving for her cinematic viewing of his 1954 MGM bio-pic, Beau Brummell, accessorised quite appropriately in the Vladimir tiara and Delhi Durbar suite with emeralds. Details, Dear Reader!

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Ah, going to the cinema ... once such a Grand Affair.

It's been a while since the last time we Pipistrellos went to the cinema. In fact, I can't remember what the last film was. Perhaps it was The Favourite, with its own resplendent cast of popinjays, which seems like ages ago. Or The Lobster **. Regardless, I don't believe I saw any parures or sweeping hemlines on my fellow cinema-goers in recent times, or ever, notwithstanding my own attempts to keep the game lifted from my plush seat in the darkened auditorium.

Big hair: tick. Jewelled colours: cross.
A bit of artistic license taken here with Queen Anne's foppish courtiers

But when we emerge from these socially isolated-times, blinking into the light like butterflies emerging from our chrysalid state, maybe Cinema-going could be a Grand Affair once more. It would delight me no end to see everyone dress for the occasion, and let everything old become new again. 

Celebrating our new butterfly form with
Elsa Schiaparelli's 1937 aquamarine jacket

Oh, and to really cap off our stylish outing, instead of a bucket of near ubiquitous popcorn* in a neighbour's lap, or a crisp chocolate-topped ice-cream that will guarantee to shed grubby stains down the front of (some)one's shirt in the dark, or a bag of cellophane-wrapped-sweeties for another neighbour to infuriatingly rustle, perhaps we could all have a posy of flowers to sniff through the showing? It is, after all, only a couple of hours out of our lives to endure without sustenance.

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Typically fragrant (Royal) family outing to the cinema, 1949

The Queen doesn't seem to shed tears easily, something we learn if we pay attention to The Crown, but the proof of this pudding really lies in the countless photographs of her through the past decades attending gala premieres in her customary party finery, and as there would have to have been at least one tear-jerker among them, gala dressing for the cinema would be a blotchy, runny-nosed disaster best avoided for one prone to tears.

Unlike Your Correspondent, for whom it greatly annoys me that I am prey to the emotional manipulations of lilting soundtracks and can be brought to sentimental tears by a 30-second toilet paper commercial, so avoid commercials altogether like the plague they are as I find weeping so draining. It baffles me that there is an attractiveness to be found by sniffling through a movie with one's friends and I shun the so-called weepy as I do the aforementioned Labrador puppies romping with a roll of Sorbent.

One of my earliest cinema experiences was to see the 1976 version of King Kong as a child***.  I was mortified to discover Jessica Lange and myself convulsed with weeping, myself sans hankie****, over his miserable demise. Too shy and embarrassed to ask for a tissue from the kindly, middle-aged neighbours who took Brother & I for a treat, I tried to suppress my snivelling in the dark and had to resort to surreptitious use of my long sleeves. A gesture completely beyond the pale, I know, but I'd been caught totally unawares. When the lights came up, we all pretended not to notice my red-eyes and rather besmeared and exhausted self. 

King Kong and Jessica in happier times

Hankies. Not even a dry-eyed ERII would ever leave home without one, and neither do I these days. 

Double-duty hankie, proof against dramatically-dying giant primates
... And a runny nose
Georges Barbier, c. 1910

* Lovely L's eldest child had a high-school job as a cinema usher where, within five-minutes in the job, he became vehemently anti-popcorn as it was his job to rush about with the Bissell, scooping the mountainous scatterings left in the wake of the cinema-goers.

** What are the odds? I've just noticed both films were directed by Yorgos Lanthimos.

*** Not quite sure how this came about as it was rated Not Recommended for Children, probably owing to the Sad Ending.

**** Handkerchiefs have gone the way of the Dodo, it would seem, judging by the distinct lack of them in the shoppes this past birthday for Mr. P. To replenish his collection, much hunting brought down perhaps the last boxed set in this city.

Image credits: 1: via; 2: British Museum; 3, 6: Getty Images; 4, 7, 8: via Google; 5: via Pinterest


  1. Ah, movies! Will we go back? I can imagine braving microbes for a ballet or opera, but for a movie? I really think they should bring back drive-ins.
    Alas, the business model gives the bulk of ticket sales to the movie itself, and the theaters must earn their bread by selling snacks. So food-free cinema is unlikely, without some other change.
    My last movie was "Frozen," and my then-little one and I both bawled our eyes out, clinging to each other. I don't get out much.
    For more on Beau, check out the podcast "Articles of Interest," hosted by the honey-voiced Avery Trufelman. All about the history of clothes. You'll love it.

  2. The cinema seems like an alien planet right now. I can't remember the last time I watched a movie in the cinema, probably when my teen was a cute 6 or 7 year old. How time flies. I always enjoy watching the royals attend a movie premiere. They dress up to the nines. Moi, on the other hand, would usually wear my most comfortable clothes. I wonder when I'll go to the movie theatre again.

