To help the listener ‘see’ the character in a story, it helps if I’m clear on what clothes each might be wearing : to know, at least, their shade and shape. Once upon a time, clothes were basically functional: allowed people to work in them. But the story’s setting (time, country, culture) and the character’s identity through action all come into play.
*Early photo of Lana Turner learning to sword-fight wearing a tight corset in the movie At Sword Point (1952)
A recent exhibition in our city hall museum showed a collection of costumes from the Golden Age of Hollywood. (What surprised me were how small the clothes actually were! I realised that, up on the screen, actors look enormous.) However, the workmanship, fabrics, designs and attention to detail was stunning. One of the conservators working on the exhibition said she thought this brought ‘the fairytale to life!’ Guess which actors played their part dressed like this?
A little red jacket over a long warm dress. Who do you think might have worn this? 1
or this blue velvet jacket and jabot? 2
Was she a sheer, femme fatale? 3
Does the robe help show the character’s authority? 4
Or is the dress is so plain … in order to show off how beautiful the wearer was? 5
Or was that man devilishly handsome? 6
Perhaps the clothes ‘made’ the lady? 7
Here’s a story about how Nasreddin Hodja feels about clothes.
There was to be a great banquet in the town, and Hodja was invited. When the day came, it was such fine weather that he worked in the garden, before setting off for the palace.
Arriving in good time, he asked directions to the banqueting room. Several attendants walked past but did not help. They did look him up and down, as they went on their way.
At the huge table, when he found himself a seat, no waiter came near with refreshments.
Friends were surprised to see Hodja suddenly leave the table. He returned some time later, wearing his most elaborate robe. As platters were brought to him, he was seen to dip his sleeve into each dish, simpering “Do have some of this. How do you like that sauce, then? Mmmm.”
The other guests began to mutter that Hodja had surely gone mad.
Hearing this, Hodja laughed and said. “Oh, no, my friends. I’ve simply learned that, at this table, my robe is more important than I am.”
Actors who wore them. 1. Katherine Hepburn in Little Women (1933) 2. Cary Grant in The Howards of Virginia (1940) 3. Claudette Colbert in Cecile B. DeMille’s Cleopatra (1935) 4.Richard Burton in Cleopatra (1965) 5. Grace Kelly in The Swan. 6. Yul Bryner? Marlon Brando? 7 Barbara Streisand in Funny Girl.
All text and photos (not *) by Meg
Sleeve, Sup! adapted from ‘Eat, my fur coat, eat!” in KABACALI, Alpay. Nasreddin Hodja. 1992: 32.
Story Twigs the Imagination! by Meg Philp is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Non Commercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License