Catwalk: A Revealing Foray Into 90s Fashion Culture

Miles Franklin

Christy Turlington, the subject of  Catwalk  and the eminent supermodel of the 1990s. Image  via
Christy Turlington, the subject of Catwalk and the eminent supermodel of the 1990s. Image via

Nostalgia for 1990s and 2000s fashion, with all its attendant glamour and spectacle, seemed to have reached its pinnacle in the summer of 2019, when Instagram models and reality TV stars posted glossy photos wearing Chanel swimsuits and Dior Saddle Bags aboard yachts in the Mediterranean. Despite all of the frivolity and social media flexing that almost overnight turned a 20 year old, $200 derelict Dior bag into a $6,000 piece of vintage art, it was certainly exciting to see so many people introduced to what was arguably the most ambitious and reckless decade of fashion, the 1990s.

For people interested in diving a bit deeper into the culture of the fashion world during that glorious period, I want to introduce Catwalk, a 1995 documentary direct by Robert Leacock which follows Christy Turlington, Kate Moss, and Naomi Campbell through the three infamously chaotic weeks of fashion shows in Milan, Paris, and New York. In addition to capturing a baffling number of tastemakers in one film, including such legends as Gianni & Donatella Versace, Karl Lagerfeld, Anna Wintour, John Galliano, André Leon Talley, Jean-Paul Gaultier, RuPaul among many others, the documentary also grapples with, and exposes, difficult questions and stereotypes that have long plagued the modeling and fashion industries.

(From left) Carla Bruni, Linda Evangelista, and Naomi Campbell wear Chanel for Vogue in 1994. Image  via
(From left) Carla Bruni, Linda Evangelista, and Naomi Campbell wear Chanel for Vogue in 1994. Image via

Avoiding superfluous descriptions of the content of the documentary, it is worth noting that the production quality is far above what one might expect from a “day-in-the-life” sort of film; with a gorgeous original soundtrack by none other than pop culture’s darling, Malcolm McLaren, scenes that alternate between black & white and color cinematography, surprisingly disarming monologues, and inherently intimate meetings between models and designers, one is left with both sympathy and reverence for the supermodel.

One particularly endearing moment occurs when an exhausted Turlington arrives back to her hotel room and reflects candidly on the difficulty of maintaining relationships and the lack of rest for months at a time that are inherent in her work. It is in vulnerable moments like this one, shot in black & white, where we see the often overlooked consequences of life as a supermodel, consequences which are overshadowed by the glamorous, fast-paced, and overwhelmingly positive conceptions of this line of work. It is part of the genius of this documentary to uplift these moments of fabulous freedom and allure while also throwing them into relief with moments of much more serious contemplation.

Kate Moss walking the runway for John Galliano’s Spring/Summer 1994 show. Image  via
Kate Moss walking the runway for John Galliano’s Spring/Summer 1994 show. Image via

It is yet another part of this documentary’s genius to show the lifelong friendships established between supermodels and the army of people it takes to prepare them for the runway, while simultaneously highlighting the rivalries and dissension within the industry. Turlington is at turns discussing relationship issues and aesthetic affinites with Isaac Mizrahi, and engaging in fruitless career comparisons with other models, making faces at the camera in a manner eerily similar to John Krasinski’s character, Jim, in The Office. Paralleling the polarity of Turlington’s interactions are the scenes showing the models undergoing drastic changes to their appearances for shows which can all too often occur back-to-back and require, for instance, purple hair in the morning and natural hair in the afternoon; it is clear that, in addition taking mental and emotional tolls, modelling at this level takes a physical one as well.

Naomi Campbell walks for Chanel spring 1995. Image  via
Naomi Campbell walks for Chanel spring 1995. Image via

Concerning the topic of appearances, it would be unfair to brush under the rug all of the problematic moments in this documentary, most of which involve issues of appearance and presentation. Two scenes in particular come to mind, the first being a Jean-Paul Gaultier show the premise of which was a very thinly veiled exoticism composed of mock tribal tattoos and facial jewelry on predominantly white models, and the second being a painful scene in which the cinematographer asks André Leon Talley for thoughts concerning John Galliano’s Spring/Summer 1994 show, to which he replies, “a man who respects femininity, and a man who has an appreciation of romance, and a woman who wants to look like a woman.

