Fashion and Television

May 24, 2011 § Leave a comment

Today I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about how clothing in a television show can set the tone and define a character. If you think about it, this of course is true. What if all the women in “Sex in the City” swapped clothing with another show that was its complete opposite, like “CSI” or something? Would the show have had the same impact as it did? Booth Moore, fashion critic for the Los Angeles Times and author of this article writes,

Clothing defines the characters in these shows, just as it did in ‘Sex in the City.’ You can’t imagine ‘Glee’ and crooked cheerleading coach Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch) without her Adidas track suit, gay teen Kurt Hummel (Chris Colfer) without his designer outfits or guidance counselor Emma Pilsbury (Jayma Mays) without her goody goody cardigans.

But then I started thinking, in the cases of “Sex and the City” or “Glee”, the clothing in these show set a positive tone to the show and has, in some ways, made these shows as big as they are. If clothing can make a show, can clothing possibly break a show? Deborah Landis, founding director of the Copley Center for the Study of Costume Design at UCLA says,

If you dressed ‘CSI,’ ‘The Closer’ or ‘Brothers and Sisters’ like ‘Glee,’ the character would be sabotaged by the look.

It seems to me that in recent years fashion has had more of a starring role rather than just blending into the background. Maybe it’s because I am older or maybe it’s because I am in this industry, but it seems like people have become more fascinated with fashion than they were may be ten years ago. Of course, people have always been fascinated by the more luxurious things in life and who is wearing what, but now people are also becoming curious about how “what” is made. I credit this fascination with the construction of clothing and the more behind the scenes part of it to the hit television show ‘Project Runway’, show where starting off designers compete in different competitions to try to win the ultimate prize, a lump sum of cash to start their own clothing line.

In another article in the same issue of the Los Angeles Times by Melissa Magsaysay called “Reality Unleashed”, she talks about how ‘Project Runway’ and other unscripted shows have demonstrated that the fashion business was “good for TV.” Magsaysay writes,

“Project Runway” lifted a curtain on the fashion industry, bringing usually behind the scenes individuals – magazine editors, stylists and designers – to millions of homes. It offered competition, drama, lively characters, and eye candy in the form of sometimes gorgeous clothes and the models who wear them.

Robert Thompson, professor of TV and pop culture at Syracuse University says,

In the case of fashion, many people have always watched TV for the clothes anyway. Look at ‘Dynasty.’ It can be argued that some of those shows were about the clothes. We watch award shows for clothes. Fashion has a good built-in audience.

One of the things I love about fashion is that fashion is unique and everyone has an opinion about it, and I think that shows like ‘Project Runway’ have given viewers the opportunity to become fashion critics and voice their own opinion about the fashions they see during these shows. And of course, it’s gratifying to all of us to criticise something and seem like you know what you are talking about.

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