  3. ToF: Yes, the drive-in could come back but when the masses have Home Cinema set-ups, it's probably only going to lure the courting-types into the close confines of a car! We've been spoilt by good quality tv-screens and streaming choices, I suspect, and the Cinema may yet go the way of the Hankie ... "Frozen", not seen by me, but isn't it shocking how even a cartoon can bring on the waterworks! I blame the music. And no, you don't get out much ... Thanks for the podcast tip. I'm onto it!

    Loree: There'll certainly be the novelty factor that will entice young people who've never been before into a cinema, if the theatres survive the mothballing, but I'd still like to imagine an opportunity for making it an Occasion for dressing up and going out, a less-is-more sort of event. But as ToF says, the business model behind the industry really doesn't encourage my cinematic fancy. Time will tell!

  4. Clearly I would need to improve my wardrobe were the Scotts ever to visit the cinema with the Pipistrellos's. I suppose my recent "Big Hair" displayed on my blog could be called a start, but the blue shirt, blue jacket, grey breeks, black shoes would all need to go.

  5. Andrew: I am hardly at liberty to enforce some Dress Codes about the place, but a bit of colour does gladden the eye, so p'rhaps a vibrant buttonhole to complete your ensemble would be all you need? The Big Hair may alarm those sitting behind you, especially if it's veering towards the Bird's Nest - which my blog's creed says you need never apologise for - so don't forget a comb!

  6. I've never been one for foppish clothes, but I was once in a film (The Duallists) where I played a Napoleonic Officer. The uniforms were wonderful, and made one feel a million dollars! Foppishness has it's place.

  7. Cro: Oh, what fun! I wonder if it's around to watch somewhere. I shall have to have a look. Those old uniforms were pretty amazing and I can well imagine the spring in the step they gave. Keeping them looking so good when on campaign was quite another matter!

  8. Cro: Oo, it's a Ridley Scott, I see! There are some clips on the youtubes. Can you spot yourself in it, or did you end up on the proverbial cutting room floor?

  9. The cinemas are putting themselves out of business because the price of a ticket is astronomical. People buy large screen tv's and watch their movies at home. Live theater, I hope, will continue forever.

    IN THE NEW YEAR OF COURSE.................MAYBE IN FALL!!!

  11. Susan: Well, live theatre certainly can't be replicated in the comfort of one's living room, so there's no fear it shall ever die out in some shape or form! There are some films for which it is said they are "better on a big screen", I'm thinking those with fancy special effects - like "King Kong", haha! - or sweeping cinematography - like "Russian Ark", which springs to mind - so if they keep getting made, I expect the cinema will always draw a crowd.

    Contessa: We love a hankie about these parts, so do keep them on your Gift List for your stylish Italian as we must keep the cottage industry alive! And I fully expected you would be Dressing for the cinema already. After all, you never let even your chickens down when you collect the daily eggs! xx

  12. Oh I do love this post, Pip. I am a great weeper when music and a sad story combine and there have been a couple of films on t.v. over the holiday that have reduced my hankies to sodden rags. The other night a National Theatre production of Uncle Vanya was televised. What a treat! Bawled my eyes out.
    Handkies. I would be lost without one. I have a damp nose, like a healthy dog and like to have clothes with pockets where I can stuff various hankies. They used to be beautiful objects, lovely colours and designs but it is difficult to buy anything other than utilitarian these days as no one appears to use them.
    I used to wear "Shocking' perfume which was packaged in a box of E.S's shocking pink with a gold trim. I don't know when they stopped making it.

  13. Rosemary: Ah, pockets, that's a whole other blogpost. Meanwhile, I shall let you into a secret and that is Etsy has a wealth of (unused) vintage hankie sellers, mostly in the UK, whose online stores allow you to pour over olde designs to your heart's content! Admittedly my gorgeous little Art Deco embroidered jobbies don't get the same vigorous treatment in the washing department to avoid fading them out, but they're good for dabbing and waving ... I heard a very funny skit by a comedian once who talked of the one tissue that all Mother's give to their Daughters when they leave home which is to live forever in the bottom of their handbag, used and offered in all situations and calamities ... Elsa was fabulous! She, too, is a whole other post.

  14. Indeed a happy new year to you and yours!
    One wonders at the big wigs what on earth were they thinking but that's fashion I guess.

  15. Ur-spo: What, indeed! A bit like those who indulge in a bit of body-building or cosmetic enhancement, I imagine. Every inch added looks more like your normal self and so another inch needs piling on to get the look you're going for. Either that or man-bags hadn't been invented and they needed somewhere to store their snacks and writing implements!


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