Of course, he’s not making clothes to go to work, but he’s making clothes for women who want to look like women.” This comment, which flatly states that looking like a women means wearing intricate, heavy couture dresses and also insinuates that acting like a woman entails not working or at the very least dressing like one is not working, was out of place in 1995 and is certainly even more disappointing to hear today, especially from the otherwise brilliant mind of Talley who is himself a champion of diversifying fashion.

Christy Turlington walks for Jean-Paul Gaultier spring 1994, a highly problematic collection. Image  via
Christy Turlington walks for Jean-Paul Gaultier spring 1994, a highly problematic collection. Image via

The documentary ends with a scene in which an artist paints a minimalistic portrait of Christy Turlington, and the viewer cannot help but feel that they, too, have stared her in the face and distilled a more complete, essential, picture of her and her occupation. Because Catwalk so impartially reveals the beauty and vileness of the world of high fashion and supermodels, all the while doing so with stunning cinematography and a superb soundtrack, I am inclined to recommend it to veterans of vintage fashion as well as fashion fledglings.

Cover image via (From left) Naomi Campbell, Kate Moss, and Christy Turlington, 3 elite 90s supermodels who often worked together.

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John Hughes Films and 80s Fashion

John Hughes Films and 80s Fashion

Miles Franklin

The last several months have been the most challenging and uncertain time many of us have ever faced. With record numbers of people losing jobs, students being forced to return home from school, and nearly all of us risking our health and that of others simply to make a run to the grocery store, there is much that appears bleak right now. As pertains to those of us who love to dress and are now stuck at home without a reason to carefully consider our garments every day, self-quarantining can feel like a creative block. Wishing to bring some inconsequential drama back into my life in lieu of the gossip my friends and I would regularly exchange in campus coffee shops, I turned to rewatching John Hughes cult classics like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Pretty in Pink, and Sixteen Candles. While watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Pretty in Pink in particular, I was surprised to find so much iconic mid-80s fashion on display, and in the spirit of staying at home while still remaining inspired by how people dress, I present the most fashionable characters in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Pretty in Pink.

1. Sloane Peterson

Sloane (Mia Sara) pictured with Ferris (Matthew Broderick) and Cameron (Alan Ruck). Image  Via
Sloane (Mia Sara) pictured with Ferris (Matthew Broderick) and Cameron (Alan Ruck). Image Via

Sloane Peterson, played by Mia Sara, was Ferris Bueller’s effortlessly gorgeous girlfriend. Throughout the movie, Sloane is seen wearing a white, cropped fringe jacket with gray above-the-knee shorts and beaded white boots to match the jacket. The cowgirl-meets-Los Angeles aesthetic is completed by Sloane’s light brown leather crossbody bag, and the Cartier Must de Cartier watch that sits on her wrist alongside a delicate bracelet. Combining this ensemble with the demeanor of the character that Sara plays ensured Sloane’s status as an 80s teen movie icon.

Sloane’s Cartier Must de Cartier watch. Image  Via
Sloane’s Cartier Must de Cartier watch. Image Via

2. Jeanie Bueller

Jeanie Bueller (Jennifer Grey) wearing her iconic black tote bag. Image  Via
Jeanie Bueller (Jennifer Grey) wearing her iconic black tote bag. Image Via

Jeanie Bueller’s contribution as a fashionable character in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off has less to do with her outfit per se, and more to do with her accessories, chief among them being her quirky, angular 80s car (which Ferris is quite jealous of) and her tote bag that she’s seen angrily lugging around throughout the film. Perhaps intentionally, Jeanie’s bag is featured quite prominently in many of her scenes; it’s a glossy black tote covered in large, distinctive patches which seem to be logos of some kind, and the bag itself sticks out particularly because of how dark it is in contrast to her bright pink sweater. Then, of course, there’s her car; a white, 1985 Pontiac Fiero which Jeanie is seen throwing around the road in several scenes, eventually skidding to a halt in the Bueller’s driveway towards the end of the film. Given Jeanie’s brooding and decidedly perturbed disposition, the bag and the car both seem to be more extensions of her personality rather than simply objects she uses.

