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Hollywood Before Glamour: Fashion in American Silent Film Hardcover – 30 Jan 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 262 pages
  • Publisher: Palgrave Schol, Print UK (30 Jan. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0230389481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0230389489
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.6 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,193,213 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


"This book has the potential to make a contribution to many fields: fashion and film history, film theory, design history and popular culture studies. It is extremely well written, well referenced, well argued and well researched."
- Caroline Evans, Professor of Fashion History and Theory at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, UK.
"Cracking open cultural historian Michelle Tolini Finamore's new book, Hollywood Before Glamour: Fashion in American Silent Film, I expected musings on early cinematic costumes, a few new anecdotes about Gloria Swanson and perhaps a little social context.
The surprise is that in spending five years researching addressing the ways in which the nascent American fashion and film industries intersected... a hundred years ago, Finamore has unearthed so much original research relevant to issues again facing the industry and culture at large. From the Swanson archive in Austin and the Library of Congress to the British Film Institute to rare original films and newsreels, Finamore's topics piece together a cultural history of two industries on the cusp, and deserve a readership outside of academia."
- Nathalie Atkinson, Canadian National Post

Book Description

The first in-depth exploration of fashion in American silent film, offering fresh perspectives on the era that preceded the studio system and the evolution of Hollywood's distinctive brand of glamour

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By Allan Taylor on 21 April 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I found this book rather disappointing as I had expected a larger, glossier type of book for the price,
Allan Taylor
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A standout book on film costume history 25 Nov. 2014
By Richard Adkins - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a valuable and must-have fashion-and-film reference book. Its only weakness stems from reading more like an academic thesis than a narrative history. Also, so much of the early book is invested in those citations that it is distracting when easily researched later occurring information is mistakenly cited. The author mentions Mitchell Leisen as a designer at Famous Players Lasky in "the 1910's" when it is easily discoverable that it was 1917 when Leisen contributed to "The Woman God Forgot." The author talks about the design approach at M-G-M in 1919, when that studio wasn't founded until 1924. The book rightly mentions Jetta Goudal's fashion influence on her films, but wrongly cites "The Love Song" as a Goudal film, when that film was retitled "Valencia" with Mae Murray as the star. Goudal was notoriously difficult to work with and gave all her designers headaches. She alienated Natacha Rambova, Howard Greer, and Adrian with her interference and criticism. Speaking of Adrian, she cites the "pantsuit" he made for the climax of "Madam Satan" in 1930, when the garment is a gown, not a pantsuit. It is only a pantsuit in an illustration done by an unknown artist in the M-G-M publicity department, which makes me think the author didn't see the film. In the early chapters, it promised a chapter on the "star" designers as they developed in the late 1920s, but that chapter only dealt with Peggy Hamilton and Coco Chanel. But as the best and only book with this detail for this period of film this is an essential book. It was great to see the very earliest designers and wardrobe personnel given well-deserved credit, and the chapter on Hamilton was beyond great as she not only was a designer and actress, but was so very responsible for connecting the Hollywood designers to the commercial fashion world. I would definitely and highly recommend this book to anyone interested in fashion history, and specifically film fashion history. They should obtain and keep this book at hand. No history of film fashion has covered this period as well as this book, the closest is "When Broadway was the Runway" which tracks theatrical fashion history in comparison to then-contemporary fasion and Elizabeth Leese's "History of Costume Design in the Movies" which includes so many lesser known designers. This book is a tremendous research tool.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
As entertaining as it is informative 29 May 2013
By Richard Torregrossa - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
An absorbing read. Although this is a scholarly work, it is eminently readable, the prose lively and without a touch of the aridity often found in academic works, and the rare illustrations help bring the era to life. Dr. Finamore has broken new ground overlooked by scholars--the confluence of fashion and film during Hollywood's silent film era. Most fascinating is her detailing of the evolution of Hollywood as a purveyor of glamour and style that enthralled a public eager for sartorial guidance, particularly from glittering stars like Gloria Swanson, a phenomenon that is of course common today.

But Hollywood Before Glamour is much more than that. It is far reaching and multi-faceted and will make a contribution to many fields, including film history, film theory, design studies, cultural landmarks, and the incipient power of marketing, which I found especially enlightening, something you don't find fully appreciated in books about early Hollywood.

In a sense what MAD MEN is to advertising, this book is to the beginnings of Hollywood--a portal to the past, vivid and richly rendered, anecdotal and entertaining. It also charts the evolution of Hollywood fashion as a commodity, and Hollywood's shrewd realization that glamour and style could be commercialized, thus broadening its own cultural power base to go far beyond the silver screen by collaborating with international designers, retail outlets, department stores to launch the first runway shows, and ultimately creating a meme that helped grow the fashion as well as the film industry into what it is today.

Much has been written (too much, in fact, if you ask me) about Hollywood's Golden Era and very little before that, which is why this book is so essential for anybody who is interested in learning about a cultural institution that dominates so much of our dreams and consciousness. FASHION SHOWS: An entry from Charles Scribner's Sons' Encyclopedia of Clothing and Fashion
Fascinating study of American culture 12 Sept. 2013
By G. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This book really engages the reader, with words and photos. It opens up an era before the talkies when the vision of glamour was defined by the movie star, and is wonderful for those in the business of fashion as well as the casual reader interested in American culture.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Scholarly, Yet Human 16 May 2013
By Abecedarius - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
A century ago, the film industry was nothing like the one we know now. Actors and actresses were ranked well below traditional stage professionals, and in the beginning, they even wore their own clothes. Finamore describes with authority and clarity the way the fashion industry grew to exert a stronger influence on the film industry, as the center of the fashion industry shifted away from Paris to Hollywood, and as masses of filmgoers grew to take their styling cues from what they saw on the silver screen. The book is not inexpensive, but there is nothing like it for the serious student of both the fashion and films industries, and as time goes by, its growing rarity--as it is tucked away on private library shelves--may make today's price a bargain.
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