Jeanie’s car parked in front of the Bueller’s quintessential suburbian home. Image  Via
Jeanie’s car parked in front of the Bueller’s quintessential suburbian home. Image Via

3. Katie Bueller

Katie Bueller (Cindy Pickett) epitomizing 80’s business casual. Image  Via
Katie Bueller (Cindy Pickett) epitomizing 80’s business casual. Image Via

As one of Ferris’ responsible and doting parents in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Katie Bueller is perhaps the most unexpected character from the film to make it into an article about 80s fashion in teen films, yet a closer look at her outfit reveals some interesting insights into business casual dressing in the 1980s. Pieces of her look that stand out include her shiny one piece necklace, gaudy earrings, and belt with an asymmetrical geometric buckle (sadly not pictured).

Moving on to Pretty in Pink, a movie which follows a few days in the high school experience of a girl who makes many of her own outfits, it is only fair that we first highlight the fashion prowess of the protagonist Andie Walsh, played perhaps unsurprisingly by Molly Ringwald (a staple in many John Hughes films).

4. Andie Walsh

Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald) in one of her well layered ensembles. Image  Via
Andie Walsh (Molly Ringwald) in one of her well layered ensembles. Image Via

Perhaps what is so compelling about Andie Walsh in Pretty in Pink is not her outfits themselves, but the fact that they had been handmade. The storyline of the movie prominently features scenes of classism and highlights the financial disparity between the students of Andie’s school in frequently shocking, if not terribly nuanced scenes, so Andie’s intricate handmade outfits not only serve to please aesthetically, but also to mock the de facto uniform of the wealthy students. As such, Andie’s outfits are often wonderfully layered and complementary to her sunny yet serious attitude, and the movie culminates in the unveiling of the pink (shocking!) dress she created to wear to the prom.

Andie’s triumphantly pink prom dress. Image  Via
Andie’s triumphantly pink prom dress. Image Via

5. Iona

Iona (Annie Potts) shortly after assailing Duckie with staples. Image  Via
Iona (Annie Potts) shortly after assailing Duckie with staples. Image Via

Iona, the owner of the record store at which Andie works, so perfectly embodies the stereotypical outlandishness of the 80s club kid that her looks end up being unashamedly kitsch, moving wonderfully from one pole of eccentricity to the other. Throughout the course of the film, Iona presents a 50s version of herself (in a pink dress which is to become part of Andie’s pink dress), a version of herself who wears spiked hair and elbow length gloves, and a version of herself who wears white hair and would have looked perfectly at home in a scene from Beverly Hills Cop. 

6. Duckie Dale

Finally we arrive at Andie Walsh’s best friend and longtime admirer, Duckie Dale, who is so named in large part because of his duckbill-like white shoes. Duckie’s outfits largely play into his trademark goofiness, his shoes being case-in-point, and ensure that taking him seriously is an impossibility. Ultimately, though, there is still something admirable about the confidence he demonstrates through his wardrobe.

Duckie Dale (Jon Cryer) causing a scene. Image  Via
Duckie Dale (Jon Cryer) causing a scene. Image Via

Having made what I believe is far too long a list of fashionable characters from movies by a single director/screenwriter from a time in film that is long past, I hope I have, at the very least, added a few cult classics to your watch list. Now that we’re all stuck at home spending an inordinate amount of time in front of screens, rewatching our favorite films with an eye to how they may have influenced our styles is a whimsical but worthwhile endeavor at any time, but especially today.

Featured Gif via

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